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

Monday, July 21, 2008

It might be worthwhile to keep half an eye on India today..
A nuclear development deal with the United States has the government facing a vote of non-confidence..
The left-wing has withdrawn it's complete support for the deal.. a number of reasons the likes of allowing some international inspections of existing facilities, something never called for before.. to simply dealing with the United States itself..
And while the deal may well be in India's best interests, considering it's desperate need for energy, it's become the focus of old enmities..
Interesting to note, that while India has the second largest population, politics is of any interest to some 9% of the population in general.. 29% in the cities themselves..
And many of those who are interested, have felt closer, perhaps less apprehensive would be better, with improving relations, economic and social, with Russia, rather than the US..

Also something to watch is how the current meeting of the World Trade Organisation will manage to escape reaching a final unanimous decision in a 'Free Trade Agreement'..
If an agreement is not reached that these talks.. there likely never will be one finalised, leaving developing nations to go it alone..
It's been seven years since the Dohar Round.. the stakes with the Indian and China markets opening so rapidly and how that market will be divided.. will be a integral part of any of the 30 nations before it's even considered whether any one of them begin decreasing their agricultural subsidy legislation.. allowing producers in countries the likes of Africa a competitive product..
The refusal of the WTO to reach an agreement which could be integral in bringing some African countries into their marketplace, could be a policy which will eventually bite them badly.. The reserves of oil which are even as yet undiscovered under that continent, may well have repercussions..
But.. billions of £'s are at stake if commitments are made and met..
Well.. met. The commitments were made seven years ago.
It would seem the government has finally seen the wisdom of a program initially proposed by the Conservatives some eight months ago, and is moving an entire strata of British society into a different layer.
Social Benefits, for a single man or woman, are not generous in Britain, but they are, barely, enough to live on. What they do not provide, a trait shared by all social-welfare societies, is something with which to fill the time of those out of work, be they skilled, or unskilled.
Still, the government's taking a soft approach to effecting this change. Those out of work, and having claimed social benefit for a year, will be required to do four weeks of 'community service'.. picking up rubbish.. painting over graffiti.. work around the community itself which even the Unions aren't interested in..
After two years though, claimants will do this work full-time. This effectively gives them a job, albeit for an employer who legislate your wages to provide you with an incentive to either look for better work, or entering a Trade.
But it's not 'the dole' anymore, it's a paycheque.
It's a change some will find difficult to adjust to.. a work ethic will have to be learned, for you can be fired from this work.. suspended would perhaps be a better word..
This won't hit the system until the Spring.. We won't see the real effects of this change for at least three years, but it could be a move that, over the long run, brings our workforce back on the rails..

Now this comes as figures have been released, that indicate that a single person needs an annual wage of £13,400, to maintain a minimum standard of living.
Now this definition of 'minimum standard of living' was not limiting itself to merely paying the bills, buying the groceries, meeting one's financial obligations.. but also took into account what a healthy social life and some indulgences would cost.. a car, for instance..
Keeping this in mind, keep in mind the £74 a fortnight a single man or woman on benefits takes home..
And that heating bills..something everyone pays here, owners and tenants.. will be increasing an average of $400 this year.. an increase of £1thousand is projected by 2010..
And we have the highest jobless figures in 15 years to cheer us.. As new housing starts stop dead, we're watching more and more of our Contractors laying their men off..Sectors not usually thought of, such as house-movers, are complaining of losses in business to the extent of 45%..

Now, not to say we're alone in our problems.. far from it indeed..
But it is time to seriously begin to think what should be a priority now, for there is soon coming a time a lack of preparation could be catastrophic..

One has to laugh.
We are bent on self-destruction, and all, depending on your perspective, over the possession of the likes of a 49" flat-screen television.

Friday, July 18, 2008

For ten years, while Gordon was the Chancellor, and for this past year while Alister has been the puppet-Chancellor, there was one financial rule that had been set in concrete.
"The Government must not accrue borrowing debt that exceeded 40% of GNP."
This policy, which by the way was a plank in both the Conservative and Labour platforms lo those years ago, has been one of the major factors in keeping Britain's economy separate from those of our European cousins.. in keeping our Government within in bounds of basic solvency.. in maintaining the highest possible credit rating for the Government, and the country.
Now, it would appear that with elections looming, the economy flagging, new polls suggesting the basic poverty level for a single person in this country is anything less than a gross income of £13,400 pa, inflation already at a new high and projections are for even higher consumer costs to come, that Gordon's faced with two alternatives. Raise taxes, or borrow more.
We're at our credit limit, and if government economists haven't learned from such examples as the disastrous New Democratic Party's policies in Canada's Ontario some 15 years ago, then they have only to look at the underlying situation in the United States today, to realise Keynesian economics simply don't work..
Those working to keep their debt load under control, while juggling a family, are going to find it increasingly difficult. The price of petrol, foodstuffs, mortgages, holidays, the toys kids demand as luxuries these days, will stretch their financial situations to near breaking, and in some cases, bring those who have borrowed beyond their means back down to earth, and into a situation they may well have thought they had earned their way past..
But the government cannot..must not..interfere with personal debt situations..
Further, as unpopular as it may well be, tax loopholes provided for industry, and the wealthy, must be tightened..
And if the cry comes from those who have invested well, and who can actually claim to be the movers and shakers of Britain, that they are being targeted, then unfortunately, so must it be. For those that are the wealthy, a temporary dip in their disposable income may mean the loss of a fair bit of the comfort they've unquestionably earned, but we are at war, both literally and economically.
Selling the family jewels to save a business that will eventually allow them to be replaced, is a far better option than watching that business disappear completely.
And if any comfort can be gained by those who will still carp over the gap between rich and poor, for the wealthy, relatively speaking, will still be far better off than the Prole, let the Prole take comfort in the fact their incomes, while somewhat less, are still there because some of those assets of the wealthy which have been taken, have kept them in their jobs..
That everything costs someone something.
But, Gordon will take the easy road, and perpetuate the cycle of 'bust and boom', and will announce no new taxes of any consequence, but a rise in the Government's borrowing ceiling.
At this rate, he's bringing the Euro much closer to this shore, and us all a step closer to losing the autonomy we've fought for, for time immemorial.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A final note for the night here..
One might take notice of the recent movement of Saudi Arabia, to bring the violently different factions of Islam to a meeting of the minds.
Now Saudi's themselves, the majority of them and the Royal Family, are members of a Sunni sect called 'Wahhabism'.. considered to be one of the most fundimental and strict of the Islamic communities..
It is, to be taken in context, a veritable command from those who lead Islam itself, for the Saudi's to 'invite' religious leaders from throughout the Islamic world to attend what amounts to a General Synod, so to speak..
This conference is taking place in Spain.. is in fact being co-hosted by King Juan Carlos and his government, in the interests of 'understanding and tolerance'..
One might ask.. why, at this particular time, has it become expedient for Saudi Arabia to call these talks..
To, in effect, make suggestions 'difficult to refuse' to certain factions, demands with timetables to unite those who've been fighting over the interpretation of a few verses in the Q'ran for centuries..
What is Saudi Arabia planning for a dogmatically united Islamic world.. or at least a an Islamic Middle and Far East tolerant of their peculiar doctrinal differences ..?
Most would likely applaud, and openly admit their relief at this sudden involvement of Saudi Arabia..
'About time..' most would say..
But two questions are begging..
Why now?
And, what's the bigger picture, beginning any extrapolation with the basic assumption that Saudi Arabia, will profit..?
An interesting, if somewhat confusing political dance Gordon's performing these days..
With the announcement that the planned 2p tax inclease on fuel, scheduled to come into effect next month, would now be postponed until next March, he's at least attempting to put on the face of a government sympathetic to the problems of a population facing price increases which are putting them far above their projected household expenditures.. problems that are an inconvenience to those in middle and upper income classes, but which are about to cause real hardships in those households on lower incomes and benefits..
But it's a drop in the ocean.
It will not stop inflation.. up a half today at 3.8%..
It will not stimulate industries around the country by kick-starting the likes of housing starts.. major appliance replacements.. or stop the slide in the value of existing properties and the creation of negative personal equity..
Gordon's been the Prime Minister for just over a year the now. But he was Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years with Tony.. and is the man responsible for bringing us, through his policies and timed sell-offs.. into the position we enjoy today.
It's as though he's driven us all in a two-ton removal van a mile and a half down an allyway with a half-inch clearance between two buildings..
Gods help the man left with the task of backing us back out.. He'll not be given much time, and figuratively speaking, there'll be a gun to his head..

Haven't mentioned the New Yorker's infamous cover yet, for the simple reason that as a broadcaster, we were taught never to report on suicides..
A stupid, stupid editorial decision.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's been quite a couple of days..
The economy is following the path it chose when it lead those who could least afford credit the ability to accrue massive debt.. When a trillion or so has been literally thrown away in the disposable elements of foreign conflicts.. When we chose to put the fuel of our economy.. no pun intended.. in the hands of those who are not fond of our society, and who are doubtless smiling as they watch us wander in a sea of conflicting, and equally useless short-term solutions, which themselves must be amortized to rest on the projected production of our grandchildren..
George has finally taken a thoroughly unpopular, but absolutely necessary step in allowing offshore rigs in what were considered 'sacrosanct' environments.
Ecologically, a potential nightmare, but without that domestic production getting into the development and operational stages, the US might well find itself unable to afford to supply itself with any oil going for more than $150 a barrel.. with some true optimists placing the new benchmark at closer to $200..
A tad high perhaps, that..
But what the US is going to need in it's next leader, is a man who can call on the best minds to find a path through this terrible legacy..
Who can deal with the extrication of the US military from the Middle East without leaving what will certainly turn into an utter shambles if premature..
Who can turn American consumers into American customers.. increasing the demand for domestic products by the loosening of credit, to viable venture capital ventures..
Who can turn this housing downturn around, by offering those who lost their homes and still watch them sitting empty, the chance to re-finance, with proviso's allowing for either further downturns, or eventual recoveries.
Always better to have a property occupied, and if it could be by their former owners, the equity would be protected..
Not feasible in many cases, perhaps.. But to some it could be what they need.. to develop the attitude America's going to need..
Hard to inspire someone to work, when they've lost what they've worked for..

Problems here as well..
Inflation hit an 11 year high at 3.8%.. up a half..
The housing market has seen prices falling for the third consecutive month.. and new housing starts are at levels not seen since the early 90's..
Even the Bank of England.. usually one institution that holds to the maxim' if you've nothing good to say, say nothing..' has somewhat gloomily extrapolated we'll hit 4% this year.
Now. What that means for us, is higher food prices.. higher petrol prices.. higher gas prices.. higher electricity charges..
And we've already been warned.. British/Scottish Gas has, albeit in the friendliest manner possible.. told us to expect an average 11% rise in our heating costs next winter.. Food costs are expected to rise with the cost of diesel and rising prices from producers..

And while this is happening to us.. to the US.. keep an eye on what's happening in Russia.. China.. India..
Vast populations.. economies which are just barrelling along.. but facing the same problems..
They have the cash, but lack the infrastructure..
We abound in infrastructure.. and have priced ourselves out of the workplace..
A slight digression there..
Food. That's what we're all going to be short of..
Hard to imagine, when you think of the endless flat plane that is Saskatchewan, with wheat from horizon to horizon.. that there would be a shortage..
Imagine it was hard, when they planted this years rice crops in the Irrawaddy Delta, with plans to feed a quarter of South East Asia.. that it would all be gone.. utterly lost..
That the price of rice in China's rising at a rate that the government's seriously concerned..
And no help from India.. their major rice fields, in the West of that country, were destroyed by the same typhoon's which took out the rest of the Far East's 'breadbasket'..

"I will end the war in Iraq."
Barak Obama pledged that on his first substantial speech on foreign policy.. even though it was confined to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan..
Now, let's look at that statement.

'I'.. a power word, deliberately used to assure, and ensure, that this is his doing..

'..will end..' A declaration of definite intent, or purpose, of commitment. No room for misunderstanding here..

'..the war in Iraq..' Words the American people have been waiting.. expecting to hear.. for five years.

Barak went on to say, the last troops will be out of the country by the summer of 2010.. while intimating very forcefully, that this withdrawal was not a retreat, but the completion of a job. What could be inferred was 'whether than job is done to completion, or not..'
Barak left a number of loopholes in this statement on withdrawals.. saying 'a force will always been present in one form or another.. to protect American Embassies and Consulates.. and interests..' No number was set on those to be left to safeguard American interests.. but according to Barak, they would still have a military mandate, to search and destroy Al Q'aeda or any terrorist threat, when they could be located..
So whether the bulk of American troops will indeed be home in 2010.. is contingent of the expedience of withdrawals, at that time..
It was eloquent bumf..
John McCain.. upon reacting to Barak's statement.. could only hold his head, and turn slowly in a circle.
Oddly, there was sympathy with the man..

Now.. a brief thought here..
At what price 'security'..? And what need is there for the government to have a National Database which includes all the life details, medical history,you name it, of everybody?
One can see those who've run afoul of the Law being kept track of.. but why each and every one of us?
It may well be a government project to toss about a couple of hundred million for the Civil Service to play with, but it has sinister possibilities, and no obvious benefits..
One must question what path we're being allowed to be led down.. It will affect our grandchildren..

A final note here..
Anyone remember Tony.. Tony Blair..?
This poor man has been given a task so far fetched.. so impossible.. that it's perhaps going to win him the Nobel Peace Prize eventually.. but will certainly kill him in the process..
Take a look at Tony.. eleven years ago when he swept to power..
Take a look at him now..

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ahhh...what a world..
Iran has, in one sense like a child showing those who have been perceived as bullies that they've taken the Charles Atlas course, and just won't have sand kicked in it's face anymore, and in another, far sinister sense, demonstrated it has the capabilities to hit Tel Aviv..
And naturally, in Tel Aviv, this demonstration has... having come from a man who's vowed to 'wipe Israel from the map..', is cause for some consternation.
Couldn't have come at a better time either.. with the US labouring under a lame-duck Presidency, and the inevitable internal confusion that follows any change of power..
And the same picture in Britain.. with those in the Middle East almost certainly making plans to change their strategies for negotiations to deal with a Conservative government..
We know Israel has the capability to 'turn Iraq into rubble and desert'.. we were told so by their Defence Minister..
But then, what of the traditional enemies.. those who attacked again and again until 1966.. Will the United Arab League stand by and watch while one of it's members prepared for war..jihad.. and wonder if Israel is prepared for something pre-emptive..?
One wonders how long the Middle East would burn, if it were rendered radioactive..
But what type of madman would set such a process in motion..?

Economics.. now there's a topic for quite a bit of speculation..
How far down is 'bottom'..?

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