Snapshots for 4 March, 2014
10:02 am My father's family is from Lubaczow, which is as near to the Polish-Ukranian border as you can get...so I recognise and understand the collective Ukranian psyche. They are a bloody-minded people who will NOT take any shit from Russia. There is TOO much history. Imagine the relationship between a cat and a dog and you may begin to understand. AT BEST, they only tolerate each other..........
9:48 am #UKRAINE: Usually, before a country moves from Despotism to becoming a fully-fledged Republic, there is ALWAYS a brief brush with Anarchy. In Ukranie's case, it has temporarily moved from home-grown Despotism to the threat of an alternative flavour of Despotism, but on this occasion, delivered by a foreign power. This will soon pass and the country will be able to get on with the Anarchy before finally settling down to being a mature republic. However, as Egypt is currently showing, the cycle may have to be repeated several times before the appearance of those mythical sunny uplands of political stability.
When you are told that inflation is falling, you would naturally expect prices to be falling . That ain't necessarily so! Many years ago, when I worked for a very large bank, I sent a team of people into town in order to find out whether the average British adult understood percentages. The answer was a resounding "No!" MOST of the people we interviewed had NO IDEA about percentages! Banks, supermarkets and even the government know very well that most people are either thick or at best borderline thick as far as simple arithmetic is concerned and they take full advantage. Supermarkets "mix and match" their prices, so that you need to have the brain of a Stephen Hawking to decide whether it would be cheaper to buy three bags of crisps for the price of two or perhaps two at a different price with one free or maybe six bags with 10% extra. By the time you've made several purchases like this, you can leave a supermarket mentally exhausted. Banks will be paying you interest at anything from 0 .01% p.a to 3.00% with maybe an introductory offer of three months with an additional 1.5%. Interest on credits is calculated from the day AFETR your deposit but debit interest on withdrawals is applied on the day of the debit. [...]
Snapshots for 18 February, 2014
9:13 am After insurance industry leaders have had today's meeting with the Prime Minister, they're having a meeting with Miliband Minor. It's going to be a LONG day.
9:10 am When a CEO or Prime Minister has to handle a crisis personally, that suggests just one thing: He has a poor management structure under him or he doesn't trust the people HE hired to complete the job effectively........ Either way, HE appointed them and is now doing THEIR job.
9:02 am Another day, another meeting for David Cameron! This time it's with insurance industry leaders! Just to help DC with the nuances of insurance: INSURANCE is betting on something which MIGHT happen. ASSURANCE is betting on something which definitely WILL happen. Hence Life Assurance (you will DEFINITELY die) & nowadays, thanks to years of mismanagement and under- investment, we EFFECTIVELY have Flood ASSURANCE. Local Authorities and Central Government have placed the insurance industry in an impossible position. Insurance industry leaders will be "asked" not to increase premiums by too much by a government which is partly responsible for insurance claims which are already estimated to be well in excess of £1 BILLION.
Snapshots for 14 February, 2014
9:25 am Roger Lloys Pack's funeral took place yesterday. He , of course was best-known as "Trigger" from Only Fools and Horses. According to his daughter Emily, Roger's final words to his family were "I'm fine"....... R.I.P
9:10 am The odds are that a chunk of YOUR pension fund is invested by a Fund Manager (on your behalf) in Bank Shares. Over the years, lower dividends, as a result of those comedy bank bonuses will have an appreciable effect on your retirement fund. Who cares? You should. http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/feb/13/lloyds-bank-ceo-antonio-horta-osorio-bonus-profit
Snapshots for 13 February, 2014
5:04 pm The debate about the Scots using the Pound Sterling after "Independence Day" is all very interesting but pointless because they are quite at liberty to use whichever currency they like. However, there would be a problem for instance, if interest rates moved and the variation didn't suit their spluttering (yes!) economy, King Sean and his jester Sal Mond would have to rethink their Ruritanian/Wallace dreams and go back to the Withdrawing Board! BTW, there will be no independence because in the final analysis, the Scots are a VERY pragmatic race and WILL "do the right thing" (sorry!) and remain where they belong - a much-cherished and loved part of the UNITED Kingdom. THAT is why today's macho posturing by an "irrelevant" such as Chancellor Gideon is....er......irrelevant.
8:24 am The #flooding has amplified a major misjudgement by politicians of every political party. They continue to imagine that the spouting of platitudes and looking sympathetic in front of cameras is somehow "reassuring" to the public. Here's a "heads-up": Voters certainly used to be reassured by politicians' Royal visits.......but unfortunately that was when politicians were respected. That started to dip after 1945 and was finally buried when MPs were caught thieving from the taxpayer in 2009. They should do something useful: STAY AWAY.
8:07 am What Governor Mark Carney was saying yesterday (in the nicest possible way) was than a few quarters of insipid above-zero growth does not immediately and definitely signify an economic recovery. Unlike politicians, who will extrapolate from a single quarter......but ONLY if if it is positive. Mr Carney is rapidly showing that he is his own man who tells it how it is. A very refreshing change.
As a manager and director I have always attempted to create a "No Surprises" regime. In the last few years, I have been showing businesses how to achieve that for themselves through a combination of Business Control and honest Management Audit. "No Surprises Management" is not a magic formula for corporate bliss but it does demonstrate how many of the factors which CAN affect an organisation can be controlled or mitigated. Most of us have heard of Crisis Management, which, to put it simply, is responding to a crisis after it has occurred. For many years, the skill or otherwise of Management has been measured on its ability to deal with a crisis. Our Coalition government is currently coming under a lot of criticism because it is not able to demonstrate that it has any idea of how to deal with the current flooding crisis. That is because it appears to be formulating policy on the hoof. The sheer volume of meetings (COBRA #23) also points to a lack of policy and organisation. However, we have to understand that a collection of political academics, ex-local councillors, union men, administrators and sons of self-made parents have never been told how to deal with a crisis - so we should not really expect too much. It is becoming [...]
Snapshots for 12 February, 2014
6:29 pm BBC News Editors need to up their game as far as reportage of the #flooding is concerned. They write of "Records", they give us meaningless Statistics, with their newsreaders almost delighting in the scale of the tragedy. This sensationalist and voyeuristic style of delivery with reporters standing by blown-over trees, collapsed walls and wind-blown beaches serve absolutely no useful purpose. Asking victims with ruined lives the "How do you FEEL?" question is lazy and adds absolutely nothing to the debate.......and incidentally, just because the Thames Valley is now flooding, is NO excuse to totally ignore the hell that West Country victims continue to experience.
5:12 pm First Eric and now Patrick! DC really IS getting the BIG BOYS in! Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick Mc Loughlin says that when David Cameron said "Whatever it takes" to help UK flood victims, he did NOT mean "blank cheque". That is because what DC said was untrue.....and we ALL knew it! ...."Whatever it takes" does NOT necessarily mean "Whatever it takes." That's because there ARE occasions when badly-prepared political statements are no more than macho nonsense designed ONLY for newspaper headlines. #COBRA451
9:55 am Bank of England: Presumably, interest rates will be going up AND down, either side of the 7% unemployment rate? :)
9:49 am There was a classic "No shit, Sherlock?!" moment from "an expert" on the radio this morning: "With all the rain, wind and flooding, certain people will become depressed." It good to see that a Psychology degree is not always a waste of time.
9:42 am I have a funny feeling that the Draghi-like "Whatever it takes" promise by David Cameron to United Kingdom flood victims will come back to haunt him. It was a VERY ill-advised thing he said, merely in order to placate the press. Once quotas, amounts, conditions and timescales start being published by his government, he will end up looking as if he'd broken another promise and performed yet another U-turn. For the moment though, let's sit back and count the COBRA meetings.
Snapshots for 29 January, 2014
3:14 pm Chancellor Gideon has said the rest of Britain might be unwilling to let an independent Scotland keep the pound! The SNP has responded by suggesting that Scotland might in return refuse to take on its share of Britain's 1.2 TRILLION pounds of government debt. Can Alex Salmond actually see beyond the over-romanticised notions of "FREEDOM!"..... driven by blind idealism and Sean Connery?
3:05 pm EUROZONE: The ECB has cut interest rates to a record low, pumped extra liquidity into the banking system and announced a fresh government bond purchase programme.... but the measures have so far not managed to unclog lending to the real economy. Watch for another slowdown....in spite of everyone attempting to talk it all UP!
Snapshots for 21 January, 2014
1:35 pm There was an unseemly exhibition of grandstanding by Tim Yeo MP at this morning's Energy and Climate Change Select Committee meeting as he told #energy bosses "you are exploiting your privileged monopoly position" and neglecting customers! The Electricity Supplier CEOs were lined up like fairground ducks in front of the committee and all came across as reasonable guys who knew that in spite of the fact that they had done their level best, it had been impossible to reconnect every customer over the Christmas period. Yet more evidence that Members of Parliament are NOT fit to even be involved in such an inquiry and as for the Committee's Chairman, Tim Yeo....anyone would think that he either had other things on his mind or that he was trying too hard to impress!
Snapshots for 13 January, 2014
9:21 am Remember John Gummer in 1990 when he tried to feed his daughter a beefburger to try to convince the public re the safety of British beef? How about David Cameron doing something similar by being present (with the cameras) at the first FRACKING test drilling in Witney? We'd ALL love to be convinced!!
My best wishes for an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender non-specific celebration of the Winter Solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling recognition of the onset of the generally accepted Gregorian calendar year 2014. This of course does not imply any disrespect to other calendars which, in certain cases, are accepted to predate the generally accepted measurement method and are not considered to be any less valid. If you live within the Eurozone, we shall of course meet in one month's time to discuss the above wishes and possibly renegotiate them as they are always subject to clarification or withdrawal. Moreover they can be withdrawn should one member not be in full agreement or should they personally not perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings, the above-mentioned fiscal success and ongoing cooperation from the Holy banking system. The Wisher also accepts without [...]
One Christmas morning a few years ago, an army chaplain decided to join some squaddies in their armoured vehicle for a routine patrol in downtown Baghdad. As they drove through the dry dusty streets, they were only too aware of the possible dangers that they either saw or imagined in every person or pile of rubble that they came across. As usual, they drove at walking pace. Within about ten minutes, they found themselves surrounded by a silent crowd. They soon realised that there was nothing to fear because the "crowd" consisted of about 20 skinny-looking, shabbily-dressed young children. They had that beige monochromatic look that we are all used to seeing in television reports - thin dusty faces, sand-matted hair , barefoot with beige and white ripped clothes. These were street kids. The chaplain signalled the driver to stop. The children came closer and closer, until some were actually touching the hot metal of the vehicle's bodywork. The chaplain, being the good man that he was, always carried sweets - not chocolate, because that tended to melt in these temperatures - just a paper bag full of ordinary boiled sweets. He leaned out of his window, held the open bag of sweets and smiled at the kids. The children all [...]
The first episode of my 2014 predictions has already been published and can be found HERE. Below are my final predictions for the year and contain some extrapolations based on the government's current air-brained and totally unrealistic attitude which is largely based on surveys and statistical "facts" - usually NOT based on a statistically significant time-span. However, one has to admit that there are other predictions which are based in hope rather than fact!! See if you can spot the ones which are totally ridiculous! And PLEASE don't accuse me of being silly! They started it! 1. Chancellor Gideon Osborne will be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. 2. President Bashar al-Assad will win the Nobel peace Prize, in tandem with Tony Blair....for services to Syria and Iraq respectively. 3. The British Economy will recover and outgrow China. 4. British banks will lend money to SMEs WITHOUT blackmailing (for themselves) large chunks of equity participation. 5. There will be NO tax give-aways in the lead-up to the next General Election. 6. The French economy will recover and outstrip that of Germany. 7. Angela Merkel will become engaged to Sylvio Berlusconi. 8. Compulsory Bulgarian and Romanian will be taught in [...]
Snapshots for 20 December, 2013
10:37 am Remember, Chancellor Gideon: There are NO reasons - only excuses! By the way the United Kingdom's trade deficit widened to £10.0 BILLION in Q3 from £5.0 billion in Q3, representing 5.1% of GDP. Spin that! http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_347294.pdf
Snapshots for 18 December, 2013
5:13 pm Is the Home Office ABSOLUTELY sure that the United Kingdom can attract Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants to this land of Elitism, Noncery, Government Racism, Xenophobia, crooked Lords and SHOCKING Educational standards?
2:04 pm Chancellor Gideon has claimed that "the taxpayer" has made a profit on the sale of Lloyds Bank shares. That is NOT true. It is yet another example of the half-truths and selective statistics which have come to characterize this government. The money to buy Lloyds shares in the first place, was BORROWED. That had an attendant cost. Therefore, if fees and costs are deducted from the share sale, "the taxpayer" made a LOSS. Gideon is becoming Brownesque in his ability to dispose of national assets.
11:14 am Our Education System is catching up with the NHS!! 1.56 MILLION people work for the NHS. Meanwhile, 1.49 MILLION are employed in Education. Approximately 450,000 of them are teachers.
11:09 am Currently, 30.1 MILLION people are employed in the UK....... Of those, 8.15 MILLION ( 27%) are part-time!
The Prime Minister spotted Ed Balls making a brand new hand gesture during PMQs. One suspects that it might have been this:
This Christmas there will be millions of puzzled and sometimes hungry people staring at their televisions. Their hunger is easily explained - they are poor but what will confuse them will be the newsflashes showing smiling people shopping and talking about 'Tablets' at £500 each, Champagne, and a million other expensive items and yes...even Christmas turkeys! Then they will see celebrity chefs cooking Brussels sprouts with pancetta, more champagne, the perennial debate about goose fat versus oil on roasties and how we'll ALL be 'over-indulging' and falling asleep on the sofa! An alien world which some will have tasted but sadly, too many - especially children, will never inhabit. This (to them) is a 'make-believe' world of plenty. They know it exists somewhere near them but it is like the parallel universe of science fiction....there but impossible to access. They see shiny, smug politicians saying words about 'the recession being over'....something the poor haven't been too acutely aware of because what the politician calls 'recession' and 'austerity', they call "LIFE". 'The economy' appears to be doing very well! ..............By the way....what is that? The disparity between the most affluent Brits and the rest is [...]
Predicting the future has always been a mug's game. For instance, I continue to believe that the markets are all in the wrong place and overpriced and I predicted the FTSE at about 4500 - but then again, I could not have predicted the collective madness of Quantitative Easing and the real fear that politicians have of the banks. I used to understand investment...but not any more. Cheap virtual cash continues to fund the markets and to keep them artificially high. The politicians feel that they have to please the banks first and only then the voter. Governments are no longer in control of events. Nowadays, finance drives politics and politicians have become the bankers' lackeys. For as long as banks and governments continue to mutually gorge themselves on virtual cash and governments do not have the courage to increase interest rates and taxes in order to join us in the real world, there is a very real possibility that the current economic situation will become the status quo. These predictions are in no particular order. 1. The disconnect between economic data and the quality of life is fueling populism. It is also fueling right-wing extremism and anti-government sentiment. I fully expect the equivalent of the Arab Spring [...]
Snapshots for 6 December, 2013
11:55 am "One of the most difficult things is not to change society -- but to change yourself." (Nelson Mandela.) http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/05/opinion/battersby-nelson-mandela/
One of the greatest pleasures in life used to be for someone to read a great work of fiction to you out loud. You would sink back, close your eyes and let it wash over you ......and all that you had to do is to compose the pictures! Unfortunately, reading out-loud is a dying art and now a pleasure only enjoyed by young children and the infirm. So imagine the frisson of anticipation ahead of listening to Chancellor Gideon reading The Autumn Statement - (I have always been a great fan of realistic fiction!) I closed my eyes, kicked back...but...the pictures just wouldn't come. All I could visualise was a smug fat boy with a Caligula haircut and eyes with all the charm of two bullet holes, reading with all the conviction of a posh grocer reading a Fortnum's shopping list. GDP..blah blah....Growth...blah blah....Deficit...blah....and so on. Then, after the "de rigeur" and customary: "Hard-working people" , "Mess they left behind" and "Tough decisions" plus the recently conceived "It will be less that it WOULD have been"....all from the Coalition Book of Platitudes, came something about the Normal Retirement Age (NRA) moving ever closer to life expectancy! I felt myself slowly emerging from the Treasury-induced [...]
Snapshots for 1 December, 2013
2:59 pm Chancellor Gideon's Autumn Statement will be no more than the Conservative Party jumping out of the General Election starting blocks, as the "Giveaway Season" begins. It will be just like the Christmas Sales but you get your own money back! By definition, it is money that is currently being wasted elsewhere.
2:59 pm One very important question: Given the recent spate of scandals (which appear to be ongoing), has the Coalition government done enough to reform the banking industry? Er......No. In fact, they appear to have done bugger all.
2:59 pm I know that it's not fashionable...but I have great admiration for Cherie Blair...and feel very sorry for her as she has to sit quietly as the current S**t Storm centred on her hubby and the wife of a media crumbly gathers pace.
2:59 pm Cannot think WHY Chancellor Gideon has had the Treasury refitted. Is it worth it? After all, according to the latest numbers, his tenure appears to be VERY finite! MILLIONS have been spent....and I bet that IKEA didn't even get a look-in!! :) #inthistogether #10MILLION
2:59 pm BOOKTRUST is a charity with a fab Mission Statement: To Promote Reading...What could POSSIBLY screw that up? Only political meddling which looks like "naughtiness with intent" and an embarrassment to Nick Clegg, his wife as well as the Cabinet Office. Statement please. No spin.....
Snapshots for 30 November, 2013
12:32 pm There are those who say that the Liberal Democrats have lost their Mojo. Remember the good old days (WAS it only three years ago?) when Norman Baker and Vince Cable would get stuck into the government and create hell for the then Prime Minister - the one whose name will not be mentioned?........In May 2010, when the small question of Coalition arose, the Tories weren't taking any chances and did exactly the right thing - they muzzled both of these outspoken old radicals (or, should I say, what passes for "radical" among Libdems). The pair of them suffered the political equivalent of castration. Now look at them....OK, their suits are a bit more expensive and people call them "Minister"....but what real use are they? Their strength used to be in their independence....they WERE the Libdem Mojo. Unfortunately, come May 2015...it will be too late for a sudden change of suit and style because their electoral credibility will have gone with the Ministerial limo.......Both Norman and Vince will find it nigh on impossible to fit into those old grey suits and tweed jackets worn by the common people they once were.
11:58 am The United Kingdom's Bankers and top City people don't REALLY appreciate austerity. Why? Because last year, the average banker salary increased by ONE THIRD and the income for the top 2,700 was in the region of £1.6 million EACH. Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Cable have clearly demonstrated themselves to be no more than helpless bystanders. There was the usual macho rhetoric, both pre and post the 2010 General Election but, as usual, it was nothing more than empty words. "In this together"? DON'T make me laugh.
11:43 am The late Margaret Thatcher is being criticised for holding some of her assets in offshore trusts. Well, through the magic of PFI, The Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, as well as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs ALL pay rent to companies whose tax bills are "optimised" because they're registered offshore.
Snapshots for 15 November, 2013
2:22 pm Here's something that has been highlighted in Neon since May 2010: Despite many years of a mythical populist "democracy", after innumerable elections where the "will of the people" supposedly prevailed, despite all the comedy Socialist rhetoric, despite millions of tons of environment-endangering hot air about inclusive growth, despite promises of meritocracy and being "in this together", the United Kingdom remains a strong and stable plutocracy. Our politicians haven’t let us down, with even poor MPs being caught attempting to acquire plutocratic mannerisms, even if that meant being forced to steal from the taxpayer. Needless to say, there are side-effects, such as poverty, debt, homelessness and misery for the masses, but that’s the price they have to pay for growth and "reducing the deficit".
Snapshots for 13 November, 2013
5:21 pm #NHS Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is probably a very impressive chap - especially to politicians who are impressed by letters both BEFORE and AFTER one's name. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that this eminently qualified DOCTOR is now viewed as the Mutt's Nuts on NHS ORGANISATION & MANAGEMENT! (It is called the "Halo Effect" which simply means that if someone exhibits expertise in one area, it is naturally assumed that they can tackle ANYTHING. In this case, it is a doctor as a management expert!) Sir Brucie on O&M is the equivalent of me attempting a hip replacement or open heart surgery....and I've watched HOUSE! .................I used to serve on the NHS MHRA committee - me and loads of eminent medics. I can tell you that from an organisational point of view, the ones I spoke to did not know their bottom from a hole in the ground....and they didn't want to! Another screw-up by the No 10 Senior Common Room? Or (hopefully) this will be YET another report which they ignore.
Snapshots for 2 November, 2013
2:22 pm Meanwhile, Miliband Minor jumped off the creaking Energy Bandwagon and landed on the next one to come along: The Water Companies. He said: "The water industry needs to be scrutinised to ensure that it is not ripping-off customers."......... SCRUTINISED?!! Well, I've just completed the exercise and can confirm that yes....we are being ripped off. (It took 5 minutes!).......... Now what?
2:14 pm There's yet another example of the exhortary but meaningless language used by the Prime Minister and favoured by senior Coalition politicians. It is designed to give the impression of imminent action but in fact, is meaningless. This is the PM's spokesman on the subject of senior NHS staff who are made redundant, handed hundreds of thousands of pounds in severance pay and then re-hired by the NHS on similar packages: "The PM is very clear that we need to show more restraint in senior managers' pay and if these people are returning, we should be claiming back some of the money."....You may recall similarly fine words of "restraint" and "clawing back" in respect of bankers' bonuses................ How's that going, Dave? Politico-twaddle.......... http://www.spygun.com/richard-ruzyllo/the-mess-we-were-left-yawn
Snapshots for 28 October, 2013
2:15 pm WHAT has the British government done to help small businesses which it can definitely say has helped? Apart from a couple of "schemes".......... NOTHING. Yesterday, the Chinese government announced that it would streamline its corporate registration system to ease market access and encourage social investment. Minimum registered capital requirements for limited liability companies, one-person limited liability companies, as well as joint-stock companies with limited liability will be scrapped. According to National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese SMEs provide more than 80% of jobs in Chinese cities. The number of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises represent 99.7 % of the total in China. Here in the UK, we prefer our earnings to be generated by "intangibles" such as banking and insurance. THAT makes our economy VERY vulnerable to the vagaries of the global economy.
Snapshots for 25 October, 2013
1:44 pm A rather long "No shit, Sherlock?!" moment - but then again, it is from a EU policymaker: "We basically arrived at a point where transferring more power to the European Commission and 'Brussels' in general to dictate national policies is no longer something that people are ready to agree with...."
Snapshots for 14 October, 2013
9:06 am THIS is from China's state news agency Xinhua: "As US politicians of both political parties (fail to find a) viable deal to bring normality to the body politic they brag about, it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world. Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated. A new world order should be put in place, according to which all nations, big or small, poor or rich, can have their key interests respected and protected on an equal footing. Instead of honouring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas." .............Xinhua added: "Regional tensions amid territorial disputes, fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies....."
Snapshots for 10 October, 2013
11:21 am Foreign Secretary William Hague this morning: "I condemn the abduction of the Libyan Prime Minister...."....... It's NO WONDER the bad guys have released Prime Minister Ali Zeidan so soon! You don't mess with the Haguemeister! When he condemns you - you stay condemned!! Al-Qaeda terrorists are quaking in their sandals!
10:41 am When most people see Malala Youzafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban, they see a heroine. I see a sad, unfortunate girl, impelled and steered by a father's grasping opportunism. Sorry.
Snapshots for 3 October, 2013
7:10 am United Kingdom economic growth is weak and will remain weak. That means that unemployment will stay high.(It is the same today as it was before the 2010 General Election). No amount of statistical engineering, designed to tart up the government's performance will alter that basic fact. The latest announcement by the Prime Minister of NOT maintaining the right of the 16-25 group to claim benefits means that young graduates will now be starting their adult lives in debt with little or no help from the State which put them in debt. Reminder to the Coalition government: AMBITION is driven by SELF-ESTEEM. What the government is doing is showing that all the talk of encouraging entrepreneurship in young people is nonsense because they are destroying the very mind-set which they need to nurture.
6:54 am Currrently, American politicians do NOT appear to be fulfilling their electoral mandate and instead, are concentrating on a Washington power struggle. Perhaps they too should have their salaries suspended. It might help them to concentrate.
The American Dollar is on its way up because everyone has woken up and is rushing towards it as fast as they can. Why this sudden (but expected) reaction? Because no matter what happens in the USA as a result of the battle between the Republicans and Obama, the dollar is the one world currency which will always trade and will always bounce back. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of poorly-paid American employees aren't being paid, never mind that America is quite likely to default on its debts as a result of Congress possibly blocking the raising of the $17 trillion debt ceiling. Those things just DO NOT matter. Why? Because of the numbers. To every other country on Earth a debt ceiling of $17 trillion seems beyond huge! It appears to be beyond management...but you have to remember that the USA's annual economy is worth approximately the same amount! In addition, the worldwide trade in the American dollar is about $4 trillion PER DAY and even though much of the trade is by algo-trading, such vast volumes mean that there is little chance of business suddenly drying up! The dollar trading volume every FOUR DAYS is roughly equivalent to America's entire debt! So, even if the USA defaults on its debt, the [...]
Snapshots for 28 September, 2013
8:01 am Post-war German leaders have long argued German interests coincided with the greater European interests. Angela Merkel's singular achievement, vindicated by her latest election victory, is to have kept Germany in the heart of Europe even as terrifying sovereign debt crises exposed the fissures and conflicting interests between states within the euro zone. There is no doubt that the German economy benefited enormously from the euro-driven economic union. But when the crisis broke out, German taxpayers, understandably, did not want to bail out foreign governments and financial institutions caught in the upheaval. Merkel's strategy was to protect the interests of her taxpayers while convincing them that the euro must be kept alive; otherwise the whole European project, the basis of the continent's peace and prosperity, could collapse. To this end, she imposed much-criticised austerity on the hard-hit peripheral states in southern Europe while pledging support to them by committing the equivalent of Germany's annual federal budget to various rescue funds. Merkel preferred the step-by-step approach rather than any grand reform schemes. Euro-zone bonds to lower sovereign borrowing costs? No way. An even tighter banking union than currently planned? Forget it. She perceived that in all these big and ambitious schemes, Germany would be the one that ended up paying the most to support them, thereby putting German taxpayers on the hook. Because of the delicate balancing act she had to pursue, she has been criticised, with reason, for dragging out the crisis rather than resolving it once and for all with a bold plan. But it's highly doubtful that without her cautious approach, German citizens would have gone along in helping the crisis-hit states. And without German backing, no rescue plan could work. Now, finally, the euro-zone economies are showing signs of life. Most likely, they still have a long way to muddle through. Merkel may not have saved Europe. But she deserves credit for preventing a euro-zone break-up. (SCMP)
Snapshots for 27 September, 2013
9:36 am Science used to be the triumph of humanity over superstition but we appear to have forgotten how powerful superstition is. Science is now hostage of the Global Warming superstition. The interesting twist is that we (the human race) have been taught that we are an eternal being. That has given us a certain degree of arrogance which in turn has made us believe that 150 years of human industrial activity has affected the 4.5 billion-year-old Earth to such an extent that there will be irreversible changes.
9:22 am CLIMATE CHANGE: The Human Race will probably continue to burn Fossil Fuels for another hundred years. Therefore, unless, the scientists can PROVE that any "damage" done to the Earth will be irreversible, then set against the 4.5 BILLION year age of the planet, it is an irrelevance.
9:09 am IPCC Report on GLOBAL WARMING: We should always question and be suspicious of ANY belief system which is over-reliant on consensus rather than evidence. Consensus-building is a socio-political and not a scientific process. The alarmist global-warning "faith" is a fine example of the phenomenon. Having said that, the so-called "scientific evidence" can also be flawed. You may not realise it but even the "peer review" process of scientific papers is subject to consensus. It too is subjective and on many occasions...selective. In the same way that consensus is built on selectivity, there are still occasions when scientific results which do not follow the "mainstream" can be ignored and buried. (DISCLAIMER: Other consensus-driven belief systems and faiths are available!)
Snapshots for 19 September, 2013
10:04 am HOUSING BENEFIT: So far ONE-THIRD of households affected by the Coalition Government's reduced Housing Benefit are said to be in arrears with their rent. Eventually, Local Authorities will HAVE to step in - in spite of the fact that many have a non-eviction policy. Then, the Local Authority will have to ask the Government for more cash to balance its books and to provide alternative housing. The circle will have been squared. This government is ONLY looking at its own balance sheet when making what are life-changing decisions on behalf of the people affected. Luckily for them, the Socio-Economic groups which are suffering are unlikely to be Conservative voters so in effect, they don't matter because they won't affect the Tory vote. Meanwhile, the Tories' self-styled social conscience, the Libdem Party, can do nothing but stand on the sidelines and wring its hands whilst dispensing warm words. Fiscal decisions are all well and good but what about the social aspects of say a small family which has had the same neighbours for years, gone t0 the same pub, the same playgroup and a which has a support structure within an area it knows, being booted out to be rehoused elsewhere? Just so that an arrogant Works and Pensions Secretary can score a few Brownie Points and a desperate Chancellor can squirrel away a few more quid into empty Treasury coffers. The so-called Bedroom Tax will do for David Cameron what the Poll Tax did for Margaret Thatcher. A scrapping of this nonsense-attempt at Social Engineering would be one U-turn which would be very, very welcome.
Snapshots for 17 September, 2013
1:12 pm LIBDEM conference: Yesterday, our professional (and perpetual) political bridesmaid, the Liberal Democratic Party rejected calls from party members to relax fiscal discipline and spend more. Instead, the Party pledged broad support for the government's austerity-focussed economic strategy. The Party is assuming that by May 2015, those elusive green shoots will have finally emerged and that they will once again ride into Westminster hanging onto Chancellor Gideon's (straw) coat tails...............(AUSTERITY? It's a well-known fact that if you want to make a horse to run faster, you don't encourage it through a combination of hay and ass-kicking....you pull back on the reins as hard as possible....don't you?)
12:03 pm The last time we heard a UK inflation figure, it was 2.8% per year. Today it has been announced that August inflation "fell" to 2.7%. However, the Consumer Price Index has INCREASED from 125.8 (July) to 126.4 (August). That is an increase of 0.6 in ONE MONTH, which when annualised, gives a price inflation figure of 5.7% per year! This is a situation which we've been amused by for quite a long time now: Inflation falling while prices increase. The magic of numbers! Here is the latest ONS bulletin. The numbers are on page 4: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_323760.pdf
"WTF?!" A single swallow doesn't make a summer! Now is the time to calm down and inject a bit of realism into the equation! (Reuters) - British industrial output was flat in July and there was a marked deterioration in the trade balance, official data showed on Friday, taking some of the shine off recent strong economic data. Output in the industrial sector - which makes up about one sixth of Britain's economy - had been expected to edge up by 0.1 percent according to a Reuters poll. The narrower category of manufacturing rose by 0.2 percent, just short of forecasts for a 0.3 percent rise, although June's figure was revised up, the Office for National Statistics said. Signs of a surprisingly strong recovery in Britain's economy have come thick and fast in the past few months. Growth of 0.7 percent in the second quarter could be trumped by an even stronger reading in the third. The Bank of England pledged last month to keep interest rates on hold until unemployment falls to 7 percent, something it does not envisage happening for another three years, but the strength of recent data has encouraged traders to bet rates might rise as soon as next year. Separate figures showed Britain's goods trade deficit [...]
Snapshots for 5 September, 2013
4:10 pm #SYRIA: Does the increasingly isolated Obama, with his barking-mad, cigar-chomping generals, not realise that an attack on Syria will cause markets to tumble, wipe BILLIONS off share prices, accelerate the failure of the "propped-up-by-the Fed" American economy, damage the BRICS countries' economies, raise oil prices, accelerate the collapse of the Eurozone and probably cause the deaths of thousands more innocent people? There are times when principle has to give way to pragmatism. #Callmehysterical!
3:33 pm SYRIA: The Pope, spotting an obvious bandwagon, has urged world leaders to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution". He has also invited 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and people of other faiths to join him in a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday "to end the civil war". He obviously does not realise that to the millions of displaced victims of Syria's violence, prayer and (especially) fasting, come quite naturally!
Snapshots for 4 September, 2013
3:31 pm Official figures have revealed that MPs, peers and staff at the Houses of Parliament have tried to access ‘adult’ websites using their work computers 309,316 times over the past year. About 850 attempts to click on pornographic websites were blocked each day. A popular site was “Out of Town Affairs”, a dating site for those wanting to engage in extra-marital affairs. Note a new proposed Westminster logo. It has a vaguely nautical theme. Mind you...with those numbers, they must be swimming in it!! :)
9:44 am In the last seven days, President Obama has greatly diminished the American Presidency and it will need a lot of work to regain the level of awe and veneration which the Presidency enjoyed under such "greats" as Roosevelt, JFK and even Clinton. The President has gone from "Hail to the Chief" to "Hello Committee member". Meanwhile, Obama the orchestra conductor sits in the comparative safety (and anonymity) of the Whitehouse Wind section....awaiting events.
8:14 am #SYRIA: I hate to pee on America's parade and spoil the day for all those self-important politicians and generals sitting around over-sized mahogany tables... but here's a warning: Bashar al-Assad will shoot back. Big time.
8:09 am The Reports are telling us. The Statistics look good. The graphs appear to have turned a corner. Today's good news is that August's UK construction PMI has hit its highest level since September 2007! ALL fantastic news! However, we all look forward to the day when the population-at-large is given the means to participate in the Coalition's "New Atlantis" because, in spite of the statistics and flim-flam, too many Brits continue to struggle. The As and Bs "have it"! Great Britain is now a proper two-nation state.
Snapshots for 3 September, 2013
11:34 am SYRIA: On April 14th 1986, Ronald Reagan ordered a series of bombings directed against Libya under “Operation El Dorado Canyon”. This was in reprisal for the "Libyan" bombing of a Berlin nightclub. It is now generally accepted that the "evidence" against Libya had been fabricated. Reagan subsequently gave the CIA "Regime Change" orders for Libya. THAT goal took 20 years to achieve. Both Clinton and George W Bush openly talked about regime change in Iraq. One may be forgiven for wondering whether the CIA have ever been given similar orders in respect of Egypt and Syria.
9:17 am #SYRIA: The embers of discontent have been glowing ever since the previous owner of the family business that is Syria, President Hafez al-Assad, quelled a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in 1982. Thousands were killed with little reaction from the West......Then in 2011, in the southern city of Daraa , his son and heir, Bashar al-Hassad had 15 children arrested for painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. Small, seemingly insignificant events such as this can often change the course of history. The present killing, propaganda and destruction are just another example. The rest of the world has turned a blind-eye to Syria for too long and much irreversible damage has been done not only to its people but to the country's infrastructure and culture. There is little doubt that the West wants to see a regime change... but the means to achieve that - whether right or wrong, are not to be found in the navigation system of a Cruise missile, the trigger-finger of a jet pilot or a politician's vanity. There's still time to talk.
President Obama has spent many days now consulting with Congress and talking with leaders around the world about the situation in #Syria. And last night the president asked all of us on his national security team to consult with the leaders of Congress as well, including the leadership of the congressional national security committees. And he asked us to consult about what we know regarding the horrific chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week. I will tell you that as someone who spent nearly three decades in the United States Congress, I know that that consultation is the right way for a president to approach a decision of when and how and if to use military force. And it's important to ask the tough questions and get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterwards. And I believe, as President Obama does, that it is also important to discuss this directly with the American people. That's our responsibility: to talk with the citizens who have entrusted all of us in the administration and the Congress with responsibility for their security. That's why this morning's release of our government's unclassified estimate of what took place in Syria is so important. Its findings are [...]
Snapshots for 2 September, 2013
6:39 pm I've often written about the impact of Chaos Theory on modern economics. Usually, it is an unforeseen catastrophe or surprise which impacts negatively on the numbers. Today's Vodaphone announcement is yet another unplanned-for event...but one which will have a very POSITIVE impact on the UK economy. The pound has already moved positively against the Dollar. Once the institutional shareholders get their hands on their dividends, they will use that cash to reinvest!! For once, it's ALL good news! Chancellor Gideon can put down those Rosary beads!!
5:56 pm FOR PARENTS: Last year a survey of 19 year-olds indicated that that 285,000 of them had left school at age 16 without a Grade C or higher in both English and Maths and only 21 % of those who had not gained a good grade at age 16 in English continued studying it, along with 23 per cent of those who had not got a C or better in Maths. QUESTION: How many did not continue English and how many studied Maths? That question is very simple arithmetic. However, as a nation, we don't "do" sums. When I was at Citibank, I organised a voxpops-type street survey in which we asked passers-by to calculate something like "What is 60% of 50?" LESS than HALF of the participants (all adults) were able to give the correct answer......... Today's much-maligned kids are just as good at arithmetic as their parents.....and by the way....THAT is why most political and economic statistics are presented in percentages rather than in REAL terms! Most of us have NO IDEA what they mean! #NationOFthickos
1:01 pm Children are to keep taking and retaking their Maths and English GCSE exams until they have passed with at least a Grade C. Why single-out English? Did you know that these days, children are passing Language GCSEs such as French, without being able to speak it? Why should English be any different? Things is really went from badder to worsest.
11:52 am Chancellor Gideon says: "In the housing market outside the centre of London ... there is not some kind of housing boom or some dramatic increases in house prices."........The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says: "We are experiencing the fastest growth in house prices since 2006, with homes in London increasing in value by more than 8 percent compared with a year ago."..........You choose.
11:38 am #Syrian U.N. envoy Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari says that U.S Secretary of State, John Kerry Kerry has "adopted old stories fabricated by terrorists based on fake photos from the Internet." .....and based on Uncle Sam's past record of relying on fabricated "evidence", who is brave enough to argue with him? The Ambassador has also written to U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon and President of the Security Council Maria Cristina Perceval, asking them to "to shoulder their responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria and pushing forward reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria" .....Now that both Obama and Cameron have bared their teeth and convinced everyone that they still belong to the "Peace through Bombing" style of international politics, they should now do the right thing: Sit down with the Russians and Syrians and talk.
Snapshots for 31 August, 2013
9:47 am For the last 70 or 80 years, in spite of their oil billions and flash skyscrapers, most Arab States have clearly demonstrated that sociologically and politically they are firmly anchored in the Dark Ages. On many occasions, they have also demonstrated that all despotic dictators have a limited shelf-life which invariably ends in violence. For a long time, we have been trying so hard to tell them all about Democracy and its advantages. and in recent years, we have even tried to install it for them. This week, the vote in United Kingdom Parliament which prevented us from bombing Syria, has done more to demonstrate real democracy than any action of the last 50 years - and we should be proud. We do not go to war on the whim of a single individual. We debate...then whatever the outcome, we respect the Democratic Process. Half of us may be "pro" a military strike and half of us may be "anti" but in the final analysis, we respect each others views, accept them and move on. From now on, we can go to a politically primitive state such as Syria with our heads held high...NOT because we decided against adding to their pile of dead.. but because we have finally shown the world (in a very public way) that we Brits practice what we preach. It isn't the romanticised French version of "Liberté" or the still largely theoretical American notion of "Freedom": It is in the astonishingly mature demonstration that it is possible to disagree - but with acceptance and mutual understanding. That's the real lesson for the bad guys.
Snapshots for 27 August, 2013
11:58 am #SYRIA: Looking forward to William 'Rambo' Hague and maybe DC read out the Churchillian stuff currently being written for them.......as yet another North African state prepares to be molested......... Methinks that we may need to reappraise our self-image. We have been binning ships, armaments and soldiers but, just because we won the World Cup in 1066 and WW2, we think that, along with Uncle Sam, we're still the world's policeman and everyone's conscience!
11:01 am #Syria All those years that we were shooting Irish people and the IRA were bombing in Northern Ireland as well as the mainland....I don't recall Assad's old man (Assad Snr.) either condemning the United Kingdom for "killing its own people" or threatening to invade or bomb us. Mind you, the USA was raising funds for the IRA (remember NORAID?), so nothing really changes. http://noraid.homestead.com/
Snapshots for 22 August, 2013
8:09 am THIS WEEK'S BANK RIP-OFF: The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it had reached a deal with insurer CPP and 13 high street banks and credit card issuers to pay customers compensation of up to 1.3 billion pounds for mis-sold credit card insurance. It is the latest mis-selling scandal to hit Britain's banks, which have been forced to increase their capital buffers partly because of huge compensation payments. "Seven million customers, who between them bought and renewed about 23 million policies, will soon receive a letter from CPP giving more information on the process," the FCA said in a statement . "The involvement of the banks and credit card issuers reflects the fact that they introduced customers to CPP's products and so must share responsibility for putting things right." Banks are still paying out compensation for mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI), which so far has totalled well over 10 billion pounds. The Financial Services Authority, which was replaced by the FCA in April, fined CPP 10.5 million pounds in November for mis-selling. Card protection insurance costs about 30 pounds a year, with identity protection about 80 pounds annually. The FCA said customers were given misleading and unclear information about the policies and ended up buying protection they did not need. The banks, credit card issuers and CPP have agreed to a "scheme of arrangement" which seeks to make processing claims simpler and easier, subject to High Court approval. The banks and credit card issuers are Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Canada Square Operations, Capital One, Clydesdale Bank, Home Retail Group Insurance Services, HSBC, MBNA, Morgan Stanley, Nationwide, Santander, RBS and Tesco Personal Finance. The FCA said the first payments were not due until spring 2014.
8:02 am OOPS!!! China's brokerages will come under government scrutiny after Everbright Securities mistakenly made 23.4 billion yuan($3.82 billion) of "buy" orders, collectively the biggest erroneous trade in Chinese stock market history. The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) decided to widen its investigation of stock trading systems to all brokerages following its probe into a small Shanghai-based company that made the high-frequency trading software used by Everbright
An economy in trouble prints more and more money and by doing so devalues the currency which ultimately becomes worthless. An education system in trouble prints more and more GCSEs, A-Levels and degree certificates. The diagram above (for those who did not pay attention at school) is a Standard Distribution curve. This type of curve represents all sorts of phenomena - especially to do with people. For instance, here in the United Kingdom we might want to look at salaries and how many people earn lots, how many earn very little etc. In that case, the curve might be called a distribution of salaries. As you can see , the green-coloured area on the diagram represents the majority of us who earn either side of the average wage, the blue areas represent those who earn either a little bit more or a little bit less and the red areas show the lucky ones who earn lots or the very unlucky ones who earn very little. Intelligence and academic ability also follow this type of distribution. We are not all Einsteins and at the other end of the scale - we are not all morons. Most of us are either side of average. That brings me to today's annual GCSE debate and the attendant mantras. : "They're getting easier." " Too many [...]
Snapshots for 21 August, 2013
5:45 pm GOLD BULLION is being surreptitiously moved out of London. It is being pulled out of London's Exchange Traded Funds. It then goes to Switzerland where it is melted down and converted into small bars and coins. In the last eight months, about 800 TONS (!) have headed East. First to Switzerland and then Asia. As I said the other day - NOW is a good time to think about buying! Mind you, many gold MINERS are also looking very interesting at the moment.
5:18 pm SYRIA Nerve Gas Attack: Foreign Secretary William Hague: "The perpetrators of this atrocity will he held accountable.".....Frank Gardner (BBC) "It's doubtful whether those responsible will ever be found." #AgentContagentHague
Snapshots for 19 August, 2013
11:04 am The West continues to believe that Democracy means "one man one vote". Unfortunately, unless several other factors are in place BEFORE the pointless rush to the ballot box, Democracy will NOT work. Democracy works for us because we already have the sub-structure in place. That is to say: 1. A free Press 2. A independent judiciary 3. A reasonable and largely corruption-free civil service 4. A taxation system in which the majority of the population participates and finally 5. Some sort of predictable freely-given support system for society's weakest. The answer is NOT a large tin box with a slot. Mugabe continues to prove that point as do the most recent catastrophies of Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Here in the UK, the perception is that the Coalition government has begun to dismantle at least TWO of the five pillars of Democracy. It does so at its peril.
10:09 am The Ministry of Defence spent £70 million on making over 2000 people redundant. It is now rehiring about half of them at a projected cost of £40 million! Obviously part of the government's job-creation scheme! Perhaps the government should re-prioritise. For instance, the government spends £500 million per year on press, marketing and campaigning with an additional £500 million on "Communications" (spin) . At £60 million, the biggest Comms spender is the NHS. In total, government departments have about 3,300 spin doctors.
After the mess left behind in Iraq and Libya, Western leaders appear to have realised that the days of a “good shooting war” being good for political image have gone forever. Heroic speechwriter-polished phrases and Churchillian posturing are a remnant of a past when the words ” honour” and “bravery” still had currency. Today, war is recognised as a filthy misery-spawning industry which, like an appalling Grand Prix Circuit, moves from country to country, leaving no more than a legacy of rubble and death. There is no honour in war – there is only pointlessness. The most bizarre aspect of the whole circus is that the leader of a small cluster of damp islands in the North Sea is always the one who makes the most noise, always hiding behind his younger but much bigger American cousin’s skirts. Collectively, the West feels that its job is to dispense the universally therapeutic remedy of “democracy” - even to those who don’t really want it. Democracy is not an emollient to be force-fed in the same way that 18th and 19th century missionaries (from exactly the same damp islands) delivered Christianity to the world’s natives. The Arabs are not even remotely interested in our special brand of [...]
Some of you may have read my "How to get to the top with absolutely NO talent" which gives a few tongue-in-cheek pointers as to what NOT to when attending a job interview. I thought that it might also be useful to tell you a few other pitfalls - especially as more and more of you will be attending interviews over the next few months (years!). Turning up on time seems like an obvious piece of advice. Turn-up in plenty of time to ask where the loo is so that you can at least straighten your hair and see how you look after the journey. You know how it when you've either walked 100 metres from a train station or walked 20 paces from your car - there is always that rogue gust of wind which messes up your hair or that snap rain shower which makes your suit feel like a dishcloth or washes-away your makeup. Arrive with plenty of time to settle down and convince yourself that you look good! At some stage during the interview, you will be asked whether you have any questions. There are a couple of things which you definitely never ask about. The first rule is that you never, ever ask about salary, overtime, holidays etc. The function of the first interview is to demonstrate how lucky your prospective employer will be if he is wise [...]
Politicians are currently gadding about, scattering statistics like confetti and pointing everyone at figures which are not preceded by a minus sign! It's time we paused, drew breath and took a closer look at the figures. Before we do, let's have a go at putting some general perspective on the numbers. In Europe, it is being reported that the E17 (Eurozone) and the E27 (EU) have "grown" by 0.3% and that the figures signal a recovery!! A few points about what 0.3% actually means. 3% means THREE parts in a HUNDRED, so 0.3% means Three parts in a THOUSAND......but there's more! The percentage change being quoted is the change in nothing more than the PREVIOUS QUARTER (see the top of the table above). That means that even if the figure was -100 and it changed to -99.7, THAT would be a POSITIVE growth of o.3%. However, if you look at the PERCENTAGE CHANGE COMPARED TO THE SAME QUARTER LAST YEAR (the right-hand column above), the figures remain negative ( -o.7% and -o.2%). France returned to growth in the second quarter of 2013, boosted by stronger domestic demand, after two straight quarters of decline. However, France's reported increase in consumer spending is largely as a result of increases in energy prices. It was not an [...]