Friday, 13 January 2017

The blackmail of Donald Trump

If the Russians think they are going to have Present Trump dancing to their tune just because they have video of him cavorting with prostitutes they are badly mistaken.

Of course there may be no such video. It is all rumour. Ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele wrote the dodgy dossier at the heart of this story after interviewing contacts he formed in Moscow while working there at the UK embassy as a spook. There is no suggestion he has seen the footage himself. He merely collated rumours. And The Donald is notoriously careful about such things; he warns other people about the risks of concealed cameras.

The real reason this is all a gentle breeze in a teacup is because as blackmail material it would never work. Imagine the conversation...

Putin: "Mr President, ve vill release  your sex tape unless you do exactly as ve say."

Trump: "No."

Putin: "Er..."

And that is the end really. If the Russians release the tape they lose their blackmail material and Trump will just laugh it off saying they tried to blackmail me and now they can't. If they don't release the tape Trump wins anyway.

So it is all irrelevant. The real loser here is the man who wrote the dossier, Chris Steele. He has gone into hiding (after asking his neighbour to feed his three cats!) supposedly because he fears for his life. But who is going to kill him? The Donald? No, because he has nothing to worry about. The Russians? No, because this whole thing is making them look bad and the sooner everyone forgets about it the better.

Chris Steele is really in hiding to avoid the press. At the moment the newspapers are using a twenty-year-old picture of him. What he really does not want is them to get a recent picture. His business is secret squirrel - he cannot be secret if everyone knows what he looks like. So he is currently on a desperate quest to save his livelihood by keeping his face off our screens.

It remains to be seen if that will work.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Striking over Christmas

Just to summarise, those striking over Christmas, in case you've lost count...
  • Southern Rail train drivers, because they don't want to close the doors,
  • Royal Mail, because they don't want to deliver the cards,
  • Airline check-in staff, because they don't want to check passengers in,
  • Baggage handlers, because they don't want to handle baggage,
  • Cargo crew, because with no passengers checked-in and no baggage there's nothing for them to do.
 I hope you were not planning to go somewhere this Christmas; no chance of that!

Friday, 9 December 2016

More enemies of the people

When the High Court ruled that Article 50 could not be triggered by the government purely on the strength of the democratically expressed will of the entire population, the Daily Mail called the judges "enemies of the people" - a phrase dating to Roman times but made chilling by the Soviet Union - enemies of the people, or state, tended to disappear.

Now we have more enemies of the people, this time the people of the Netherlands. A court near Amsterdam has found Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party of Freedom, guilty of "insulting a group" and "inciting discrimination". His "crime" was to ask a public meeting if they wanted more or less immigration from Morocco. When the audience came down on the side of less he offered to make that happen for them.

Wilders: Not much concerned

Having convicted Wilders of something that is not actually a crime the court could not bring itself to impose any form of punishment.

This apparent magnanimity is probably just self-preservation. The judges may have sniffed the air, noted Brexit, Trump, etc, and realised being on the wrong side of history could be bad for their health as some point in the future, so they just let hm go.

In the UK there has been some blow-back to people judging the judges by using such terms as enemies of the people. But what are you supposed to do? Just let them ignore the will of the people with no consequence? Government appointees such as High Court judges should not be able to overturn the will of the people. When there is such a wide gulf between the ruled and the rulers, the rulers must give way. That is democracy. Anything else is tyranny - no matter how impressive the perpetrators' wigs.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Achtung! Burka ist Verboten!

Can you believe the cheek of the woman?! Angela Merkel that is. First she lets a million hostile aliens into her country, but now she see an election on the horizon it's all ban the burka patriotism. 

Well this blog doesn't agree with banning the burka; no, we should ban the people wearing them. The Islamic religion itself is the problem; the oppression of women, the rejection of "man-made law" (what we like to call "democracy") the creep towards sharia - it all has no place in our country. We don't want it.

Banning the burka is treating the symptoms; instead treat the disease.

Monday, 5 December 2016

2017, year of elections

Next year we will have a general election in the Netherlands (March), a presidential election in France (April), a federal election in Germany (September) and now that the Italian constitutional referendum has returned a resounding "No" and the Prime Minister has announced his resignation there will most likely be a general election in Italy, probably in March next year.

That's a lot of voting and in each country there is a growing Eurosceptic party snapping at the heels of the establishment. By the end of 2017 the European political landscape could look very different from now.

How the rich get richer

The difference between "rich people" and everyone else is that while ordinary people have income and own assets the rich have "capital". Capital is a productive asset which returns a yield. Now even low yielding capital such as FTSE100 shares have an average yield of 4% (on top of which the owner may get capital growth) while the economy is growing in the 2-3% range.

This means that provided the yield is re-invested into capital the capital owner will own an ever increasing share of the economy with every passing year.

He could even skim off 1% and still increase his share of the pie.

That is why the rich get richer.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Autumn statement, 2016

Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has just delivered his first, and last, Autumn Statement to Parliament. Last, because as he announced to a laughing House, future Autumn Statements will actually be Budgets and the Spring Budget will be a Statement.

This is actually a sensible measure. The Budget will be delivered in November and the new rules will then start April next year. So businesses will have a few months to prepare for the changes. The current scheme was invented by Gordon Brown so he could get his face on TV twice a year. It was never a good idea.

Hammond: "Borrow, borrow, borrow."

He spoke for a mere 51 minutes during which he cut taxes (well, froze fuel duty for the seventh year running) and sprayed £23bn of investment money all over the country. The other nations all got raises - Scotland will get £800m more a year (the SNP responded with a stony silence.) Roads, bridges, railways will all get funded. Affordable houses will get built all over the shop; and they will all have ultra-fast internet connections. (Hammond said they will have "5G" connections, but that is a mobile phone standard so he may be slightly confused about the technology.)

The cash unfortunately is going to be borrowed. The government will be borrowing £68bn this year and will continue borrowing at least until the year 2022. The government can no longer forecast when it will stop borrowing. Likely the national debt will be over two trillion by the next election in 2020.

There were some tax rises: insurance premium tax will rise from 10% to 12% and the "salary sacrifice" tax dodge is to be abolished. The triple lock on pensions is good for now but may be lost in the next parliament.

By 2020 the tax free threshold will be £12,500 and the higher rate won't cut in until you're earning £50,000 (currently it's £45,000.)

There will be a new NS&I 3-year bond paying 2.2% with a maximum subscription of £3,000. (Big deal, not!)

Shadow Chancellor replied pointing out that growth was down, investment was down and only borrowing was up. Real wages, he said, have not increased since 2008. He then spent the rest of his time moaning about Brexit.

 McDonnell: "Borrow even more."

To summarise: borrowing continues, austerity continues, but Philip Hammond seems to have a lower-key style about him than previous Chancellors and is less prone to showboating; which must be a good thing.