Thursday, 26 February 2009

Religious affiliation: 2001

This table shows how people answered the, "What religion are you?" question in the British 2001 census.

It will be interesting to see the changes in the 2011 census.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Bonus is now a dirty word

Our glorious leader, Gordon Brown, has declared the humble (and not so humble) "bonus" to be quite unacceptable in today's business climate.

So brace yourselves for the performance-related disbursement, the retention cash incentive, and any number of other equally obscure terms which bankers will use to transfer their employers' money to themselves.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Abu Qatada: Not wanted in Britain

Abu Qatada: Not wanted in Britain

Meet Abu Qatada, he's wanted in Algeria, the United States, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and his native Jordan, all for terrorism. He's not wanted in Britain. We can't get rid of him!

He entered the UK in 1993 using a forged passport and applied for asylum despite having passed through many safe countries to reach here. Amazingly, criminally, his application was accepted; we took him in.

Qatada was inspirational in the 9/11 attacks and involved in funding other muslim militant activity. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Jordan for involvement in a plot to bomb tourists. He was ruled too dangerous to be allowed at large in the UK and was locked up in HMP Belmarsh in 2002 pending his deportation. However he has clung to the UK like a limpet and his lawyers got him out of Belmarsh in 2008 - whereupon the government imposed a "control order", itself a legal abomination forced on us by muslim fundamentalism, to confine Qatada to his home. Now he has been awarded £2,500 as compensation by the European Court of Human Rights for his time in Belmarsh.

It has to be said that the compensation amounts to about £2 a day so the Court doesn't seem to feel a great sympathy for him.

I think it's time this fellow was pushed over the border and permanently denied access to the UK. He's not British; he has no British ancestry - so he has no inalienable right to be here. If there was someone you didn't like in your living room you'd just order them to leave; you wouldn't enter into protracted negotiations and legal contortions. Abu Qatada should just be kicked out - with no legal process.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Bank of England warms up the printing press

LONDON (Reuters) - The Bank of England has sought government permission to create new money to help pull the economy out of recession, and could start buying government bonds or other securities with the cash within days

So another shoe has dropped, the BoE wants to print money. In theory they will use the printed money to buy gilts from the private sector and maybe other 'paper' and thus inject liquid cash into the economy via the banks, who will then lend it to needy businesses who will use it not to fire their staff who will spend more in the shops because they've still got jobs.

That's only the theory though. In fact I suspect the BoE will additionally buy gilts directly from HM Treasury and thus inject the cash into the government who will use it to replace the taxation revenue they are not getting any more due to having trashed the economy, and also to buy votes for the coming election with lots of generous giveaways and the creation of McJobs to mop up the unemployed.

Needless to say the creation of all this sterling will debauch the currency and cause inflation, which the BoE will studiously ignore - claiming to be looking two years out, like they always do.

British banknotes have a "promise" on them; and a promise is only as good as the person making it - that is, not very good at all. I'd be swapping my British banknotes for someone else's banknotes if I were you.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Inflation numbers

The Bank of England has published the inflation numbers for January. Read 'em here if you can be bothered.

In short CPI is 3.0% YoY - still 50% over target, and no the BoE has no plans to address this situation with a rate rise.

At 0.1% RPI is impressively low, until you realise that the fall is due to the VAT rate being reduced, and a knock on effect on mortgages due to the base rate being so low.

BBC link

Monday, 16 February 2009

A hundred-billion Earth-like planets

According to Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, there are probably 100 billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone.

That's a lot of real estate! Most will have only primitive life on them.

Coincidentally NASA will, on the 5th March, launch the Kepler Telescope, an instrument designed to find these planets.

Obama to lift ban on stem cell research

President Obama is about to get something right. He will lift George "W" Bush's ban on ESC - Embryonic Stem Cell - research, something forced on Bush by the conservative right because they got it confused with abortion.

There now follows some alphabet soup...

ESC therapy uses (or rather, will use, only done in the lab so far) SCNT - Somatic Cellular Nuclear Transfer to create new brain or heart or muscle or whatever cells for people who don't have enough.

The technique is to take a cell from a blastocyst, that's the earliest, youngest form of embryo, just a ball of undifferentiated cells, and squeeze out the bit with the DNA, the nucleus, and replace it with a nucleus taken from the patient, for example from a skin cell, of which the patient has lots and can easily spare a few.

The blastocyst cell is then replicated by clonal expansion, ie it is persuaded to mulitply into lots of cells, which can then be inserted into just about any organ in the patient where they convert into the right kind of cell for the organ.


Who will benefit? Well, everyone loses brain cells though-out their lives - we could all use a few more when we get old. Suffers of Parkinson's disease have big holes in their brains where there used to be brain cells. They could do with a few more cells. Anyone who has suffered a "cardiac event" will have reduced cardiac function which could be addressed by inserting new heart cells.

So where do we get our blastocysts from? That's the problem. They have to come from embryos which never made it as far as becoming a baby. This doesn't involve abortions though; in the US alone there are tens of thousands of blastocysts sitting in freezers, a surplus from IVF production. In the normal course of events these blastocysts would degrade over time and eventually get thrown out. They have no chance of ever becoming a person.

A Christian might take the view that the blastocyst already has a soul. But here there's a problem. How many souls does it have? A blastocyst could be implanted in a woman and become a baby, or it could divide and become twins or triplets! The "soul" argument is fraught, and should not be allowed to stop ESC research.

Source: Reuters

CBI forecasts doom

The CBI has forecast that by next year there will be 3 million unemployed people in the UK, the government will need to borrow £100bn more than previously thought and the economy will have shrunk by another 3.3 percent.

Nice one, Gordon!


Thursday, 12 February 2009

Your computer monitor is out-of-date

...unless it can do this for real:

Have Microsoft producted a 3D version of the Windows desktop yet?

Bank of England February forecasts

Here are the GDP and CPI forecasts for the coming months from the Bank of England...

Bank of England: GDP "growth" forecast

Bank of England: CPI forecast

...don't pay them much attention; they're probably wrong.

(Click on the graphs to see them in full.)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Sterling falls as QE gets closer

Details here.

LONDON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Sterling slumped against other major currencies on Wednesday, after the Bank of England said it was ready to ease monetary policy further and was willing to take unconventional measures to revive the ailing economy.

BoE Governor Mervyn King said the central bank would discuss so-called "quantitative easing", or buying assets directly to boost the money supply, at its next rate-setting meeting and the key bank rate would not have to fall to zero in order to adopt such measures.

The BoE's quarterly Inflation Report showed growth and inflation forecasts were revised down sharply and the central bank said risks were to the downside.

By 1515 GMT, sterling was down 1.1 percent at $1.4349, after earlier falling to a low of $1.4339, according to Reuters data.

The euro was up 1.31 percent at 90.01 pence, holding near a session high of 90.30 pence.

Interesting to note that MK thinks he can print money before rates reach zero. That would be rather novel and runs the considerable risk that the new money, ink still wet, would get deposited for the interest rather than spent - defeating the purpose of printing.

Obviously sterling is toast now, the smart money leaving.

Dutch MP banned from Britain

New Labour get more totalitarian by the day. They've banned a Dutch MP from coming to the United Kingdom.

Geert Wilders MP: Banned in Britain

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, MP, has been refused entry to the United Kingdom despite being invited to visit by a member of the House of Lords. He was due to arrive on Thursday but received a letter on the 10th February from the British ambassador to the Netherlands telling him that he was not welcome, supposedly because his visit would constitute a threat to public order.

Naturally he intends to come anyway.

What happened to free movement through-out Europe? He's been banned purely on political grounds because the government doesn't like his anti-Islamic stance.

And a quick search at the BBC website shows they are colluding by not reporting this story at all. Wimps!

Source: Link

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sterling, doomed?

As regular readers will know, I'm extremely pessimistic about the long term value of sterling, despite its rally of recent days. The coming money print run, quantitative easing in the jargon, and the massive government debts will both tend to devalue the UK's currency, and letting inflation rip is the easiest way out of the current debacle for the government.

Here are some thoughts from Credit Suisse on what QE will do to various major currencies:

EUR: QE is difficult for the euro area, an institutional weakness that has also caused sovereign spreads to widen sharply. Although difficult, it is not impossible, in our view. We believe a resolution of these concerns would be a structural positive for the euro’s role as a reserve currency. Although it would not improve the weak macro backdrop, we think it would allow the euro to participate in a new round of generalized dollar weakness.

CHF: The SNB has indicated its willingness to use QE and has explicitly mentioned FX intervention as a means to achieve its objectives. We suspect that unlimited intervention is unlikely and that intervention is more likely to be used to offset CHF strength than cause weakness.

JPY: QE’s implementation was unsuccessful earlier in the decade and the BoJ is very reluctant to allow rates to return to zero. Following the Fed’s lead, it is now starting to try to improve domestic credit mechanisms, but remains hampered by residual weaknesses in the domestic financial system and appears unwilling at this point to seek to resolve them aggressively. JPY strength through deleveraging comes from its net international surplus of foreign assets. A continuation into accelerated QE elsewhere is possible if monetary expansion proves hard to control.

USD: The early stages of QE haven’t hurt the dollar because deleveraging has increased foreign demand to buy back dollars previously used to fund the accumulation of USD assets, which have now fallen in value. At the same time, the destruction of wealth leads to increased domestic money demand to preserve capital. We expect these forces to wane through the year and for the dollar to weaken as QE is expanded.

GBP: The pound has weakened sharply in anticipation of QE. A Balance of Payments structure that relied on debt inflows to permit a combination of elevated consumption and accumulation of leveraged foreign assets helped create an ‘international ALM mismatch’ that has now been exposed. Even at current valuations, we think GBP is vulnerable to QE because attempting to underpin a leveraged national balance sheet through sovereign debt expansion is inherently unstable given the threat of domestic capital flight. By contrast, GBP could benefit from successful US implementation of a bad bank plan that underpins broad asset price expectations.

A couple of interesting things to note:

1/ There's a body of opinion that QE has already started under the covers in the UK. Not officially, but some BoE publications tend to indicate that printed cash has been slipping from the BoE to HM Treasury to pay for some day to day spending as tax receipts have not been as expected due to the economic wind-down.

2/ The Swiss seem to be intervening to keep their currency down rather than prop it up, and we all know bucking the markets doesn't work forever.

Source: Link

Friday, 6 February 2009

Minister doesn't like Obama much

If you want a good laugh watch this video at YouTube.

I don't think he likes President Obama much; in fact he's got a bit of a downer on black people generally.

It's snowing - Britain closed!

Actually the snow has mainly gone from the London area now but I thought a little reality check on the snow clearing efforts of local authorities might be called for.

Do you really want to pay enough tax for your council to gear up with snowploughs, gritting trucks and massive piles of salt just to cope with a once-a-decade event? Because if you do I'm sure they could. Personally I don't.

And if you do think we should be prepared for these rare events have you got some of these for your car?

That's right, snow chains!

Because if you haven't even bothered to spend £50 and get yourself geared up why do you expect others to?

In last few days I have been out and about on our snowy roads in the South East of England and I haven't seen a single car properly equipped for snow, not even police vehicles. This type of kit is a legal requirement in some European countries; here we prefer to complain that the authorities aren't doing enough - while taking no measures ourselves.

Base rate down to 1 percent

OK, so yesterday the Bank of England dropped the base rate by 0.5% down to 1 percent; another all-time record of lowness. The move was widely expected, didn't spook the markets or anything and was generally a ho-hum yawn kinda move.

In fact sterling actually rallied slightly against the other major currencies because, hey, they could have dropped the base rate by more, and for another reason I'll come to in just a mo.

First we must ask: why is the Bank of England blindly sliding into the ZIRP? (ZIRP you will recall from previous posts is what America is currently enjoying - Zero Interest Rate Policy.) Reducing the interest rate hasn't in the main benefited borrowers, fixed rate mortgage-holders don't gain, variable rate home-owners gain a little if the drop is passed through - often it's not - and collared tracker mortgage-holders don't gain. Basically it's just the uncollared trackers who gain, and they are in a minority. Meanwhile savers lose out big time. And there are seven times more savers than borrowers in the UK. (Although, thanks to the generosity of foreigners, not seven times more savings than borrowings.)

Well it seems ZIRP is a step on the road to quantative easing, which is where we all suddenly remember money is just bits of paper which can be printed at will. That's where the Bank of England is headed. They want to get printing but if they print before reaching zero interest rates all the money they print will get deposited back with them so the beneficiaries can get some free profit. They don't want that; they want the cash being spent in the High Street or lent to house buyers. So it's ZIRP, then print.

So we come to the reason sterling gained a little yesterday. The markets saw that yes, they're going to devalue sterling by printing, but not quite as soon as some were thinking. Slicing half a percent off a month means we shouldn't be printing until early April; Armageddon postponed - markets happy.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Boycott Total & Fina

The story so far, in case you haven't been keeping up...

The French oil company Total is performing extensive work on its refinery in North Lincolnshire, for which it has appointed a contractor, engineering firm Jacobs, who in turn appointed a sub-contractor IREM - an Italian outfit.

IREM decided to bring in a team of Italian workers to do the job, rather than hire local people. It has moored up a cruise ship to accommodate them.

This is all quite legal - provided the small print of UK employment law is being honoured, but it is a slap in the face to British workers - and one really can't imagine the same happening in France or Italy with British workers.

So, the answer is simple. They don't hire our workers - we don't buy their petrol!

There are plenty of other places to buy petrol. In fact Shell is usually cheaper than Total anyway, and the supermarkets' own brands are cheaper still. There is really no need to buy from Total, so don't. And the Fina brand is also owned by Total so give them a miss too.

Total: Don't buy fuel here!


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The biggest tits are in the Sun

The tit in question is Gordon Brown. Why should I write anything when the Sun does it so much better? See here...

Bravo Mr Kavanagh!

(Oh, and the Sun is a Labour-supporting newspaper. I'd hate to see what they'd write if they were anti....)