Monday, 30 November 2009

Johann Hari on Dubai

This piece by Independent columnist Johann Hari is well worth a read...

If I had to summarise it I'd say: Dubai is a financial con-job built on debt and the exploitation of an Asian underclass. It is unsustainable financially and ecologically since when the money runs out so will the desalinated water.

I guess that in the future the Dubai natives will simply move into the abandonned hotels and shopping malls and the desert will reclaim the golf courses and ski slopes.

This poem by Shelly comes to mind...


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Friday, 27 November 2009

Dubai situation is worrying

The story so far: Dubai World, the main driver behind the massive construction boom in the emirate of Dubai has found itself unable to repay $61.6bn of debt on time and asked for a 6 month "stand still".

Property in Dubai has crashed 60% since 2007. Construction has stopped and the hi-tech workforce is leaving. There are rumours that credit checks are being performed at the airport and people trying to flee debts are being hauled off to jail. (Hint: It's an easy drive to Abu Dhabi, folks!)

Normally this blog wouldn't give a damn about Dubai. It was built on sand and to sand it will return.

However, bad news, seems like a lot of the debt came from British banks, and worse, not just the bad banks the government already owns, but the good banks we thought were safe. HSBC is in the hole for $17bn or possibly more, Barclays has an undisclosed liability; and not disclosing the liability is the worrying factor.

Looks it might be time for the UK taxpayer to dig deep again.


ET has phoned Bulgaria

Yes, really, scientists at the Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences are in communication with extra-terrestrials.

Real all about it here.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Right to silence is dead and buried

A 33-year-old London man, whose name has not been made public, has been jailed for 13 months for exercising his Right to Silence. Specificly, when required by the police using their powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, "RIPA" to its friends, to divulge the encryption key required to access his PC he maintained the "no comment" stance he had adopted through-out weeks of interviews. Unfortunately New Labour had taken away his right to silence and he was jailed.

The man is currently in a secure mental health facility. He seems to be a paranoid outsider who encrypted the data on his PC for no better reason than he could - and the more the authorities asked him for the key the worse his mental condition became. There is no evidence he is involved in any crime, he has no previous convictions. Jailing him seems to be a travesty of justice.

The full story is here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Cumbria flooded with water but not money

In the last week 900 residents of Cockermouth have been flooded out of their homes or businesses. All the bridges are closed due to structural fears and several have been washed away - one with a police officer (Pc Bill Barker) on it at the time.

Gordon Brown flew in, toured the area, and pledged £1 million of government money as a contribution towards the estimated £100 million costs.

In the same time period the government has given £1 million to Sri Lanka for displaced persons camps, £2 million to South Waziristan for food and water, £1.5 million for road safety to the World Bank, £34 million for expectant mothers in Sierra Leone, and so on, amounting to £239 million in the last week alone.

Surely the people of Cumbria should have first call on our national largess at this time.


Friday, 20 November 2009

The many councils of Europe

There's the Council of Europe, the European Council and the Council of the European Union.

One of them has a new President and a new High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs. Can you guess which one?


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Organised child abuse in the UK

The subject of the sexual abuse of children in the UK by organised networks has reared its ugly head again. This time the children's charity Barnardos has raised the issue.

From the Times...

A secret network of organised child sex traffickers is operating within Britain according to the charity Barnardo’s.

Approximately one in six of the sexually exploited children currently being helped by the organisation say they have been moved between cities and passed around between paedophiles.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, warned of a “hidden” problem in which vulnerable youngsters, many of whom have run away from home, are shunted around the country to increase their isolation.

“Through our work with children abused through prostitution, it became apparent that some young people were being moved around the UK, or from town to town, by abusing adults who would use the children for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” he said.

The charity said it was currently working with 609 sexually exploited children and young people, 90 of whom appeared to have been trafficked within the UK.

One of the victims of this trade, Imogen, ran away from her care home at the age of 12 with an older man she thought was her boyfriend.

She was groomed by a man who treated her well – giving her a mobile phone and the keys to a flat to use – before he began to abuse her.

“He was much older, he was protective – I felt looked after, wanted, loved even. He gave me everything I wanted,” she said, but soon she was being driven to “parties” around Britain where she was told to have sex with his friends.

“I didn’t have any choice – I felt so guilty. Eventually, he’d take me all over the country: Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, London. He’d take me to hotels, some nights two or three.

“I never saw any money change hands. Some men asked ‘How old is she?’ Some asked ‘Have you got any younger?’ They were really sick.”

The bit they never tell you, which you might just glean from the references to Leeds and Bradford, is that the abusers are usually Asian men following their Prophet's example - Mohammed married a seven year old girl, Aisha, and enjoyed sexual relations with her when she was nine.

The victims are white girls "absconded" from care homes.

No mainstream media organisation is prepared to report the ethnic aspect of this crime. They are muzzled by our draconian "anti-hate" laws.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Yesterday (some of) the voters of Glasgow North-East went to the polls to replace their MP, the former Speaker "Gorbals" Mike, who has gone to another place. Here's how they voted...

Labour won easily, with three times anyone else's number, the SNP are Labour's main rival in Scotland and the BNP and Tories slugged it out for 3rd place - the Cons eventually pipped the BNP at the post.

No-one else was anywhere. It's interesting to note that the two Labour "spin off" parties, Socialist Labour and Solidarity have no traction at all.


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Some early thoughts on 2010

See that debt clock on the right-hand-side? Watch it for a minute or two and try to work out when it will reach one trillion pounds.

I reckon Spring next year. Maybe even May 6th, expected date of the next general election. Perhaps before.

A few other treats are in store for us early next year.

  • The money for the car scrappage scheme will run out. (February probably)

  • Quantitative easing will stop. Next year's GDP won't have that £200bn stimulus.

  • VAT will rise from 15% to at least 17.5%, and some leaked documents indicated that the government is thinking of 18.5% or more. (Early hours of Jan 1st. They were going to make it on the stroke of midnight but with all the pubs and restaurants likely to be open at the time they eventually realised this would be a bad idea.)

  • Inflation will rise; if the BoE is doing its job interest rates will rise as well.

  • Gilt yields will rise. Ten year bonds are nudging 4% already.

Put it all together and what have you got? A rather gloomy Q1-Q2, I'd say.

It's day 20 in Somalia

Doesn't time just fly by? Already it's Day 20 of the kidnapping of Paul and Rachel Chandler by Somali pirates. I wonder how they are faring; if they are getting enough food etc.

Meanwhile the media has moved on and isn't reporting the story anymore.

There's one last plaintive message on their yachting blog, dated October 23rd.


On this day of this, at this time, 91 years ago, the French Marshal Foch, allied Commander-in-Chief and the German anti-war politician Matthias Erzberger met in a forest in Picardy, Northern France, and signed the armistice agreement which ended WWI. They were in such a hurry they never noticed that one of the pages of the document was pinned in upside-down.

What they were fighting about no-one can quite remember, but it was the Great War, the war to end all wars; that we all know.

Every year on this day we wear red plastic poppies to remember our “glorious dead” from that and subsequent wars. Some people start wearing them in late October, but frankly that’s just ostentatious. The correct form is: remembrance week only.

This year particularly, remembrance of our war dead is no great effort of recall. Every few days another funeral cortege passes through the Wiltshire market town of Wootton Bassett carrying soldiers fallen in Afghanistan on their last journey from RAF Lyneham to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford where they come into the care of the coroner. The residents of Wootton Bassett have taken to congregating in the High Street to pay their respects as the coffins go by. At first the military authorities tried to downplay this, but now they’ve adapted to the new custom and put on a decent show with crawling black hearses led by a tall man in top hat walking at the head of the procession.

Notable by their absence at these occasions are all the politicians who sent the soldiers to war in the first place. In fact the only party leader to attend has been Nick Griffin, chairman of the BNP, who arrived unannounced, without the massive security team he needed at the BBC, and when asked by journalists for his opinion refused to comment on the grounds that it was neither the time nor the place for politics. In this, he shows a sensitivity and sureness of touch to which none of our actual leaders could ever hope to aspire.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

QE raised to £200bn

Today the MPC has decided to chuck another £25bn on the fire into the economy to keep us warm over the winter. They expect to have spent it by the end of February next year. That will take the total "printed" money to two hundred billion pounds. Or £200,000,000,000.00 if you prefer digits. The money is being used to buy gilts (mainly) ie, British government debt.

Strangely, if you add in the most recent bank bail-out costs, two hundred billion is just about the amount the government needs to borrow this year for its running costs.

Dogs and vomit come to mind.


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Karadzic trial gone wrong already

Former President Karadzic, on trial at the Hague for alleged war crimes, is refusing to leave his cell to attend the court room. You see, he has been served with one million pages of evidence by the prosecution and needs time to read and digest it before the trial can begin.

I railed about the farcical Milosevic prosecution a few posts back and urged they not make the same mistakes again. But they've gone and stepped right back into the same dog turd.

Let's say Karadzic reads at one page a minute, and reads eight hours a day, for five days a week, and works 50 weeks of the year - well, in eight years' time he'll be about ready to walk into that court room.

It's tempting to think the prosecutors are their own worst enemies but let's not forget - they are being paid by the hour!

Lisbon treay ratified

Yesterday the Czech Republic's President Klaus signed the Lisbon Treaty, rather unexpectedly, with no ceremony - he just did it. He warned a few days ago that, "the British must hold an election within the next two weeks if they want to stop this," and we didn't.

The Treaty comes into effect on the first day of the month after full ratification - so it applies from the first of December. On that day we lose 60 vetoes; any residual control over our fishing grounds, and will become Citizens of Europe; although we don't (yet) lose our member state citizenship. (They're not called member countries anymore.)

This puts the Conservatives in a little tizzy. They promised a referendum, but now Lisbon is a done deal a referendum wouldn't change anything. The best they can offer now is a referendum on any future extensions to the treaty and to be mean to Europe in some other way.


Monday, 2 November 2009

It's day 11 for the Chandlers

It's Day 11 for Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British yachting couple taken from their boat, the Lynn Rival, by Somali pirates as they sailed from the Seychelles to Tanzania. Initially they were forced to sail towards the Somali coast while the pirates ransacked the vessel for items of value, and made continual demands of money from Paul and Rachel.

Then the yacht was abandoned at sea as the pirates presumably had no patience with its slow progress and transferred Paul and Rachel by speedboat to a container ship they had hijacked some time ago. While on the container ship they spoke to relatives and ITN News via satellite phone. The pirates demanded a US$7,000,000 ransom. Then the couple were taken ashore to the coastal town of Haradheere.

The problem the pirates have with the Chandlers, and they don't usually take small boats, is that all their wealth was tied up in their yacht, which was abandoned at sea and has since been recovered by the Royal Navy. There's no rich oil company to pay the ransom; they probably don't have kidnap insurance, and the British government does not (officially) ransom its citizens, or even talk to terrorists.

The pirates now have so many hostages, the crews from ships they have taken, that the advisability any military rescue attempt, even if completely successful, must be counter-balanced against reprisals on other hostages.

Apparently the COBRA committee has been considering the matter.

I'm guessing they will try to wear down the pirates, let negotiations drag on, reduce expectations, and eventually get the Chandlers "bundled" with the ransom of another vessel and its crew so they aren't seen to be paying for the release of citizens - even if they do put some money in the pot.

The UK government routinely plays down the significance of hostages. They encourage relatives to keep a low profile. This serves two purposes: it takes media pressure off the government, and it bores the kidnappers to the point they may take a negligible sum to hand over the hostages. There is considerable evidence that even when they discover where hostages are being held they prefer simply to do nothing. (Some sources indicate that the intelligence services knew Terry Waite's location for most of his 1,763 days of captivity.)

So the Chandlers had better settle in for the long haul.

Sharia4UK march

Well, I expect you're wondering what happened on the Sharia4UK march in London on Saturday last, where the plan was for hundreds, if not thousands, of muslims to meet in Parliament Square at 1PM and then thunder down Whitehall picking up more supporters en route before arriving at Trafalgar Square for speeches. The way they made it sound Sharia would be de facto law by nightfall.

What actually happened is this: the day before they claimed to have received some email and text threats and so moved the whole shebang to an "undisclosed location". The location was so secret that in fact nobody turned up. Nothing happened.

Some English Defence League protesters did turn out; about 30 of them. They wandered down Whitehall from Trafalgar Sq, stopping off for a few minutes to pay their respects to the "Glorious Dead" at the Cenotaph. With no muslims to attack it was a very tame affair - heavily policed though.

The most significant event in Westminster that afternoon was a drive-by of about 500 motorcyclists protesting at Westminster Council's attempt to impose parking charges on bikes and tighten up the rules on parking on the pavement and such liberties. They were peaceful but noisy and doubtless very annoying for the motorists they held up for a five minutes or so.

We must conclude that Sharia in the UK is not imminent.