Sunday, 11 January 2009

Diana Watch

Your wife’s brain is sort of umm……. Shrunken. Good day to you all, I say all, last week it was 20, so I could probably greet you all individually and still only take up 2 lines. Hope you have had a good week, if not here is a thought to lighten the load, as I type this there are only 9 days left. 9 sleeps until still President Bush is ex President Bush and a collective sigh of relief so large that it will alter the course of most shipping is let out by 4.6 billion people, oh the joy. And if that doesn’t help it’s the 50th anniversary of Motown and every other BBC program is dedicated to this and playing many fantastic tunes, listen to them and your life will be good. Quickly back to the subject of George W Bush leaving, or more importantly Barack Obama taking over, lets be honest, this is probably the worst job in the world right now. World wide economic meltdown, yet more war in the Middle East, some of which his country didn’t start, and expectation so high that if he isn’t the first President to actually fly like David Copperfield, or indeed actually fly (my lawyers would like me to point out that David Copperfield can actually fly and that joke had no basis in fact), then America is going to be one very disappointed country. The rest of us don’t really mind what he does too much because he isn’t called Bush. The President elect has this week been outlining his plans for stimulating the recession hit economy that he will inherit. His plan is his own version of FDR’s New Deal, a new New Deal if you like and it mostly comes down to this, what FDR’s New Deal built, we will repair as no one has paid the slightest bit of attention to it since, why do you think the levees broke so easily in New Orleans? As we have discussed before the New Deal didn’t really lift the American economy out of the depression, that was the beginning of the 2nd World War and the massive increase in arms spending by Britain, but it did give people jobs and, combined with a new, reassuring President, it created confidence. FDR’s decision to re-open the banks would have ruined the country if the people hadn’t had the confidence to take their money back to them and reinvest. In faltering economies confidence is the key and this is what Obama will bring most to the U.S., oh and a shit load of spending, really, really big spending, which will be nice.
Of course the change of President and, probably, foreign policy does limit the time that Israel has to continue systematically destroying Gaza and the people within. The UN Security Council voted this week to call upon Israel and Hamas to declare a ceasefire, the vote passed and the call was ignored by both sides, but what was interesting were the numbers. Of the 15 members of the council 14 of them voted for the ceasefire motion, only one of them abstained, can you guess which one it was? Yes, that’s right it was Israel’s great friend and weapons based shopping centre, America. So the slaughter of hundreds in a pointless war is not enough for you to consider it a waste of time and a bad idea then Mr Bush, oh now, wait, you have previous for this sort of thing. Lets us all hope that the Obama Administration are a little more pro peace and sorting things out in a civilized way and a little less turning a blind eye.
It has been another bad week to be in Gaza, although I can’t think of many good weeks to be in Gaza recently and by recently I mean since about 1967, but the lowlight, if you will, was when Israel bombed a school, a UN school, with many children sheltering inside. On the BBC’s Today program on Radio 4 the Israeli Ambassador to Britain said that they had Drone (an unmanned spy plane) footage of Hamas Militants firing rockets from the roof of the school only hours earlier. The BBC then phoned the Israeli Embassy for clarification on this and were told that he had got it wrong. The footage that he had referred too was in fact taken during 2007. Oh and it was of a different school. The UN has also called for an investigation into what it describes as a “War Crime” by Israel in its treatment of injured Palestinians. In international humanitarian law soldiers are supposed to help and treat the injured, no matter whose side they are on and the UN claims that it has proof that Israeli soldiers have not been doing this.
I do know that this does sound very one sided and anti-Israel so let me add that rockets have still been fired into Israel from Gaza but also from Lebanon which really, really doesn’t help, unless the point was to remind everyone that Israel has a history of invading other countries in order to stop militant groups firing rockets at it and failing to do so. If that was what they were trying to do then goal achieved and well done, if not then sit down and shut up at the back you are not helping. I do agree with every Israeli spokesman that appears on any media outlet or their Youtube channel, ah, footage of the death of innocent people and funny animal clips, that’s what the internet is there for, that their country has the right to live peacefully within it’s borders with it’s neighbours without the fear of rockets raining down on them but maybe they should listen to their own words.

I’m sure you are asking yourselves, “Why are so many big companies going bankrupt?” ok, so you might not be but I’m using this as a narrative device so that I can crowbar my point in. Well it has very little to do with consumer spending, which is in fact slightly up on this time last year according to the ONS, and far more to do with the business practices of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Stupid as it may seem to you and I, it was the business mantra of the time. Cash in the bank bad, debt on and off the books, very good indeed. Now to most normal people this seems like a very poor idea that is fraught with danger, “what if the banks stop lending to me to cover this debt, my business will go under” but to those that ran, see how I used the past tense there, large companies this was not seen as a problem. By investing in very complicated financial products, that they borrowed lots of money for in the hope that they would make more money to cover that debt, they could move those debts off of their books so it looked like their situation was much better than it was. So when the banks stopped lending to one another and then to businesses, such as Woolworths, and then wanted their money back (this is the credit crunch not a drop in retail spending as the TV news seem to think it is) the companies in question were sunk, landed with huge debts that they couldn’t pay. So please don’t believe the bleating of the shops, you are spending enough money. Hey, maybe you should consider saving a little or paying off some of your own debt and if you do have a little to spend, do so in a small local shop like “Down to Earth” in my road. With all the space appearing in the high street this could be the chance for the local shops to take back some ground.
We are living in a very odd and confusing time as those who we thought were arch capitalists, politicians and business leaders etc, now seem to be some sort of socialists, encouraging us to nationalise things. Well sort of. They want us to nationalise their debts but leave the profits for them. Given their old ways you would have thought that an empty shop unit was a wank fantasy for them as it should that the “Market” was working and the strongest were surveying and the weakest going under, but no, they want help all of a sudden. Years of taking our money in return for shoddy products and bad service and now they want our help. There are some who have a terrible dystopian nightmare were meglo-companies straddle borders, employing hundreds of thousands of people, making singular decisions that effect stock markets and making trillions of pounds in profits until they don’t. A couple of bad investments and those years of profit are wiped out. These companies are too big to fail. Just one of them going down could ruin a country so various Governments are asked to step in to save them. “We’re sorry. We’ve really messed up and all our investments are worthless” “What about all those Profits you made over the last 25 years?” “No, that wasn’t us, you must be thinking of some other Bank.” “Ok, here’s billions of pounds” “thank you xx” What’s to stop these companies from continually doing this? Holding whole countries to ransom, pay up or we ruin you. Gordon Brown hinted at this “moral hazard” problem at the beginning of the credit crunch but has done nothing to deal with the problem which has lead to money going into the banks but not coming out again.

Some Awards now,

The Award for Tosser of the Week,

This goes to Tory Party activist Matthew Lewis who went to a New Years Eve party dressed as Madeleine McCann. Now, the question here is not why would you do that, tasteless prank, lack of moral judgement, a Tory, who’d of thought, it is, how would you do that? Did he wear a small girl’s frock? Get himself a funny eye or his family a publicist? Was he poorly investigated by Portuguese Police or did he just mysteriously not turn up?

The Award for Not Really a Great Surprise,

This goes to Prince Harry for using a racist term. This is the man, let us not forget, who went to a fancy dress party in a Nazi Uniform. What is it with the over privileged and fancy dress parties?

The Award for Odd Media Obsession of the Week,

This does not go to the wind turbine somewhere up North that got damaged and a blade fell off. Oooh, there were strange lights in the sky, twas a UFO you know. Was it? Was it really? Oh no, a much stranger obsession crept in this week, it was light bulbs. I have heard an article on radio news, seen an article on BBC television news and it’s all over the papers. This is because the EU wants to stop the production of the old fashion, not overly efficient, 100 watt tungsten light bulbs. I’m told that there has been panic buying of them despite the fact that it’s not going to happen for at least 2 years and that our government announced it ages ago. BBC news had a little voxpox piece asking idiots why they were panic buying. Several answers were given, my favourite being, “I don’t like the light that they give off”. I’m sorry? What now? The light that they give off? IT’S LIGHT! THAT’S THE COLOUR AND SPEED THAT IT COMES IN! One of the other answers was that the price of energy efficient bulbs was too high so I went to my local bulb emporium and found that the energy saving bulbs with equivalent candle power output of the old 100 watt tungsten bulbs start from 75p. If people won’t spend 75p to save the planet then we are all doomed. Although I got some free from my electricity supplier and from Waitrose. Only after I’d already bought a load for my house, so if you want some I do have some spares. Then the Daily Mail decided that this was an “it was all better in my day” issue and couldn’t help themselves but join in and start giving away 100 watt light bulbs. Would they also be happier if we repealed the “clean air” act and London went back to having fogs that could kill? Who would have thought that the only sane voice in this madness would come from the Sun who decided to give away some Energy saving light bulbs? I can’t believe that I am actually going to type the next few words but, well done the Sun.

Have a nice week. Go on, spend 75p and start helping to change the world.

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