Thursday, 31 December 2015

Oil prices

Global stock markets fell yesterday [Wednesday 30-Dec-2015] as oil prices slumped toward 11-year lows, sapping investors' appetite for risky assets on the penultimate trading day of 2015. Investors need to pay attention to specific issuers in oil production states so they’re not blindsided in 2016.

Stock markets rallied the previous day as oil prices rebounded on prospects for lower temperatures on both sides of the Atlantic. But on Wednesday benchmark Brent crude slid below $37 a barrel, with investors worried about slowing demand and high supplies.

Slumping oil prices have been a major driver of financial markets this year, hammering energy companies, lowering inflation expectations and reinforcing bets on loose monetary policy in Europe and a slow tightening in the United States.

As the price of crude falls for a second year, marking the steepest decline since the recession, the impact is cascading through the finances of states, cities and counties, in ways big and small. Once flush when production boomed, some governments in major energy producing regions are facing a new era of unwelcome austerity as wells are shut.

A global glut of crude has weighed on the market for more than a year. Oil prices are on course to fall by more than a third this year as big suppliers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have continued pumping crude in a bid to defend their market share. Meanwhile, U.S. crude output has been resilient despite the low prices, and much of the excess has gone into storage.

Brent is under particular pressure after the recent US budget deal that lifted a ban on US oil exports and is expected to reduce the international benchmark's premium.

Who is benefiting from this situation?

Domestic customers in the UK through low petrol pump prices and heating oil, but it is only temporary as the oil price controls more than just a few filling stations.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Environment Agency

The head of the Environment Agency Sir Philip Dilley, under pressure to defend his handling of Britain’s worst flooding crisis for years amid reports that he has left the country to spend time at his luxury Caribbean home in Barbados.

The Environment Agency is a non-departmental public body, established in 1996 and sponsored by the United Kingdom government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [DEFRA], with responsibilities relating to the protection and enhancement of the environment in England [and until 2013 also Wales].

The Environment Agency employs around 11,200 staff. It is organised into eight directorates that report to the chief executive Sir Philip Dilley, another £100,000 a year waste of space.

The Environment Agency's total funding in 2007–08 was £1,025 million, an increase of £23 million on 2006–07. Of that total, £628 million [61 per cent] was provided in the form of 'flood defence grant-in-aid' from government [£578 million for England and £50 million for Wales]. In addition, £347 million [34 per cent] was raised through statutory charging schemes and flood defence levies; and a further £50 million [5 per cent] came from other miscellaneous sources.

In 2007–08 had an operational budget of £1.025 billion, of which £628m was grant from the Agency's sponsoring Government Departments. Approximately half the Agency's expenditure is on flood risk management, and a third is spent on environment protection (pollution control). Of the remainder, 12% goes to water resources, and 6% to other water functions including navigation and wildlife.

Since the establishment of the Environment Agency several major flood events have occurred and the Agency has been the target of criticism. A number of reports have been produced which chart various developments in flood management.

Easter 1998 Floods and Bye report
Autumn 2000 Floods and Learning to Live with Rivers
June 2007 National Audit Office report
Summer 2007 Floods and the Pitt Review

What happens when you build a wall to stop water from entering the designated area, it usually flows around the side. The biggest single problem the Environment Agency has still not fathomed is it's main purpose.

Monday, 28 December 2015

A Year of Reckoning

Most people have been writing about the last twelve months as an overview of what has happened, I am more interested in what could happen in 2106.

What lessons have we learned about 2015 and the increase in terrorism attacks.

The type of attacks that have happened seem to suggest the marauding type has become popular mostly because of the coverage they attract but perhaps because of the logistics involved. With Shengen [although not much free movement in Europe at the moment as Shengen is broken] entering Europe and travelling round the 26 countries has not posed much of a problem with groups of people shipping in arms and attracting newspaper offices, football groups, bars, restaurants and music venues has not been complicated either.

If the security forces start to work on disrupting these types of events the protagonists will presumably move on to plan B.

What about the political side of events. What are the fundamental problems in the region? Civil war in Syria, bad governance in Iraq, no final strategy for Libya.

There could be a deal in connection with Libya, there are talks in Yemen that could ease the situation, there are planned, also Syria talks next month in January, what can be achieved from these, a little at a time and goals could succeed. If not ISIS has the ability to move into Yemen and Libya unopposed.

What can be achieved from these events? The reactive approach must be left in the past and a more proactive approach must be taken. Apart from peace being the overriding goal, are there individual goals that can be achieved in each country that will appease all?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Interest rate rise

The US Federal Reserve raises interest rates by 0.25 percentage points [the first increase since 2006] in a move likely to have global repercussions.

The world has experienced the deepest recession since the 1930s. In an attempt to boost the flagging economy, the Federal Reserve, European Central and the Bank of England cut rates aggressively, their rationale being that the cheaper money is the more likely people are to borrow thereby stimulating growth, because after all the interest rate is simply the price of money.

It seems a very small move but the ramifications could be enormous.

First question will the UK follow suit, hardly, inflation in the UK today is about 0.1% and the Bank of England wants inflation to be steady at 2%. It will be a long time before that happens. However, the UK will not want to move against the US rate it would rather reflect a similar change, so perhaps the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee will have a difficult decision to make.

But what about the smart money?

Because of this rate rise America will now look more attractive for the smart money to move into and away from emerging markets that have had very cheap money for the last seven years.

A rate hike by the US Federal Reserve could cause fresh turbulence, especially in emerging markets, as investors take the opportunity to switch money back to the safer haven of the US. The much less successful eurozone, while out of crisis mode for now, is presently pondering ways to combat the threat of deflation.

All eyes will be on the BoE Monetary Policy Committee and the result of their next meeting which is next year on Thursday 14th January 2016?.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Low Carbon Economy

After Paris, everyone seems a tad optimistic about what 'they' have achieved.

The question now is can our government provide a low carbon economy.

Firstly what is a low carbon economy:-

A low carbon economy [LCE], low fossil fuel economy [LFFE], or decarbonised economy is an economy based on low carbon power sources that therefore has a minimal output of greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions into the environment biosphere, but specifically refers to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

How will our government achieve their target.

1) get rid of carbon producing sources such as coal fired power stations, this is already in action.

2) energy use in buildings and industry, again to a certain extent this is in action, the quality of buildings erected in the last ten years has increased substantially.

3) reducing domestic transport emissions, this was going well until the VW scandal.

4) reducing international aviation and shipping, this is not going so well as more people are using these services today that at any time in the past, and it is not as though these types of craft are produced rapidly.

As the government has recently cut back on sponsoring certain new age technology, the challenge for Britain will be to rebuild its economic model around investment and innovation with little direct public money. Over the last three decades the knowledge economy has been the fundamental engine of growth. Through this period, the number of jobs that require degree level of professional skills has steadily risen, while the companies and sectors that have grown are those that have found new and innovative ways to add value.

One of the agreed points is the first stock take in 2023 and then every five years, do we have to wait eight years to see if change is taking place?

Friday, 11 December 2015

Britain's airports

The airport commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, recommended to the government that a third runway at Heathrow represented the best of all the options, and the government vowed to respond to the recommendation – in the form of a concrete decision – by the end of this year 2105.

What exactly was the point of the Airport Commission?

The exercise cost £20m and was designed, in part, to remove the decision from the hands of politicians.

The Prime Minister had promised to say by the end of the year whether he backed a 23-billion-pound runway at Heathrow Airport after a 3-year independent review named the site in densely populated west London as the preferred location.

Instead Cameron's government said late on Thursday [10-Dec-2015] it needed more information on the environmental impact before it could sign off on an issue that has split the party and is already 25 years in the making.

Heathrow, which is operating at full capacity, says a new runway would add 100 billion pounds to the economy and more than 120,000 new jobs. Business groups say expansion is vital if Britain is to keep up with the likes of Paris and Amsterdam in building ties to emerging markets.

The airport said it was confident that expansion could be delivered within the environmental limits while Gatwick, which is still campaigning to be allowed to expand, said it was now clear that its rival was no longer a viable option.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour's shadow transport secretary, said "Tonight's statement owes more to political calculations than genuine concern for the environment or residents who now face another year of blight and uncertainty, this shambolic announcement is an embarrassment and no one will be convinced that the Government is taking our runway capacity or environmental needs seriously."

Business has every right to feel let down by this decision and will question whether ministers are delaying critical upgrades to our national infrastructure for legitimate reasons, or to satisfy short-term political interests.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Troops on the ground

Kurdish fighters, known as the peshmerga, backed by U.S.-led airstrikes emerged as one of the most effective counters to the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, which was formed in 1992 and rules an area larger than the Netherlands from its capital in Erbil, is locked in a dispute with Iraq’s central government in Baghdad over the sharing of revenue from oil sales, reported by Bloomberg. Finances already squeezed by the impasse have been further eroded by the global slump in crude prices, which are still falling rapidly.

Iraqi Kurdish leaders consolidated their power following the first Gulf War as the U.S.-led coalition created a partial no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect the region from Saddam Hussein’s regime. Despite the turmoil in Erbil, Kurdish forces have remained effective. They retook the symbolically important town of Sinjar from Islamic State last month, and have pushed the militants out of other northern towns and cities.

Kurdish fighters in northern Syria have also had battlefield successes against Islamic State. They forced the militants from areas on the Turkish border, and have won strategic victories closer to the jihadists’ stronghold of Raqqa.

The cash-strapped KRG has fallen months behind in paying public-sector wages, which account for more than 70 percent of its budget. An undercurrent of tension erupted into view in October, when five people were killed and 200 wounded in unrest following protests in several towns and cities, reported by Reuters.

If the west does not want to put troops on the ground as NATO confirmed recently, then the least they can do is financially support the locals, as it may go some way to bolster David Cameron‘s 70,000 figure.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Economic Collapse

In 2008 there was an incident that has since been labelled the global economic crisis.

A lot of people have been blamed, the labour government at the time has been blamed and forced the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown out of the door.

The time scale is well known, Lehman Brothers collapses on September 15, 2008 and is not saved, at the same time Merrill Lynch [the bank I worked for] is sold to Bank of America which can only be described as a back room deal amidst fears of a liquidity crisis, Northern Rock collapses on 22 February 2008 and is saved by nationalisation [bad idea ~ another story] and does not need to be repeated here, however, is it happening again legally under Basel III and is it being ignored?

"Basel III" is a comprehensive set of reform measures, developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of the banking sector.

Sub-prime mortgages, widely blamed for causing the 2008 financial crisis, are making a surprise comeback in the UK, with several new lenders launching home loans for people with poor credit histories. Lenders are targeting people who have faced serious financial problems including repossession and bankruptcy, as well as those with more minor blots on their records.

The problem is stricter rules on mortgages were introduced in the wake of the financial crisis, but this type of lending was not banned, checkout Basel III, and amid an easing in lending conditions and rising house prices, more companies are now starting to offer deals.

The regulatory process has an issue that cannot be easily resolved, they have stipulated that banks MUST keep enough capital to be liquid in form at the same time encouraging them to lend to business and domestic for economic growth purposes, but the banks have been placed between a rock and a hard place and no one has come up with a solution so far.

Monday, 7 December 2015


Why are pollsters and forecasters getting it wrong?

Last Thursday at the Oldham and West Royston by-election the results were:-

Labour 17,209   [majority 10,722]
UKIP 6,487
Conservative 2,596
Lib Dem 1.024
Green 249
Monster Raving Looney 141

In May 2015 the general election looked like:-

Labour 23,630   [majority 14,738]
UKIP 8,892
Conservative 8,187
Lib Dem 1,589
Green 839

During the 4-6 weeks running up to 3-Dec-2105 Oldham election it was being reported the 14k Labour majority could be as low as 3k, in the final week some said Labour might lose the seat albeit narrowly, but this was not believed to be accurate, the low majority figure was however.

As it turned out, the forecasters got it wrong.

It also happened in the 2105 general election where pollsters, forecasters and bookies had being saying for literally weeks before the election "it was too close to call", in the end the results speak for themselves:-

Conservative 11,334,576  seats 331
Labour 9,347,304  seats 232
UKIP 3,881,099  seats 1
Liberal 2,415,862  seats 8
Green Party 1,157,613  seats 1

So why are they getting it so wrong now?

There are several possible reasons for this, including people making up [or changing] their minds very late, Labour voters not turning out in the numbers that they told pollsters they would [lying - hardly] not telling pollsters which party they would vote for [this can always happen] and problems assembling accurate data from small selections, polls are usually 1,013 or 1.043 or something similar. I have often wondered if there was not a better solution to small number polls.

If times change and people change with the times, are the questions the pollsters asking the same as they have always asked and are they still relevant today, perhaps the pollsters should up their game by modernising their questions to meet the market?

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Syria Vote

Yesterday [Wednesday 2-Dec-2015] MPs voted 397 to 223 for the extended bombing in Syria. We have heard that the first raid has already happened and it hit the Omar oil fields in eastern Syria.

If we spend the next few weeks going after oil targets to affect the war chest financing Daesh, how will it affect global oil prices?

A year ago, Saudi Arabia led the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in keeping production quotas steady, exacerbating a global glut and sending prices tumbling. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect a repeat this year when the group meets tomorrow [Friday 4-Dec-2015] in Vienna. Iran has said it will announce plans during the meeting to expand its output.

Obviously it is too early to affect this meeting and the already tabled motions should go ahead, however, by the time of the following meeting if all the Syrian oil fields are wiped out a portion of the oil production expected by the committee will not be available, this will affect prices and you will notice your local petrol stations reflecting the changes by increases prices at the pumps.

Monday, 30 November 2015


What to do about the vote to ask parliament to extend bombing across the border into Syria. I have already said that I believe the PM ‘did not’ make a case for bombing in Syria against ISIS last week in his statement, listening to the debate over the last fours has not changed my mind. The most relevant piece people have said is he has not outlined what happens afterwards.

However, I have thought more about what our allies think about us, when they see the RAF fly across Iraq bombing the enemy and then turning back as soon as the Syrian border appears. You could say a farcical situation, but parliament voted for that in 2013. It now makes me think the only reason that the PM wants to extend the bombing across the border is merely to appease his allies.

I now feel even more strongly against the extension as I see no collateral can be gained and it will not make us [the country] safer.

Another issue mentioned in the statement that I disagreed with last week that has now been shown to be untrue is the figure of 70,000 troops on the ground that are available to mop up the enemy after the bombing campaign has completed.

Firstly the figure is far larger than anyone agrees exist, the smaller figure that does exist have no connection with each other so getting coordination between these troops would be nearly impossible.

One point that has come out of the debate over the last four days is will removing ISIS stop this death cult like cancer that has been growing over the years? Looking at where ISIS came from, al-Qaeda and looking at where al-Qaeda came from, it appears to be a rinse & repeat situation, so I wonder if ISIS are removed from Iraq/Syria what will appear.

Friday, 27 November 2015

The case for war

A twist in the tale.

After the PM's statement in the house of commons, MPs returned to their constituencies to consult and take advice from their staff, parliamentary party and their constituents. As they were doing this the leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn wrote to his MPs telling them that he did not consider the PM David Cameron had made a case to extend bombing in Syria.

He pointed out that the PM had not set out a coherent strategy coordinated through the UN for the defeat of ISIS. He said "In my view, the Prime Minister has been unable to explain the contribution of additional UK bombing to a comprehensive negotiated political settlement of the Syrian civil war, or is likely impact on the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK."

This was obviously meant to guide his MPs to a similar view, but it appears that overnight more rebels than expected have appeared. Does this mean the PM can assure himself of a majority on the vote that might take place next week, or is there so much uncertainty that no vote will take place?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

PM statement

Has the Prime Minister David Cameron made his case for war?


What was he trying to do yesterday? [Thursday 26-Nov-2015]

Convince parliament to vote in favour of instructing the RAF to fly their Tornadoes and use the Brimstone missile to bomb Syria as well as Iraq, which is already happening. The targets would be the same, ISIS. The vote he lost in 2013 was to bomb Bashar al-Assad President of Syria and his troops that were murdering the civilians of Syria.

The PM seemed to be getting ahead in the statement when questioned on the strategy and the ground war, he mentioned 70,000 local troops and it went pear shaped.

The PM said that 70,000 of them  could be a ground force to exploit the coalition's air strikes and support Kurd groups already fighting. He is correct that the Sunni Arab areas under control of ISIS will need to remain under Sunni control after ISIS has been removed. He was given to believe that the Joint Intelligence Committee told him there are indeed 70,000 rebel fighters who could be described as moderate. However these 70k are not all fighting on the same side or for the same goal. They all have their own agenda and it would take too long to get them round a table and agree to one course of action.

All MPs have returned to their constituencies to consider their positions and next week there might be a vote, but it is looking increasingly likely that it will be no again.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Syria ~ Turkey

The public [I am included] are becoming more aware of the situation in this region. It is unstable, it is dangerous, it is complex.

It is the complexity that is stopping politicians from making decisions.

No body really knows who is with who or who is fighting who or who will fight with someone else if they are both against, silly but unfortunately realistic.

The Economist yesterday produced a graphic that shows the complexity people are struggling with. Thousands of people, tens of thousands of people reacted to this yesterday saying "how can we / anyone go in and solve the issues".

Source: The Economist

What do we know today? US F-16 fighter jets have arrived at Turkey's southern Incirlik airbase to join the fight against IS. US drones have already launched raids on IS from there. Turkey says its war on two fronts will prove decisive. Critics say Turkey's strategy - complicated by long-standing problems with its large Kurdish minority - is short-sighted and likely to backfire.

After the incident with the Russian fighter being shot down on the Syrian / Turkish border this makes the West cautious about putting more infrastructure into Turkey as Russia builds up its offensive force in the region. Remember Russia has a land grab programme which facilitates Syria and surrounding districts.

The Turkish government says it is ready to fight all the enemies of its national interest. But many observers believe it is particularly interested in one enemy.

The question is: Which one?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Computer games

I have reached an age where PC games no longer interest me or perhaps I should say I am losing interest in PC games rapidly and rather than the type of game released it is probably my age.

There has been an on-going discussion about the effect that time and money spent on games has on the rest of your life. Real scientific data on the subject is sparse, and there is a lot of sensationalism instead and talk of "addiction". As I do not have a statistical study on the subject, I cannot really comment on that.

I am 60 years old, and I have played games since I was a child. Of course not computer games, they were not available then. I was already in my teens when I got the first console, playing Pong in black and white on a television screen. My first "home computer" was The ZX Spectrum which was an 8-bit model with 16k RAM [haha you might say considering today's mega machines]. So my gaming career started with board games and I wonder if I will return to them or a similar type.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Will Germany fall?

Will Germany be the first to fall after accepting nearly a million refugees this year?

Turkey, Palestine & Yemen have all taken more refugees however, they are not coping well and that is hardly surprising as no country can cope with a huge influx of other people.

Germany's politics now seems to be baulking at the idea of taking in a huge number of refugees which would count as a U-Turn by the government, where would that put Angela Merkel?

Personally Angela Merkel will probably survive as there is no one else in Germany to take over, however it is the country and continent this piece is about rather than the leader.

Last week I wrote about Shengen and I consider it is finished:-

It now appears people more in the know than I are saying the same thing, so what is next?

I think it would be a disaster to return to individual borders if Europe wants to remain as a state so what can they do?

Firstly strengthen the outer circle.

Establish just where the outside border of Europe is as a whole [thinking of UK as an example] and place proper strong checks on anyone coming into the zone, this means relying on other countries to run and police these stations, now that might be a problem.

How about setting up a group specifically to deal with this 'outside border'?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Shengen is Dead

Europe either has to create an intelligence force similar to Interpol which is happy for each country to talk to another or the borders close.

The politicians have to decide what is best for their people, they have to reflect on what has happened not only in the last twelve months, which has been horrific, but for the whole millennium. The ideological view can no longer be supported a pragmatic view must now be adopted.

Once the borders are closed more action can take place for instance not letting people back that have travelled to Syria and surrounding countries and have taken part in the conflict there, expelling people who have expressed views that could be seen as incitement.

Most of the actions that need and could take place require either of the first two options to be implemented.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Europe today

A continent in shock or fear!

Just how does the population of Europe feel today?

Last night [Tuesday 17-Nov-2015] a football match took place between England and France. It was technically a friendly, however, if you take into account how much was spent on security you could hardly call it a friendly.

The reason for the expense was the appearance of the heir to the throne [Prince William] and the prime minister [David Cameron].

The reason for the game itself was to show the terrorists [who had recently cause devastation] that the west will not be cowed by the actions of last Friday night in Paris. The evening itself was successful and the final score was a side issue as the whole event was about solidarity and showing that the two nations [England and France] were completely together in the battle to allow democracy and freedom to survive and flourish.

Does this one single event in England make the population of Europe feel happy and safe, no of course not, it is a public show of strength, but what do the people of Europe feel after seeing their friends and relations gunned down while sitting outside a café or dancing at a concert in a hall?

These people were not politicians or celebrities or members of the security service, they were young people of today out relaxing after a day or week at work and they were gunned down for no reason other than megalomania by a group of radical extremists currently calling themselves Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Have we [in the west] established what these terrorists want?

What is their objective, what is their goal, what is their motive, why are they doing what they are doing which is killing anyone who stands in front of them and destroying any object [usually buildings or structures] that they come across. It does not appear that anyone has fathomed what they are about, so how can we conceive a plan to oust them?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


I have been watching River [TV series] via BBC iPlayer, six episodes of pure fantasy.

Why should I want something real when at the end of my day I want a release into the unknown, fortunately for me this series was available.

I am sure there are dozens of people who deserve credit for this production, but following Stellan Skarsgård & Nicola Walker through this story over the last six weeks I have been enraptured.

I just thought I would mention it.

Monday, 16 November 2015


Ever since the failed attack on a train in France last August [by two Americans and a Britain] it has been clear that for one reason or another France and it's capital Paris are going to be the target of choice for terrorists.

Intelligence gathering is a hot topic not just at the moment but always because of the clash with liberty, but it cannot be under estimated how powerful a tool against terrorists it is.

However, it saddens me when I read of stories like "German police stopped a man [5-Nov-2015] on the highway between Salzburg, Austria, and Munich driving a car with a cache of guns and explosives. The man from Montenegro, had programmed his car’s GPS with directions to Paris and he said he wanted to see the Eiffel Tower." All well and good you might think, except that this information was not passed between the two countries concerned.

I will and have moaned about Europe's open border policy which now seems to be collapsing, but if Europe wants to be tighter together it should start with communication.

Friday, 13 November 2015


Last night's question time had the following on the panel

Sajid Javid
Lucy Powell
Paul Nuttall
Paris Lees
Stig Abell

The usual questions were answered and the usual answers were given.

Why does this program run?

Oh yes, because the people think they get a say, the only trouble is there is no one listening to the people.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Europe's open borders

Hungary has completed a fence on it's borders and is now refusing to accept migrants from Croatia.

Croatia has placed police and militia on it's borders because of the treatment from Hungary.

Slovenia has started to build a wall to deal with the influx of migrants from the south and the return of migrants from Hungary's actions.

Bulgaria is erecting a fence between itself and Turkey to halt the progress of migrants.

Macedonia strengthens it's borders with armed police.

Last month Austria announced plans to restrict access to migrants as it appeared to be a crisis in Europe that was not being dealt with.

Today [Thursday 12-Nov-2015] Sweden has announced that it is now limiting access to it's country for migrants by placing stricter border checks as it feels not enough if it's partners are doing their share.

The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14-Jun-1985, how do you think it is doing?

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Russian sport

WADA has slammed IAAF over doping in sport and recommends that Russia should be banned from sport.

A 325 page report has been published showing what everyone has suspected, but now comes the time for proof.

The findings by a commission set up by the World Anti-Doping Agency were far more damaging than expected. It means that two of the world's most popular sports, football [soccer] and track and field are now mired in scandals that could destroy their reputations.

The WADA investigation's findings that Russian government officials must have known about doping and cover-ups, with even its intelligence service, the FSB, allegedly involved, threatened to severely tarnish President Vladimir Putin's use of sports to improve his country's global standing. Russia hosted the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and will hold the next World Cup in 2018, unless the authorities step in.

The IAAF responded by saying it will consider sanctions against Russia, including a possible suspension that would ban Russian track and field athletes from international competition, including the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. IAAF President Sebastian Coe gave the Russian federation until the end of the week to respond, which has been seen as very weak.

Perhaps the time has come for corruption in sport to be removed.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Middle East issue

Sunday 8-Nov-2015 2,000 Britain’s have been returned to Britain from Egypt which is 10% of the population of tourists in Sharm el Sheikh. The remaining people have to establish accommodation for the foreseeable future until they are able to fly home.

What exactly is the problem in getting people home?

Okay, so the security at Sharm el Sheikh is crap, the camera system is never monitored, screening is a joke and when you turn up at security a tenor will get you through unchecked. Okay that is how it was, British staff are now on site to deal with those issues, so the fact that 20,000 British tourists have not been flown home is the prerogative of the Egyptian authorities.

Presumably this is because they are pissed off that the British government did the decent thing in protecting it's citizens by stepping in right at the beginning.

Hopefully over three days David Cameron PM put Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Egypt's president in his place by pointing out the poor situation of security in Egypt's airports.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Britain leads

On Saturday 31st October, 2015 a Russian passenger plane crashed in the Sinai desert, reason unknown. Over the weekend the wreckage and bodies from the aircraft were found. It was eventually announced that all 224 people on board had probably perished.

On Wednesday 4th November, 2015 David Cameron PM suspended flights to & from Sharm el-Sheikh and it seemed that the world was against him. The media reported 20,000 British tourists were now stuck in Egypt, this at the same time the PM was seeing the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in London on a state visit. It started to become very acrimonious.

On Friday 6th November, 2015 in the morning the Russians were still castigating the UK on their earlier decisions, then in the afternoon they also suspend all passenger flights to & from Egypt. They were then followed by the Germans, French, Dutch and Belgians and now presumably by every other country that has flights to Egypt.

It would appear that British foreign policy has been vindicated.

Eurozone is still weak

The ECB [European Central Bank], which wants inflation of just below 2%, has been injecting 60 billion euros a month of new money through its bond-buying program since March to support growth and inflation in the 19-country currency area.

With a slowdown in China and energy prices continuing to fall, ECB President Mario Draghi said on Tuesday policymakers would review the monetary stimulus and may beef up the program at the bank's next meeting in December.

The BoE [Bank of England] also wants inflation of just below 2% and of course uses sterling not the Euro, found services companies rebounded more strongly than expected last month, suggesting economic growth picked up speed as the final quarter began.

While no change in policy is expected from the Bank of England when it meets on Thursday, economists think it will raise rates from record lows in the second quarter of next year. If we were in the Euro we would not have the ability to make these decisions for ourselves, so hopefully we will remain were we are.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Prime Ministers questions

PMQs [Prime Minister's Questions] is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom, currently held as a single session every Wednesday at noon when the House of Commons is sitting, during which the Prime Minister spends around half an hour answering questions from MPs [Members of Parliament].

Prime ministers have answered questions in parliament for centuries but in 1881 fixed time-limits for questions were introduced and questions to the prime minister were moved to the last slot of the day as a courtesy to the 72-year-old prime minister at the time, William Gladstone. Since then there has been several changes until we get to the current system.

PMQs have been filmed since 1989 by the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] and shown on it's own channel and at times on BBC2. It has gained popularity because of the bear pit action for the 30 minutes where the public can seen both sides fighting each other without exchanging blows, however, recently it appears that the public no longer has a taste for the rowdiness as it detracts from the purpose of challenging the government over current affairs and issues.

Yesterday was particularly prominent when the leader of the opposition was having trouble asking the Prime Minister questions with the racket from the government benches. The speaker intervened as always but the usual 30 minutes was extended to 39 and the PM was heard to say "this is getting longer" as he left the chamber.

Well if is too difficult for the PM to manage his benches he will have to expect longer PMQs.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


Some people say gamers are addicted to their games, they let everything in life go by as the importance of the game takes over, but addiction is a very harsh word, perhaps we should use fascination, a much softer approach.

One important difference is that fascination, by its very nature, doesn't last. We lose interest in that game that was so very important to us last month. We might then actively seek out another game to be passionate about, but it isn't as if we got fascinated by any game we try. Unlike an addiction our fascination with some game can easily be cured by simply not playing for a week, because we lose that fascination rather quickly. We come back from a holiday and find that we lost all interest in a game that was highly important to us before the holidays.

Losing that fascination was easier when games were mostly played on desktop computers and consoles. Mobile games are less easy to get away from. But until our phones and tablets get a lot more powerful, mobile games aren't quite as intricate and pretty as PC and console games. People do get hooked on Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga, but more easily if that phone or tablet is the first gaming platform they own. And many mobile games have game mechanics that prevent you from playing for hours, and if not your phone battery is making sure you don't.

Less than a third of people are really engaged in their work, people get bored with their marriage, and the safety of modern life means we are less often worried about really important things like our physical well-being. Games become very important to us because there isn't really much competition for our attention. This can be an illusion, and by neglecting real life we risk to lose stuff we took for granted.

In the majority of cases fascination with a game is not as bad as addiction, we need something in our life which we control and passes.

Monday, 2 November 2015

China's consumption

The Di Mei shopping centre in downtown Shanghai is a surprisingly depressing place to shop. The underground mall is located in one of the most shopping-mad cities in China, and yet it is run down and starved of customers.

Rising vacancy rates and plummeting rents are increasingly common in Chinese malls and department stores, despite official data showing a sharp rebound in retail sales that helped the world's second-largest economy beat expectations in the third quarter.

More importantly, the struggles of Chinese brick-and-mortar retailers amplify a policy conundrum; these malls, built to reap gains from rising consumption, are instead adding to China’s corporate debt problem, currently at 160% of GDP - twice as high as the United States.

China is currently the site of more than half the world's shopping mall construction, according to CBRE, a real estate firm, even though it appears that many of these malls will not produce good returns for their investors. A joint report by the China Chain Store Association and Deloitte showed that by the end of this year, the total number of China's new malls is projected to reach 4,000, a jump of over 40% from 2011.

Real estate analysts note that much of the surge in retail space construction came at the behest of local governments, who were rushing to push real estate development as part of attempts to stimulate the economy. The result has been malls built in haste and managed poorly. Less foot traffic means cash flow of mall owners and developers are getting squeezed - a potential hazard for an economy growing at its slowest pace in decades.

Not surprisingly, shoppers are voting with their feet.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Chilcot announcement

Has the Chilcot report lost all credibility?

one - 2010
The credibility of the Iraq inquiry depends on witnesses telling the truth in its public hearings. Sir Roderick Lyne did not give Sir John Sawers warning that documentary evidence disproved his version of events. But Sawers, who used to be Tony Blair's foreign affairs adviser called his bluff.

The document is a letter written by Sawers in March 2001, circulating a revised version of a new policy paper. It shows that he was at the heart of co-ordinating the paper and that he sent it out for comment by foreign secretary Robin Cook and defence secretary Geoff Hoon.

When the inquiry was set up, there was a lot of criticism about the absence of an oath and therefore any real sanction against people misleading it. Chairman Sir John Chilcot reassured us: "If someone were foolish or wicked enough to tell a serious untruth in front of the inquiry like that, their reputation would be destroyed utterly and forever. It won't happen." Later, he said that the fact that "the stuff is there on paper anyway" would deter people from dissembling.

two - 2013
The Chilcot Inquiry is going to focus on the timeline of events through the Iraq War so we can clarify who knew what and when, and this lies behind their detailed approach to the Bush/Blair decision making timeline but also the Blair/Cabinet information timeline, however, overriding Chilcot and his fellow members is a power made by Privy Councillors and after the Maxwellisation device who knows what the final watered down report will say.

three - 2014
He wrote a letter that started "I am pleased to record that we have now reached an agreement on the principles that will underpin disclosure of material from cabinet -level discussions..." it had taken him five years to come to this conclusion, yesterday [Thursday 29-Oct-2015] he has announced that 2 million words will be available next summer for a security review.

Will it be worth it for the families of those who lost their lives?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Investment fears

"We simply aim to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy when others are fearful."

The quote above is one of Warren Buffett’s most famous investment maxims. It serves to highlight the importance of buying low and selling high; or not following the crowd. The reason this works for him is most investors don’t follow these words of wisdom.

This is partly because it goes against our in-built human instincts. These instincts and natural biases serve us well when coping with many day-to-day choices, but can be a hindrance when thinking about long-term investment decisions. These biases cannot be cured, but they can be managed. A better understanding of the mind can improve our chance of investment success.

It is these natural traits and ingrained biases that lead us to seek safety in the crowd, naively assume stock markets will keep rising, invest in overpriced shares, or bury our heads in the sand and try to forget about the decision at hand. Being aware of them does not mean creating a rigid set of rules to guide investment decisions. All investors have different objectives and will manage their portfolios accordingly. Rather, understanding their effects should help reduce their influence and enable us to work around them.

The problem is, even with some knowledge of how our minds work, having the confidence to go against all our instincts when hard-saved money is at stake is easier said than done. This is why many investors choose to let professional fund managers shoulder some or all of the burden.

The solution is to seek financial advice carefully.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

European borders close

Yesterday [Monday 26-Oct-2015] European and Balkan leaders agreed on measures to slow the movement of tens of thousands whose flight from war and poverty has overwhelmed border guards and reception centres and heightened tension among nations along the route to the European Union's heartland.

The leaders decided that reception capacities should be boosted in Greece and along the Balkans migration route to shelter 100,000 more people as winter looms. They also agreed to expand border operations and make full use of biometric data like fingerprints as they register and screen migrants, before deciding whether to grant them asylum or send them home.

Do we really want to be governed by people like these?

Tax Credits

Tax credits were one of several measures to limit the amount of money spent on benefits which have allowed employers get away with low wages for too long.

The saving would have been about £4.4bn.

Last night [Monday 26-Oct-2015] the house of lords voted against the government and now the chancellor will tone down the tax credit changes and announce the revised version in the autumn statement in November.

This raises the larger question should we be governed by a group of unelected peers?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Begin of Spin

Tony Blair has made a statement on CNN which shows that the Chilcot enquiry report is close to publication. It is alleged to be over a million words and it will criticise those at the top who made the decisions. Will it be straight enough to start the trial of the war criminal Tony Blair?

Let us not forget the [murder] death of Dr David Kelly who in 2003 came under intense scrutiny over the Iraq war.

This spin is not new, Tony Blair came to power with 'New Labour' in 1997, with Alastair Campbell, a former tabloid newspaper journalist, and Peter Mandelson, a former television current affairs producer, working so closely with Blair, this was hardly surprising.

Spin and Tony Blair go together like strawberries and cream, don't get sucked in.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Kirsty Howard dies

This needs airing.

A girl born with a rare heart defect and given just weeks to live at the age of four has died, aged 20.

She was born in Manchester on 20 September 1995 with an exceptionally rare and inoperable condition that meant her heart was back to front, causing the misplacement of her internal organs. The condition required a constant oxygen supply.

That alone is one stunning statement, however there is more.

Kirsty Howard attracted world attention when she joined David Beckham in launching the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. Throughout her life, Kirsty, from Wythenshawe, Manchester, raised more than £7.5m for Manchester's Francis House Children's Hospice.

Her fundraising efforts won the support of prime ministers, pop stars and Hollywood actors as she continued to defy medical odds. She also overcame her illness to study childcare at college, intending to pursue a career as a teacher for children with special needs, before she died just a month after her 20th birthday.

She was awarded the Helen Rollason Award by the BBC in 2004 for her courage and determination and has also received the Child of Courage award and the Pride of Britain award.

Kirsty Howard achieved more in a week that I will in my lifetime and she should be remembered.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Labour Leadership

Have you ever asked your self why a quarter of a million people voted for Jeremy Corbyn?

The answer is simple, there was no one else.

Four candidates, the other three were Andy flipperty flopperty Burnham, someone who on a weekly basis said the opposite of what he said previously, Yvette Cooper whose partner nearly wrecked the country with financial advice and Liz Kendall Labour's Tory member.

Previously on this subject

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

ECB next step

Is the European Central Bank about to make a move?

China’s economy is now as big as the US economy, and with its currency loosely fixed to the dollar, it is directly impacted by Federal policy, and forward guidance is much more important than the current rate setting.

A hurdle that central banks have to experience is raising interest rates from an extended period at zero [or very low], so they will have to learn through practice, without a full understanding of how economies and markets may respond.

The effect is stronger in the US, but the need for monetary stimulus is much greater in Europe. The problem is that Chinese growth is slowing and it is shifting toward consumer goods and services, which are mostly produced within China.

So what is the ECB's next step?

Monday, 19 October 2015

Home Secretary

The Radio 4 Today programme interview between John Humphries and Theresa May Monday 19th October, 2015.

John Humphries started off with the definition of extremism and the Home Secretary agreed with the definition that he had given although not every one in the Justice Ministry completely understood what they should be doing in connection with the new 2011 laws. The Home Secretary did not agree with that.

They moved onto the position of the Police failing to inform a victim [Leon Brittan] that no further action would be taken in a case, as Home Secretary Theresa May seemed conflicted as to whether she should reprimand the Police in this matter. It was left open ended as time was running out.

John Humphries finished with the question "should a senior civil servant be allowed to influence the government?". First Theresa May said it is not right for the civil service to lay down restrictions on what ministers can say, then when pressed change her mind and said cabinet ministers should not comment where there is a review taking place.

Theresa May repeatedly said during the interview that healthy debate is welcome in this country and yet when this question was asked, that idea seem to change as Theresa May continually changed her mind as to whether the civil service should dictate policy.

Theresa May finished with "as I said to a constituent of mine cabinet ministers should not comment on these matter as they are in line for a judicial review". In other words NO COMMENT, so what happened to healthy debate?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Kepler mystery object

The light of a distant star seen by the Kepler Space Telescope could be comets or an asteroid belt, but SETI now aims to point radio telescopes towards the star to listen for the distinctive radio buzz of life.

SETI think it might be an alien ‘mega structure’ << erm! – a huge power station orbiting in space, harvesting energy from its parent star << uh-oh! and could be our first sight of extra terrestrial life, alien-hunters have suggested.  Oh Dear!

The Kepler mystery objects KIC 8462852, is not a planet and could be a huge natural object created by an as yet unknown method in deep space. Scientists admit they are puzzled. They thought it might be bad data or movement on the spacecraft, but everything checked out.


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Kids Company

This morning [Thursday 15-Oct-2015] the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has interviewed Alan Yentob and Camila Batmanghelidjh in connection to the collapse of the charity.

It is clear from the start that neither of these two are in a position to answer the questions either because there are poorly prepared or Kids Company was a complete shambles as has been speculated.

The claims that Camila Batmanghelidjh had 35,000 clients is now obviously a gross exaggeration as there is no paperwork available as only 1600 files have been retrieved from Kids Company by the authorities. When asked about this discrepancy Camila Batmanghelidjh said a further 18,000 files were in secure storage, when asked to hand over these files she repeated that they were in secure storage implying that she had no access.

Alan Yentob describes the board as a very professional body that oversaw what Kids Company did, but cannot explain why it collapsed, however at the end of May 2014 there was a government review which advised that there should be no change in the ruling practice of the charity.

From January 2015 the board had to sanction every bill and transaction until the realisation of the collapse and now money laundering and corruption claims loom, this has not been helped by Camila Batmanghelidjh's delusional behaviour towards the authorities who have to clean up the mess.

Alan Yentob says he wish they had restructured earlier than March 2014 when the issue began but it was difficult as everything seem to be working fine, that does not seem to be a reasonable description of a professional trustee board which was put forward by Alan Yentob earlier in the hearing.

Camila Batmanghelidjh is in complete denial about the financial situation of Kids Company which reinforces the view that the CEO was totally incapable of running this organisation.

The committee asked about the staff resignations when the first news of trouble at Kids Company became public, the answer was a pair of blank faces from Alan Yentob and Camila Batmanghelidjh, eventually Alan Yentob replies that there were allegations at that time which have not yet been resolved.

At the summing up when asked about the phenominal sums of money running through the books at Kids Company you [Alan Yentob] had previously said were having trouble keeping reserves, Alan Yentob replies "on come on you have worked with charities, money comes and money goes".

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Deflation again

How bad can it get?

First what is deflation?

How has it happened?

The ONS [Office for National Statistics] said that a smaller than usual rise in clothing prices, and falling motor fuel prices, were the main contributors to the drop in the rate as the Consumer Prices Index fell to -0.1% in September.

This has now happened several times in the past couple of years and the base rate has been 0.5% for over seven years with no likely hood of rising, much to the chagrin of savers.

Deflation is inevitable anyway in the aftermath of the by far biggest credit mountain in the history of not just mankind, but of the planet, if not the universe.

What can the Bank of England do now?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Tax evasion

Facebook has highlighted once again how the big companies couldn't care less about their responsibilities as long as their customer base doesn't get wind of it.

In their latest UK results Social network giant Facebook paid just £4,327 [$6,643] in corporation tax in 2014, this from a company worth £190billion and a turnover of over £2billion. I never realised corporation tax was 0.0000000002% I thought the rate for the year ending 31 March 2015 was 21%.

The latest revelations will reignite the debate about how much UK corporation tax companies pay at a time when several multinational corporations are being investigated by the European Commission over the tax arrangements they have with European Union member states.

Perhaps HMRC should come up with a new tax like a 'Point of Consumption Tax' which has been suggested via social media something Facebook knows about.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Bank failure

Which is the next bank to fail?

CitiGroup in New York, Barclays in London, or Deutsche Bank in Germany these 3 banks are fighting every single night to fight off insolvency and failure.

I think Deutsche Bank and its constant overnight risk of failure is somewhat tied to derivatives related to LIBOR, and also a risk related to their FOREX derivatives. In other words, derivatives that the banks use to balance off the currencies.

The important thing to keep in mind about Deutsche Bank is that it won’t go down alone if it goes down at all. If it fails, it will take along with it as many of the other banks it can! It will be 1 or 2 quickly, then a 3rd and 4th a few weeks later, another, then before you know it, all the major banks would be kaput.

The big immediate threat for Deutsche Bank though has to do with their problems in hiding debt for the Sovereign nations applying for the Eurozone. For example, Greece and Italy couldn’t have their debt ratios over certain levels, so what Deutsche Bank did was they turned nice big chunks of Sovereign debt into currency swaps.

The big banks are so criminal that they have converted fraud and criminal activity into a small cost of doing business!

We had events in April, May, and June in which 5,000 metric tons of gold were lifted out of London. In the derivatives world, gold is treated like a currency. Isn’t that ironic? The FOREX derivatives that the banks are involved in are very much tied to gold. The London banks used the Easterners’ gold as equity for futures contracts that went bad- like in Spanish, Greek, and Italian debt.

Fast forward to July 2013, and now we are seeing several Deutsche Bank Vice Presidents being indicted under various fraud charges, and they are almost all cooperating with Interpol! They’ve flipped to cooperate with the serious fraud division of Interpol.

Deutsche Bank is involved very closely with all of the Eurozone currencies and bonds, and they have massive swaps interwoven with all the major Western banks. Deutsche Bank has their fingers in a lot of different pies! Lehman Brothers was involved in numerous mortgage instruments.

Deutsche Bank owns $25 trillion in OTC swaps with the Central banks and other major banks, so expect a daisy chain of derivative failures for the $1.6 quadrillion derivative market if it were to fail! Deutsche Bank cannot break down by itself. It would result in the complete breakdown of the European Monetary Union!

In today’s world when a big bank dies, they merge them with another big bank, as seen by Merrill Lynch becoming Bank of America Merrill Lynch which was pointless as both Bosses lost their jobs [John Thain - Ken Lewis].

Saturday, 10 October 2015

EU re-negotiation

This is the four point plan that David Cameron and the cabinet have drawn up for the EU re-negotiation, is it good enough?

Forcing Brussels to make “an explicit statement” that Britain will be kept out of any move towards a European superstate. This will require an exemption for the UK from the EU’s founding principle of “ever closer union”.

An “explicit statement” that the euro is not the official currency of the EU, making clear that Europe is a “multi-currency” union. Ministers want this declaration in order to protect the status of the pound sterling as a legitimate currency that will always exist.

A new “red card” system to bring power back from Brussels to Britain. This would give groups of national parliaments the power to stop unwanted directives being handed down and to scrap existing EU laws.

A new structure for the EU itself. The block of 28 nations must be reorganised to prevent the nine countries that are not in the eurozone being dominated by the 19 member states that are, with particular protections for the City of London.


Friday, 9 October 2015

Cruise missiles

What actually happened in Iran yesterday.

Russia had already received approval from Iran and Iraq to fly warheads through their air space to reach Syria. Wednesday their first attack had been successful, Thursday however, there were some issues, namely not all the warheads made it to Syria.

Russia launched 26 cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea, 4 of them never made it and landed in Iran, there have been no reports of casualties or structural damage. Naturally Russia has denied this incident.

Does this make a difference?

Iran and Russia are on the same side in Syria, both supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, but there have been growing reports of tension and competition between them over Syria's future. And there is a long history of bitterness between Russia and Iran, the latter of which has not forgotten Russia's imperialist history in its country, nor Russia's support of crippling UN sanctions.

Iran might not be fully up to date with Putin’s land grab programme as he secures his deep water ports in the Mediterranean and consolidates his position in Syria, Putin will not mind who runs Syria as long as they are tied into to Russia.

Another point to realise is with Russia in Ukraine, Crimea and now Syria, Turkey a NATO ally must be feeling a little squeezed.

Thursday, 8 October 2015


The VIP Paedophile Ring: What's the Truth?

The recent BBC programme Panorama has tried to update us with the current position into child abuse [Operation Midland] where we stand and what is likely for the future for victims and suspects.

However one point that was raised either intentionally or subtly was the reaction [or over reaction] of the police since Saville. Saville was different in so many ways but the most striking was the response from the public after release and it was emphatic. Hundreds if not thousands of people got in touch when they realised that public opinion had changed substantially.

This was unheard of before. Believability was the new black and people who had suffered in silence now wanted the opportunity to speak out.

It has become clear through Panorama that this recent case is not having the same impact and as statements are checked and verified it appears there is more, what should I say here, confusion over the facts. How do you expect people who were teenagers 30-40 years ago to have crystal clear memories. CCTV outside Elm guest house would have been useful but did not exist.

Has the pendulum swung too far?

Does this mean that from now on investigations will return to the [I don't believe you/we have no time] state or?

National Poetry Day


Winter has snow,
Winter has frost,
And everyone's trying to keep warm at all costs.

Winter has robins,
Winter has snails,
And during winter we see ice in the pails.

Winter is bare,
Winter is cold,
And so winter makes people really feel old.

I wrote this at school in 1968

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Where is the money?

A study released this week by Citizens for Tax Justice used the companies' own financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reach the following conclusions.

The 500 largest American companies hold more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes and would collectively owe an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes if they repatriated the funds. They found that nearly three-quarters of the firms on the Fortune 500 list of biggest American companies by gross revenue operate tax haven subsidiaries in countries like Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Technology firm Apple was holding $181.1 billion offshore, more than any other U.S. company, and would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if it tried to bring the money back to the United States from its three overseas tax havens.

The conglomerate General Electric has booked $119 billion offshore in 18 tax havens, software firm Microsoft is holding $108.3 billion in five tax haven subsidiaries and drug company Pfizer is holding $74 billion in 151 subsidiaries.

Fifty-seven of the companies disclosed that they would expect to pay a combined $184.4 billion in additional U.S. taxes if their profits were not held offshore. Their filings indicated they were paying about 6% in taxes overseas, compared to a 35% U.S. corporate tax rate.

Tax evasion is the illegal evasion of taxes by individuals, corporations and trusts and it appears that no government can deal with it.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Confusion surrounding Syria

Turkey opened its borders after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011. Nearly two million refugees are currently registered in the country, of which about 200,000 are housed in official camps, mostly in the south. A growing number are seeking a better life in the EU and are crossing over to Greece by the thousand every day, causing severe anxiety in parts of Europe and creating tensions along borders farther north.

EU leaders have turned to the Turkish government for help to stem the flow of migrants.

Instead Turkey calls for the establishment of a security zone along the border in northern Syria where refugees could be resettled. This would require clearing the area of Islamic State [ISIS] fighters and, Ankara suggests, handing control to moderate Syrian opposition groups.

The plan would neatly serve Turkey’s separate aim of reducing the influence of Syrian Kurdish fighters. Many Turks are more worried about Kurdish rebels than IS. Yet Germany’s Angela Merkel has expressed doubts that the refugees’ safety could be secured inside Syria. Not entirely by coincidence, the Turkish authorities have generally turned a blind eye to the refugee flow to Europe, though they have repeatedly prevented refugees from crossing the land border to Bulgaria and Greece and driven them back into Turkey.

FROM the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey the Greek island of Kos is only four kilometres [2.5 miles] away. European tourists can make the 45-minute crossing comfortably for £12.50, while those fleeing evil in Syria and elsewhere must pay smugglers a minimum of $1,000 for a perilous night journey in a crowded boat.

There are so many separate issues in this zone it is a wonder that anyone knows what is going on.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Interest rates

Most economists have until now maintained that the economy isn't able to cope with higher rates, which could reduce demand and stifle the UK's fragile recovery. Companies might struggle and this would have a knock-on effect on jobs. In terms of personal finance, a rates increase would be bad news for many mortgage borrowers who would feel the pinch.

Then there are the 'hawks' calling for a rise, who cite falling unemployment as a sign that inflationary pressure might be building up in the background. In any case, they add, the markets are being distorted by rates being too low for too long, and this reduces incentives to save and forces people and businesses to take on more risk in the hunt for returns.

Commentators have been watching out for statistical signs that would either bolster confidence that a rates rise was on the cards or definitively kick the issue into the long grass.

The Financial Times notes that figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that productivity rose at the fastest rate for four years in the second quarter and passed its pre-recession peak. The figures also show a rise in labour costs of 2.2 per cent. This is far higher than expected and above the Bank of England's inflation target, an early sign that maybe, finally, inflationary pressure is beginning to build.

On the other hand, industry figures show that the manufacturing sector is seeing waning expansion and actually recorded a net fall in jobs last month for the first time in more than two years, according to the BBC.

Savers have had a tough time since 2008 and it does not look as though there will be a change this year, if the government wants to encourage saving it should consider it’s position.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Referendum

Sometime in 2017 there will be a referendum in Britain concerning Europe, it was yes or no to staying in, now it is leave or remain as if words will make a difference.

However, the bigger issue must be what happens if Britain votes to leave? Will it cause a domino effect and then most of the other countries leave too, anti-EU feeling is growing everywhere. What then? How small can Europe be politically before it does not exist?

The Dutch are showing, by a recent poll that they too want  changes in the relationship they have with Europe. I am sure that most countries are thinking about their position within Europe at the moment, it started with the Euro and is continuing with the migrant / refugee crisis.

It will only take one country to leave, will it be Britain?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Russia moves in

I am having trouble trying to get the west to grip the situation around Vladimir Putin’s land grab programme, so I have decided to move onto finance.

Putin is allocating unprecedented amounts of secret funds to accelerate Russia’s largest military build up since the Cold War, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The part of the federal budget that is so-called black -- authorised but not itemised -- has doubled since 2010 to 21 % and now totals 3.2 trillion roubles [£50 billion], an independent think tank in Moscow, estimates.

Stung by sanctions over Ukraine and oil’s plunge, Putin is turning to defence spending to revive a shrinking economy. The outlays on new tanks, missiles and uniforms highlight the growing militarization that is swelling the deficit and crowding out services such as health care. Thousands of army conscripts will be moved into commercial enterprises for the first time to aid in the rearmament effort.

Russia is assembling S-300 anti-aircraft defence systems to start shipments to Iran.

Since bringing the country back from the brink of bankruptcy a decade and a half ago, Putin has increased defence spending more than 20-fold in rouble terms.  Defence and the related category of national security and law enforcement now eat up 34 % of the budget, more than double the ratio in 2010.

After years of chronic funding problems for weapons makers, Russia has started to prepay for the goods and services it buys from the more than 1,300 organizations and 2.5 million people that make up the defence industry. About half of this year’s defence budget was dispensed in just the first quarter, though most of what was paid for is classified.

Russia also has about 2.5 million active reservists out of a total population of 143 million, according to Global Firepower, which studies the conventional war making capabilities of 129 countries. It ranks Russia No. 2, after the U.S. and ahead of China, India and the U.K.

Russia wants to expand and Syria in now in view.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Silver Spoon Politics

Is silver spoon politics finished?

The biggest political revolution happening at the moment is the surprise leadership election of Jeremy Corbyn for the labour party. Why did the three safe candidates lose out so heavily?

The popular thought why over 250,000 people voted for Jeremy Corbyn over the other three Blairite clones is because they wanted change, so what change do they want?

Jeremy Corbyn’s answers may be wrong, but many of his questions are right. Instead of patronising his supporters, the insular ruling elite and their allies in big business and big finance should realise they are the cause of Corbyn.

Love him or hate him, a Corbyn victory means that political pundits can no longer claim that the age of mass parties is over or that young people are irredeemably apathetic. Not only about the result but at the sense that political business could return to normal.

Yesterday Corbyn gave his first party conference speech to the faithful in Brighton and it was clearly different to what was expected. He wanted to impress on his audience the move towards a kinder politics. He attacked David Cameron's shocking broken promises and vowed to create a more caring society. There was not a lot of policy but it appears that he has consolidated his position and presumably over the next twelve months detail will be added.

It has been claimed that Blair's new labour has moved on, perhaps passed away would be a better description and new politics has moved in, can it last?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Tax Collection

John McDonnell said during his speech yesterday [Monday 28-Sep-2015] that he will clamp down on large company tax dodgers like Amazon, Google, Starbucks & Vodafone. Vodafone hits back.

The telecoms company said it was “disappointing” the issue of its tax affairs had been raised again. The company has come under fire from campaigners in the past over the amount of corporation tax it pays on UK earnings. It claimed there was “no truth in the allegations in the past and there are none now.  As we have made clear on numerous occasions, Vodafone has always paid its taxes and for the last financial year (2014/15) we paid around £360m in direct taxes in the UK,” a spokesperson said.

In a statement, the company argued investment in a competitive market had left it making “minimal profits” (£41m) in the UK. “As the Government wants to promote investment in essential infrastructure like ours, the UK tax rules mean that relief’s for our investment are set against the profits we make,” the spokesperson said. “In addition the Government understands that we have to borrow huge sums of money to be able to invest for the long term, so they allow us to take the interest we pay on those borrowings off our profit too.

Vodafone paid no UK corporation tax in the year 2012-13, arguing at the time Britain was "one of the least-profitable mobile markets anywhere in the world".

We are in an age of deep public spending cuts and real austerity. And this [tax avoidance] is not a victimless crime, if you like. If this was seven or eight years ago, pre-financial crisis, I do not think it would have had the same impact it has had now.

The four companies mentioned will continue for as long as they can to dodge their responsibilities because they can, I suspect there is no government that can change this, it is up to people to stop using the relevant companies, but how likely is that going to happen when Joe Public says, where do I buy my books from, coffee from, how do I search the net and I’m not giving up my phone, the companies will continue to take the piss.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Electoral Reform

The current voting system is called First Past The Post [FPTP], also known as Single Member Plurality, Simple Majority Voting or Plurality Voting and has been in place since 1922.

Breakdown of the positions at the general election of 2015

Conservative [36.8%]
Labour [30.5%]
UKIP [12.7%]
Liberal Democrats [7.9%]
SNP [4.7%]
Green [3.8%]
DUP [0.6%]
Plaid Cymru [0.6%]
Sinn Féin [0.6%]
UUP [0.4%]
SDLP [0.3%]
Other [1.1%]

Let us take one example, the obvious one UKIP. Total votes cast 30,691,680, UKIP received 3,881,129 which is 12.7% and they have 1 MP. 3.8 million people feel aggrieved because their voice is not being heard.

In a time of greater political pluralism, British politics is no longer well served by a voting system that was designed for a two-party era. Nor are the interests of British democracy. Arguably the biggest democratic-deficit associated with FPTP is that election outcomes are effectively decided by a handful of voters who happen to live in all-important marginal seats. The overwhelming majority of us live in safe seats where we are increasingly neglected by the political parties both during and between elections –and where we have little chance of influencing the result of general elections.

Proportional representation [PR] is an electoral system in which the distribution of seats corresponds closely with the proportion of the total votes cast for each party. For example, if a party gained 40% of the total votes, a perfectly proportional system would allow them to gain 40% of the seats.

PR is used by more nations than single winner systems. Among the world's 35 most robust democracies with populations of at least two million people, only six use winner-take-all systems for elections to the legislative assembly (plurality, runoff or instant runoff); four use parallel systems; and 25 use PR.

PR dominates Europe, including Germany and most of northern and eastern Europe; it is also used for European Parliament elections. France adopted PR at the end of World War II, but discarded it in 1958; it was used for parliament elections in 1986. Switzerland has the most widespread use of proportional representation, which is the system used to elect not only national legislatures and local councils, but also all local executives. PR is less common in the English-speaking world; New Zealand adopted MMP in 1993, but the UK, Canada, India and Australia all use winner-take-all systems for legislative elections.

Maybe now is the time for change?

Friday, 25 September 2015

The future of oil

Oil futures settled lower at the beginning of the week, as a slumping U.S. stock market fed concerns that the outlook for energy demand will continue to soften.

Prices, however, pared some of their losses by the settlement as petroleum-products futures took a last minute turn higher following a report that Colonial Pipeline Co. has shutdown petroleum-product pipelines. The October contract for West Texas Intermediate crude settled at $45.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 85 cents, or 1.8%, on its expiration day. November crude, fell 60 cents, or 1.3%, to $46.36 a barrel.

Meanwhile, November Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange, [which is priced as US] +0.59%  turned a bit higher, up 16 cents, or 0.3%, to settle at $49.08 a barrel.

Last week’s decision by the Federal Reserve to leave interest rates unchanged rattled investor confidence over the state of the U.S. economy and, in turn, the outlook for energy demand. U.S. equities, meanwhile, traded sharply lower Tuesday, following losses in Europe. Analysts polled by Platts forecast a weekly decline of 700,000 barrels in crude supplies.

The oil market is also seriously concerned about an economic slowdown in China, which is currently dragging key commodities like crude oil and base metals down and China has accumulated about 200 million barrels of crude in its reserve so far and aims to have 500 million by the end of the decade, according to the International Energy Agency. It’s currently filling a 19 million-barrel facility at Huangdao and will add oil at six sites with a combined capacity of about 132 million barrels over the next 18 months, the Paris-based adviser on energy policy estimates.

This does not bode well.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

HS2 finance

High Speed Rail 2 has not even started yet and the money being thrown at executives is unbelievable.

Simon Kirby is Chief Executive of High Speed Two [HS2] Limited. Kirby is also a director of the Major Projects Association and the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering. He is receiving £750,000.00 just for HS2, and remember he is a civil servant.

For that staggering salary he is not the top man in charge, he will only oversee certain infrastructure projects such as the redevelopment of King's Cross station in London, the Forth bridge overhaul and the Thameslink upgrade.

He has been promised a £300,000 loyalty bonus from Network Rail in April, just before he leaves, no matter what happens whether it succeeds or is a total failure.

So what will the public get for this expense?

This morning on BBC Radio 4 Today program he refused to answer directly any question put to him by the presenter Mishal Husain and merely repeating his broadcast statement showed that we are paying for a mouthpiece that has no clue as to what is going on.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

China's best friend

The UK and the People's Republic of China were on opposing sides of the Cold War, while the Republic of China and the UK were allies during World War II. Both countries are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Today, however, China and Britain enjoy a friendly, cooperative, and close relationship. China and Britain have established a full strategic partnership and close cooperation, this is currently being consolidated by the chancellor‘s visit to Beijing the capital of China.

The reason being China acting as a powerhouse. Its economy now is over three times what it was in 2005. While the UK and most other developed countries suffered during the great financial crisis from 2008, the country that exists now has an emerging middle class, working in the services sectors, living in the vast new cities being renovated or simply built from scratch, whose future patterns of consumption will be crucial for global growth.

Like it or not, China supports the unity the EU offers, at least financially and economically, and while it would never publicly state anything on this, it would almost certainly regard a UK exit negatively one would presume.

The UK as an intellectual partner of China, as it attempts to build a new kind of economic structure and deal with some of its huge environmental and sustainability issues, is a new kind of role, and one of the few where it can be liberated from the shadow of its historic issues with the People's Republic.

I have already mentioned their stock market crash so no need to revisit that, but what about human rights? Well that is another matter entirely...

Monday, 21 September 2015

Europe in crisis

The crisis in the Eurozone lays bare a range of problems that go way beyond the issues of Greek debt or political paralysis at the European level. It is often discussed as a crisis of European integration or a crisis of national economies within Europe.

Critical political economy stands in the tradition of classical political economy. It analyses the economy as part of society and provides a framework for an integrative analysis of the economy and political processes. For this reason, it can be considered a disciplinary perspective. At the core of a critical political economy, there is a class-based framework for the analysis of society, which aims at contributing to the struggles and overcoming specific historical forms of capitalism such as the current neo-liberal European mode of production.

It is obvious that the current economic policy framework of the Euro area is inappropriate to deal with the current requirements. In fact, the current policy framework and the stance of the policies applied have even reinforced current account imbalances through different channels.

First, they have been unable to prevent significant inflation differentials to emerge within the Euro area, mainly by undermining the conditions for effective wage bargaining conditions as a main tool for this.

Second, they have not provided the appropriate tools for domestic demand management to adjust the actual growth rate of each country towards the BPCGR [balance of payments constrained growth rate], mainly by applying a ‘one size fits all’ policy with respect to government budget balances and government debt in the context of the SGP [Stability and Growth Pact].

Third, due to the lack of any consistent industrial and development strategy for the Euro area as a whole and for the catching-up countries in particular, ensuring that capital inflows into these countries support long-run sustainable growth, they have not provided any effective policy tools to adjust the BPCGR of the high-growth current account deficit countries towards the respective growth rates.

There should be changes in the objectives of the ECB to include that of the external value of the currency, and interest rates would have to be set with regard to their effects on the exchange value of the euro. The target exchange rate would be set by the Council of Ministers of the Eurogroup, and the ECB would be required to support that policy [through its interest rate policy and through interventions in the foreign exchange markets].

The objectives of the ECB would have to be changed to include that of support of the external value of the currency. Interest rates would have to be set with regard to their effects on the exchange value of the euro. It is very important for the EMU to formulate an official exchange rate policy and abide by it. The achievement of full employment without inflationary pressures should be the ultimate objective.

We might be looking for an out within the next two years, but every political change in Europe will affect us whether we are in or out.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Syrian update

Last Wednesday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [speaking for the first time on the global immigration issue] blamed Europe's refugee crisis on Western support for "terrorists".

The Syrian government describes all the armed groups fighting it as terrorists. The insurgents in Syria range from the hard line Islamist Islamic State to nationalists viewed as moderate by the West.

Assad has been buoyed in recent weeks by signs of increased military support from his ally Russia. In his comments he made no mention of reports of Russian military activity in Syria. What he might not realise is Putin's ultimate goal is not to help Syria but merely control it as they [Russia] move through.

Moscow says the Syrian government should be part of a broad coalition to fight Islamic State, taking it out of the final calculation during the land grab programme.

I wrote about this earlier:-

Is the Foreign & Commonwealth office just sitting indoors reading about this and nodding their heads in disbelief or do they have their finger on the button?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Phone hacking moi!

Rebekah Brooks has returned as CEO of News U.K. a post she was forced to resign four years ago under threat of imminent arrest.

Brooks could be on an annual pay packet of as much as £3m if she is paid in line with her predecessors, so no tax credits required here. It is possible she has received 16 million over the last four years in the wilderness.

But what of the outstanding court cases?

The CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] is considering bringing corporate charges against News International [now News UK] over phone hacking.

Chris Bryant the Shadow culture secretary, last week referred to reports of Brooks’ imminent return as “two fingers up to the British public”, said her failure to handle the phone-hacking scandal raised questions about her competency to lead the company. “So far as I can see, Rebekah Brooks’ defence was that she was incompetent and had no idea what was going on and the end result was that the company lost £300m,” he said. “It mystifies me that Rupert Murdoch would want to reappoint her.”

Has Rupert Murdoch brought her back because she is incompetent, hardly has he brought her back to trade in the courts for a deal, maybe or has he brought her back because he has no choice due to what happened during the scandal?

We should find out over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Oil price

Goldman Sachs says the global-oil market will remain in a supply surplus until the fourth quarter of 2016 and hence the forecast that oil could hit a new low of $20 a barrel.

OPEC isn’t even trying to help stem the flow of oil or the drop in prices.

In recent years, the shale boom and increased production from the U.S. has greatly reduced OPEC’s ability to dominate world oil markets. OPEC must also deal with the fact that more oil will be coming to the global market, which will further exacerbate the glut of supplies because of Indonesian and Iranian oil.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Russian Bear

Vladimir Putin President of Russia has started to move his troops to Syria seeing an opportunity to move West. Is this enough for the UK government to act decisively?

There have been growing numbers of Russian troops over the last two months that have been sent to a Russian naval maintenance facility in Tartus, in western Syria. There is talk of moving the Russian naval base at Tartus to Rmaileh, north of Jableh. Large Russian ships currently have to be unloaded at Latakia. Relocating the base to Rmaileh would resolve the capacity problem and provide the Russian military deployment with a more integrated structure.

One of the reasons these movements are happening now relate directly to Turkey’s efforts to create a safe zone north of Aleppo in northern Syria. Russia opposes the zone, which would be located about 93 miles from Jableh.

Although it might appear the Russian activity at Jableh is designed to boost Syrian army operations, to strengthen the regime's political efforts and fight against IS, the long-term goal is a new military strategic balance in the region and Putin's aggressive land grab.

Putin must be thinking that the risk is worth taking, and the main reason to think so is the calculation that now Russia will have locked the West out of the conflict in Syria – at least as far as fighting the Assad regime goes.

Today’s UK politicians say the answer to the refugee crisis is at source, well the Russian President seems to have beaten them to it.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Assisted Dying

Parliament has overwhelmingly rejected amending the bill, are they really this out of touch with the public?

Two principles; First, that the criminal law should rarely [if ever] be used against those who compassionately assist a loved one to die at their request - so long as that person had reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to end their life. Second that very strong safeguards are needed to protect those who might be pressurised [in any number of ways] into taking their own lives: those who encourage the death of the vulnerable should feel the full force of the law.

However, over the years it has become increasingly clear that there are two inherent limitations in the guidelines. The first is that although those who have reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to end their lives can now be confident of the compassionate assistance of loved ones without automatically exposing them to the criminal law, the only assistance they can be provided with is the amateur help of those nearest and dearest.

The second inherent limitation in the guidelines goes to the heart of the argument advanced by those who do not want any change in the law. They rightly point to the risk that some people might be pressurised or encouraged to take their own lives by those who do not have their best interests at heart; and argue the blanket criminalisation of assisted suicide, subject to the operation of the guidelines, offers the best protection against abuse.

The safeguards in the Assisted Dying Bill proposed by Rob Marris MP are certainly strong and robust. A person may only be provided with assistance to end his or her life if a High Court judge sitting in the Family Division, by order confirms that he or she is satisfied that the person has a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end his or her own life. An order can only be made if the person in question has made a declaration about their wish to end their life, which must be counter-signed by a witness who must not be a relative or a person directly involved in the person's care or treatment. And only those diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner as having a terminal illness and less than six months' life expectancy may apply to the High Court.

So, in the end, the question before Parliament last Friday was whether we have got the balance right under the current law. At the moment, those with a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to end their lives can receive assistance to commit suicide, but only the amateur assistance of loved ones unless they have the means and physical ability to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland. Professional medical assistance so that they can die with dignity and in peace at home is denied.

Parliament had the opportunity to re-balance the law in this difficult and sensitive area and they failed.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Savers beware

The Bank of England yesterday announced [as expected] that interest rates would not change and remain at the ludicrously low 0.5% which means we are not producing enough, we are not spending enough and of course who would save at 0.5%.

On the other hand the Treasury is quietly getting on with it. It quietly announced yesterday that it was unveiling its Autumn Statement alongside its spending review on November 25, and getting on with it means cutting spending. The summer Budget this year went as smoothly as the Chancellor had hoped, in part because there was no official analysis of the impact of his national living wage on in-work benefit cuts.

But since then there have been think tanks number crunching and today the IFS verdict is that the NLW offsets just 13% of the other cuts to household income in the Budget. And that 13% is exactly the same figure the Resolution Foundation came up with recently.

For a short period of very low interest rates, savers might be prepared to dip into their capital to maintain their spending. But the longer this period of extremely low interest rates continues, the more likely it is that savers will start to cut back to reflect their lower income. So the benefit that the economy receives from low borrowing costs is offset by lower spending from savers, and this low rate has been in place for over eight years.

So what exactly has to happen to get decent rates?

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Two Days

Yes, two days to go until we find out who is the next leader of the labour party is.

Bookies position at 06:00 on 10-Sep-2015:-

Jeremy Corbyn (1/6) odds on favourite
Yvette Cooper (15/2)
Andy Burnham (10/1)
Liz Kendall (200/1)

Of course the bookies are not taking into consideration the balloting rules of sorting through each candidate as the votes are used and are only concerned with a first past the post system.

There has been speculation that Jeremy Corbyn will romp home on the first process, however, when the second stage kicks in the second place votes will allow one of the other three to charge forward.

I consider this a rather optimistic view as I suspect Jeremy Corbyn will hold the first place through all the processes the Labour Leadership have to comply with.

Roll on Saturday.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


This is the new name of Subprime mortgages.

Gone are the days when lenders handed out mortgages without requiring documentation and down payments. Today’s purveyors of subprime call the loans ’nonprime’ and require as much as 30 percent down to safeguard their investment. And they see a big opportunity for growth as tougher federal lending standards shut out millions of people with poor credit from the mortgage market.

One statement that came out of America concerning this earlier this year was “You’re going to have to make all types of loans, ones that conform to all the new standards and ones that don’t, to keep powering the housing recovery, there needs to be a solution for people who don’t fit in the box, and rebuilding nonprime lending is it.”

The current level of subprime lending is a trickle compared with the flood that helped spur the housing boom. The loans are made to the riskiest borrowers, with low credit scores, high levels of debt and inconsistent income.

Investors are taking a pass on subprime for now. Lenders have to either hold onto their loans or sell them to private equity firms until they establish a strong enough track record to offer mortgage-backed securities to investors.

The bundling of subprime mortgages into securities to sell to investors will not be viable for a few years. Investors will not buy subprime bonds unless the mortgages have low loan-to-value [a comparison of the mortgage balance to the worth of the home] and borrowers have proven their income.

The question arises why does it have to be connected with subprime even in name only, why did they not just release a new product that was viable for the market?