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Saturday, 8 November 2008

HBOS, RBS bankers were Britain's most prudent?

Now let me make sure I've got this right. HBOS and RBS, the two worst-run and most imprudent banks in the country, have cost the country billions to bail them out. Lloyds TSB, Barclays and HSBC are wounded but not fatally injured like the two Scots banks. Consequently, a deal is being put to HBOS shareholders for a takeover by Lloyds TSB that will provide the troubled Edinburgh firm with stability and offers a real prospect, in time, of getting HBOS back into the black.

This is being opposed by two bankers, Peter Burt and George Matthewson, who, erm, used to run RBS and HBOS and who now say they're best placed to run HBOS.

I rather think Burt and Matthewson have done quite enough damage already to let them have another go at bankrupting the British banking system; in fact, the pair of them ought to be under criminal investigation, as their counterparts in the US are, for their reckless and negligent incompetence. Is there no mechanism for freezing these men's assets whilst we determine what degree of culpability they bear for the mess we're in? Apart from the misuse of terrorism legislation, it seems not.

Jean Monnet - a life of ignimony

If you have a spare second tomorrow, look at the sky, curse and spit at the ground, for tomorrow is the 120th anniversary of the birth of this perverse monster. Mitterand has placed his corpse in the Pantheon, but his memory remains in the gutter. For Monnet is revered amongst European federalists as the author of the plan to create a federal Europe by deception.

Adrian Hilton made a fair and accurate precis of Monnet's guiding aim;
Europe's nations should be guided towards a super state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.
So curse and weep, reader; this man's evil ideology has seeped into the bones of our nation, and it will take a Herculean effort to free ourselves of it.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Dear Barack, please note ....

Email to US Democratic Party Campaign Headquarters today:

Dear Mr President-elect

There will be a chap called Gordon Brown who is desperate to be pictured with you as soon as possible after your inauguration. He is a British politician. In fact, he's our Prime Minister - though we didn't elect him as such. Ours is a bit of an odd arrangement. Anyhow, I just thought you should know that he was always strongly in favour of the Iraq War, which I know you've always opposed; we have a site over here called 'They Work For You' that analyses our MPs voting records. He tried to avoid saying much about it, but walked through the Blair / Bush 'kill'em all' lobby every time.

Of course, he'll pretend now that he was always against it and that he agrees with you. But he's a dreadful old liar, and we don't believe much of what he says over here. He blames the UK's entire financial difficulties on the US - which no doubt he'll also deny to your secretary when he tries to blag a meeting. But no doubt your advisors will point out his recent speeches.

Anyway, we don't think we'll have to have him for much longer, so there's no real need to give him a diary slot. He's an awful old fraud and doesn't know much about anything, least of all global economics, which must be high on your agenda right now. He claims to have abolished boom and bust in the UK, so you'll realise he's something of a fantasist.

Anyhow, best of luck for January

Warm Regards


Glenrothes not a bad result

A couple of months ago Team Cameron didn't have to try too hard; they just had to be Not Gordon. Cameron himself let slip a few 'when we form a government' and 'our government' type nostrums. There was something rather irritating about this. He'd dismissed Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell's 'Plan' as being nowhere on his agenda, and made clear he was following a strategy of, erm, Not Being Gordon. And not much more. This wasn't terribly hopeful for a committed Localist, a luke-warm Libertarian and a natural-born Tory such as moi. I mean, of course I'm going to vote Team Cameron - because he's not Gordon - but it would be nice to have something to look forward to apart from a continuation of State Centralism, a dying metropolitan-focused party duopoly and the slow corrosion of democratic engagement.

If Glenrothes has put a lump of ginger in Dave's arse then all to the good. If he does something about his horribly weak front bench even better. And if Dave summons the energy to query whether he should formulate some policies, then it will be a real result. If he takes the lads' 'Plan' home for a weekend read, then the lost deposit at Glenrothes will not have been in vain.

And unlike The Dude, a few grinning lefties doesn't discommode me. I just think of the one paragraph Bill that will reverse the Hunting Act, the mass redundancy of IT consultants working on the ID card scheme and scores of gobshite Labour MPs filling out their Housing Benefit forms, and my world is lit with sunshine.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

What price Labour's 'red lines' and 'opt outs'?

As a young student I worked weekends and holidays in a local hotel. 'Casual' wages - cash, no tax or NI in those days - offered advantages for the hotel in being able to vary labour to meet demands. Sometimes they'd want me to start at breakfast, work though lunch, do afternoon teas and then dinner service. I didn't mind - paid by the hour I'd take all the hours on offer. And more hours meant more tips, too. Sometimes I worked nearly a hundred hours a week, and the manager would grumble I was making more than him as he paid me out. I didn't mention the cash tips that accumulated until my pockets were as fat as saddlebags and I had to change into notes at the bar three times a day. When you're young and with stamina, you just take it in your stride.

I don't think there were many holiday weeks when I worked fewer than 48 hours. Now, of course, the European Parliament has decided to ride roughshod over Labour's much heralded 'opt out' over the working week directive, and restrict British workers to just this limit. And they will do the same to all the rest of the 'red lines' and 'opt outs' that Labour have lyingly promised the nation will be maintained.

Labour must surely have known with absolute certainty that this would be the case. Which makes their commitment to the European Constitution an act of the most breathtaking hypocritical arrogance. An utter failure of government, unfit for office. Until the political class opens its ears to the people of Britain, the scorn and vituperation of the blogosphere will fall upon their heads. Whatever Hazel wishes.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Bush and Brown both headed for history's dustbin

The choice by the people of the US for hope, change and a President who will make a difference marks the end of Bush and Brown and their discredited and bankrupt administrations. Their harmful and dangerous military adventurism, their economic illiteracy, their placing of their own partisan interests above those of the nation have all had their time. The US electors have pissed on Bush, and UK electors will piss on Brown as soon as they are given the chance.

Brown will still go into history's dustbin as Britain's worst PM ever. Not Mandelson nor Campbell or any of the old team will change that; he is useless, unfitted for high office, lacking the intellect, the nous and the wit to head an effective government. And he will soon be history.

So let us envy for the moment the Cousins and await with eager anticipation our own chance to throw out the rubbish.

Hazel Blears and political disengagement

Guido reports on a speech made by Hazel Blears to the Hansard Society in which she blames cynical bloggers for fuelling political disengagement. This is fatuous drivel. Entirely the opposite is true; blogging has increased political engagement to an unprecedented degree. However, Hazel is a member of a political class so well described by Peter Oborne that believes that it should have a monopoly on political engagement, and what she's really complaining about is the growing lack of confidence in a political system past its sell by date. This is reflected by, and not created by, the blogosphere.

98.6% of UK voters are NOT members of one of the three main political parties; the blogosphere and the internet has allowed this vast majority of electors to engage in often excitingly proactive political debate that frequently has scant regard to the orthodoxies of mainstream party politics. Hazel and her kind are less frequently setting the political agenda, and more frequently responding to positions and opinions that filter through the blogs to authoritative commentators and to the mainstream media.

It was Clare Short who, in another speech to the Hansard Society, commented more accurately that;
It is widely agreed that the confidence of the people of the UK in their political system has been deeply undermined in recent years. Many agree that this cynicism is bad for democracy and believe that we must do more to educate the public in the workings of the political system. My own conclusion, after 25 years in electoral politics, is that our system is deeply flawed and visibly deteriorating in both the quality and democratic accountability of its decision-making. I suggest therefore that public education is likely to increase rather than decrease public cynicism and what is needed is a more determined demand for reform of the system.
And this is the truth. Hazel and her kind can either embrace reform and recognise that an epochal change in British politics is coming, or seek to repress, counter, manipulate, restrict and rail against the blossoming of a new and uncontrollable degree of political engagement across this nation.

This dishonourable Oaf must go

Quentin Davies' behaviour over the deaths of our armed forces in Afghanistan is truly repugnant. MPs should know that when an officer is sufficiently impassioned to resign their commission and make a public statement, it is because they cannot be heard any other way. Davies should cup a soft damp podgy hand to his greasy ear and listen instead of spouting off.

Davies owes Major Morley and the nation an abject and grovelling apology not only for being such a lying, spineless, toadyish little turd but for being too stupid even to comprehend what is happening to our armed forces. And then he should be sacked.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

McCain's arms are too short

This is the only comment on the US election you'll find on this blog. McCain's arms are too short by a good few inches. They're just not long enough. I've watched him time and time again on the news and they're definitely shorter than they should be. Every time he raises them up to the horizontal I say to meself "Yep, that chap's arms are too short."

So when he meets other world leaders and they reach out to shake hands, there'll be an embarrassing gap because he won't quite be able to reach the other chap's hand. And for this reason, I doubt the electors of the US will put him in the White House.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Only connect ....

In the 1690s the people of Scotland were encouraged to invest in a venture to set up a Scots colony in the isthmus of Panama that was guaranteed to make them all rich. A fleet of ships set off filled with new colonists and trade goods, and within a short time the whole Darien scheme collapsed. The people fell to disease, and the trade goods - linen underwear, wigs and bibles - though undoubtedly highly valued by the people of Scotland were scorned by potential traders. Scotland was bankrupt, and England bailing her out was an explicit condition for the 1707 treaty of Union. Ironically, the Bank of Scotland was used to receive the bail-out money from English taxpayers.

And it's the two Scottish banks, RBS and HBOS, that have again been most imprudent in this current scandal and again demand a bail-out by English taxpayers. And it doesn't end there. These banks are also the largest lenders to the world's collapsing shipping market, or the bulk goods and tanker fleet parts of it. Ports crowded with idle shipping don't make good news for the UK; half our food is imported, and while we're enjoying rock-bottom freight rates right now a halt to new shipbuilding will cause a shipping squeeze and higher food prices in the future.

When the Sony PS2 went into production, the world price of Tantalum, a metal used in making small capacitors, leapt from $49/lb to $275/lb. It's since reached as high as $400/lb. In the Congo, this caused thousands of schoolchildren to quit school and hordes of prostitutes to relocate.


Congo has some 80% of the world's known reserves, and though officially it produces only 1% of the Tantalum used on the international market, the unrecorded bulk of it thunders on huge trucks into Rwanda. Rwanda is a significant exporter of Tantalum. There is no Tantalum mined in Rwanda. The UN estimates that the Rwandan army makes up to $250 million a year from illegal sales of Congolese Tantalum.

The Tantalum in the Congo is illegally mined as an ore known locally as Coltan by thousands of men and boys digging in old river beds. The mining camps are rife with crime and disease, and HIV rates amongst the attendant prostitutes are high. The reason the Coltan beds are emptying the schools is simple; the average Congolese wage is $10 a month. A Coltan miner can earn from $10 - $50 a week.

The raw Coltan hits the coast and is loaded into ships for processing into Tantalum by one of only three plants in the world that can convert the raw material into a metal with a melting point of 3017ยบ C; they are owned by Cabot Inc of the US, Germany's HC Starck and China's Nigncxia.

And if you're on your way into work on a train and reading the news about the Congo on an iPhone, or a Blackberry, or a Nokia the chances are you're holding Tantalum mined there, transported by a ship operated by a Greek and financed by RBS or HBOS, in which you're now a shareholder, but which only now exist because the Scots thought they could sell bibles, wigs and underpants to the world three hundred years ago.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The entire Congo not worth the bones of a Mancunian Bombardier

Either Labour's message on the Congo has become horribly confused, with Malloch-Brown hinting at troop involvement whilst Milliband denies the suggestion, or it's just Labour's usual tactic of having two ministers proclaim opposing positions to allow Labour supporters to take their pick. Either way, it's no proper way to run the Foreign Office.

In 2007 China signed a $5 billion deal and acquired mining rights over much of the Congo's copper, cobalt, diamonds, gold, iron, and uranium in return for investment in transport infrastructure. It is, to date, China's largest investment in Africa. The deal also wrong-footed both Anglo-American and Rio Tinto as the Chinese took their pick of the choice mineral assets.

It is unclear whether the rebel's tactics are geared at gaining eventual control over the Congo's southern mining heartlands. If so, you can bet that China is talking discreetly to General Laurent Nkunda; maybe even a supply of arms is being negotiated. China will not let the lives of a few hundred thousand Africans interfere with its trade investment, you can be sure of that, and will back whichever side looks like winning.

What's clear is that it's no business of ours. It's time to let China start paying the cost of joining the international investment club, and send its own troops to the country if that's what's needed. In any event, our 19 year old lads from Manchester, or Norwich or Wrexham shouldn't lose their lives to protect Chinese trade interests. And if the AU feels uncomfortable about Chinese T76s rolling down the Kasumbalesa road, they'd better get their fingers out and do something themselves.

When the shooting stops, we can fly in a few C130s with food and aid and see what contracts our overseas firms can sign up with the winning regime. But what we need right now are brave words and total inaction. Something that even Labour can do.