Turkey’s untimely intervention

In the wake of an ISIS suicide attack in Suruc last week, Turkey has now begun a campaign of bomb attacks against ISIS, but also against the Kurds. They are also suggesting they plan to invade northern Syria on the pretext of creating a “safe” area. This is a dangerous move, which could easily escalate the current crisis.

Not least because there already exists a “safe” area along the North Syrian border, which, thanks to recent advances by the Pesmerga, is now largely now controlled by the Kurdish forces. Inevitably one has to conclude Turkey’s goal is to attack ISIS while making sure the Kurds get hit in the crossfire. Indeed there are numerous rumours that Turkish security forces have been in touch with ISIS.

This raises the risk of widening the conflict. With the Kurdish forces, in Syria, Iraq and the Kurdish areas of Turkey fighting the Turkish army. I doubt ISIS and the Kurd’s would ever ally against the Turks. But they could easily form some sort of unofficial truce, effectively scuppering all the West’s efforts as well as inevitably cementing ISIS hold over the land it currently controls. As up until now, the Kurds have been the main force driving back ISIS.

The reality is that Turkish president Erdogan is exploiting the situation to further his own political position. This is a guy who makes Frank Underwood look like a rank amateur. He’s been accused of becoming increasingly dictatorial and corrupt (he’s had to deny owning a golden toilet!). Clearly his plan is to start a war and bomb someone to help with his ratings. However the long term consequences of this are quite severe.

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Trouble in Calais

With much disruption over the last few weeks at Calais and now reports of thousands of migrants trying to storm the channel tunnel, like a swarm of zombie’s from some B-movie, this has naturally been a story that keeps on giving for the tabloids (Farage :crazy: has suggested “sending in the army”although to do what I’m not sure!). However in amongst the rhetoric there is a failure to appropriate the root causes of the problem and what to do about it.

The British government, and the tabloids, have been trying to pin a lot of the blame onto the French for not doing anything to stop the migrants. However, the French would argue that they have arrested many thousands of migrants. But ultimately, they know many of them want to get to Britain, so short of them locking them all up in some sort of concentration camp there’s not a lot they can do. And contrary to tabloid rumours the migrants are not coming to Britain to live on benefits. Actually the opposite is true. The French welfare state is far more generous than the UK’s, but the migrants want to work and earn money, so they can send it home to their family, as well as pay off the people traffickers. Also many have family connections in the UK thanks to the UK’s colonial past.

There are solutions, the EU has suggested a system whereby each country will take a quota of migrants arriving. However the UK has refused to do so, largely because it suits Cameron to have tens of thousands sneak in unofficially off the books than have any more come in officially and lead to the inevitable tabloid backlash from the bigot brigade.

That said, the French could be doing more. After all some of these migrants are engaging in criminal damage to get into lorries, which has surely got to be a crime in France. I mean if these guys had a go at a French bank or tried to break into the local mayor’s car, would they be so passive? No I suspect they’d have em on the way to Devil’s Island before you could say “Vous n’êtes entaillé soleil”. As I’ve mentioned before, there is a need for some sort of principle that migrants, refugee’s or otherwise, who are clearly breaking the laws of the EU to be either sent home or imprisoned. But of course that, again, would mean a common EU policy on this issue, which the UK is opposed too.

So far from this being another reason why the UK should leave the EU. Actually, the crisis in Calais is another reason why the UK should stay and try to co-operate with its European neighbours.

Tories cuts to renewable subsidies – a new age of stupid

The Tories have followed through with their election threat to cut wind farm subsidies. However they have also proceeded to cut numerous other subsidies, including those given to solar energy and biomass as well as the Green deal (grants for improved insulation). The Green investment bank, one of the few progressive moves that came out of the previous lib dem/Tory government is also to be “part privatised”….which sounds suspiciously like “allowed to go bankrupt” (the only type of bank the Tories would let go to the wall!). All in all it looks like the UK’s energy policy is about to be plunged into a “dark age”.

The (pro-nuclear) environment secretary Ashley Rudd also misses the irony of the fact that she is throwing a massive subsidy the way of nuclear energy, to the tune of 68% of the cost of every watt of electricity they sell. Yet wind farms are also excluded from this “contracts for difference” nuclear slush fund subsidy scheme, despite offering better value for money. And this is on top of the fact that the UK DECC already spends 40% of its budget servicing nuclear waste, the costs of solar energy subsidies are but 6% of the total costs associated with energy subsidies.

All of this would be just plain bad news, if it weren’t for the fact that industry (and not just the renewables industry) are warning, that these measures send out a “chilling” message to business, something that will inevitably lead to job losses, if not a complete halt to work in terms of adding new power capacity. Just as we go into a winter with just 1.2% of spare capacity. It hardly seems to me a winning strategy to halt the production of the the very energy source that’s growing, while coal stations are shutting down, as they cannot compete with wind power and hydro.

And yet, as I’ve previously mentioned, while the Tories are quite keen to block wind farm applications, they also plan to remove any right of residences to object to fracking under their own homes, while throwing yet more subsidies the way of the fossil fuel industry. Something that is sure to put the UK at loggerheads with the rest of the EU, Obama (and inevitably Hilary, who appears to be trying to make climate change an election issue next year) and the Pope (of course Cameron and Osborne aren’t Catholic, so the Pope’s message was kind of lost on a pair of followers of Cthulhu ;D ).

Perhaps the worst of all of the cuts however, are those to the Green deal and the scrapping of building codes for low carbon homes. As I’ve previously mentioned on my energy blog the bulk of the UK’s energy consumption is spend heating and cooling homes, particularly the heating load over the winter months. This accounts for between 36-42% of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions (depending on how you count it). By contrast, electricity is but 20% of the UK final energy consumption (a good portion of which is of course consumed heating and cooling buildings) while vehicles consume 25%.

So the easiest, simplest, cheapest and most painless way to cut carbon emissions, while in the long term cutting energy bills and improving the nation’s energy security, is to improve energy efficiency standards. Furthermore, I would argue that it is heating, not electricity, that is the energy source we need to protect. Give most people on a cold winter’s night the choice between losing electricity or losing heating and most will chose to do without electricity (trust me I’ve had many a cold bothy night and I know which of those two I’d choose!). Going without electricity isn’t fun, its inconvenient, but at least nobody’s going to die. Which is exactly what will happen to the UK with the loss of heating, we’re talking about grannies freezing to death and that sort of thing.

So there is ultimately no logic to this other than the more obvious fact that this Tory policy is driven purely by ideology. The same ideology that drives the right wing in the US Tea Party to deny climate change and oppose gay marriage. A belief that if you bury your head in the sand the lion will go away. That the solution to a look out screaming “iceberg” is to not have any look outs and blind the helmsmen. We are truly in the age of stupid.

Labour shambles

Harriet Harman, the Blairite ex-home secretary known for suffering from Qatada syndrome, tried to get labour to not vote against the Tories welfare reforms. While she did succeed in getting some labour MP’s to abstain, a large number voted against it, including labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn, prompting the usual stories in the right wing media about “old labour” and “loony left socialists”.

However, I cannot help but notice that not only did 50 labour MP’s vote against it, and the SNP, but also the lib dems, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and even the DUP. Yes Ian Paisley Jnr, a man we can all agree is about as far removed from the term “leftie” as you can get, voted against the government on this issue. And its not hard to see why.

This welfare reform bill will seriously cut the income, perhaps even impoverish, the very poorest working families in the country. While giving a tiny benefit to the wealthiest, one so small they probably won’t notice. Its not so much robbing Peter to pay Paul, its mugging Peter and slipping a blood stained copper coin into Paul’s back pocket.

So opposing it is the sort of thing that in a past era that was pretty much a no brainer for labour. However it shows how far they’ve shifted to the right. As well as the danger of setting policy based on the feedback from focus groups. And it also shows how labour’s biggest problem is that they are terrified of the “old labour” label, even when its quite obvious this label is just misplaced name calling (go call the DUP socialists and see how far you get!).

Take the issue of Jeremy Corbyn as the possible new labour leader. Oddly enough, the Daily Telegraph has been encouraging its readers to join labour and vote for Corbyn as this will “doom the labour party” as they see it. Ya, well I wonder how smart those Tories dumb enough to do this will feel if Corbyn actually ends up as PM and promptly begins to undo everything they’ve done since Thatcher.

And if that sounds far fetched, keep in mind that several of the things the Tories are committed to do in this parliament, these welfare reforms, part privatisation of the NHS, their EU referendum, all have the potential to be very destabilising and could easily lead to a dramatic shift in politics. A vote to leave the EU would inevitably result in some sort of economic correction and there will be a political price to be paid by the Tories for that. In that context the left wing views of Corbyn might not seem so “loony” after the Tories have managed to loose 14% of the country’s GDP. Just look at Greece, a country that has never had a left wing government in its history.

And its also worth noting that the leader of the opposition is always only a few steps away from number 10. If for example, in the wake of a Yes vote on Europe, with the Tories at war with each other (a realistic possibility), with mass defections to UKIP and Cameron no longer able to maintain a majority, there is always the chance of whoever is in charge of labour being asked by the Queen to lead a government of national unity.

Note that I’m not trying to construct a pro or anti Corbyn argument, I’m merely pointing out the flaws in the right wing media’s dogma. While yes, labour would stand a better chance next election with someone like Andy Burnham in charge. However that assumes that the next election will be fought on the same terms as the last one. Which is a bit like Field Marshal Haig preparing for World War I on the assumption that it will be fought in a similar manner to the colonial wars in Africa (in which case the most serious threat is sharpened fruit!).

And while labour squabble amongst themselves, the Tories are going after the Freedom of Information Act and renewables subsidies…so you’d best print this article off, I’m not sure how much longer it will be up for!

Blogger catch up

We’re moving
I’m in the process of preparing to move house and it looks like I might be moving more than that. As many of you may or may not of heard, it looks like blog.co.uk is closing down. As of Dec 15th this site may not exist any more 88|. I’m planning to migrate content over to my energy blog or set up a new one. Still deciding :??:.

Certainly, its not a huge surprise. Blog.co.uk has been trying to create something that seems to be half way between facebook and blogger. While this has been popular with some, obviously not with enough people. In essence, they fell between two stools.

Also, there’s been the issue of spam. Go to the homepage and you’ll see its a major problem on this site. So the plan seems to be to nuke the site to take out the spammers. That said, other blogs I’ve used have had issues with spam. My other blogs will often get a hundred spam messages a day. The difference is many of the others are a little better at filtering that spam out. Also the adberts on blog.co.uk can be a little intrusive and annoying and I know that’s caused some to move. So essence both management and the spammers seem to have succeeded in killing the golden goose.

Greek bailout
Last week a terrified Greek PM, staring into the abyss of Grexit lost his bottle and agreed to another bailout. However my concern is that this is yet more kicking the can down the road. Many have criticise this, notably as it flies in the face of the bailout referendum a few weeks ago. The former finance minster of Greece, the Fonz ;D, has suggested that it will almost certainly fail. And after blowing another 86 billion euro’s Greece will be right back to where we are now.

Firstly, I think its worth mentioning the positives. The latest deal does seem to involve the Troika, in particular the Germans, accepting that some sort of restructuring or debt relief is essential. The trouble is that this restructuring is being deferred and in all probability will result in another fudging of the issue. On the other hand the Greek government seems to accepting that they can’t simply expect to renege on their debts and then go on a spending spree. However it is extremely unlikely that any of the measures voted through by the Greek parliament last week will have the effect anticipated by the deal, given the fragile state of the Greek economy.

As I see it there are two options. Firstly, a managed Greek default. The Greeks stay in the euro but cease to service their debts. Most of this is owed to other governments, the IMF or the ECB, so by negotiation they could accept a debt holiday for sometime. At a future date when Greece is out of depression, the issue of repayment can be investigated.

Ideally, with a recovered Greek economy in say five years time, a payment plan could be worked out and gradually over several decades they’ll pay off the debt. But more likely the debt will be cut down to a level which the Greeks can actually afford to pay. But we’ll have a better idea then what they can afford to repay.

Private creditors, who may not be willing to go along with this, will be given the option to essentially sell their debts to the IMF and ECB. However, as the Troika will be taking a certain level of risk with this, they won’t pay top dollar. So say they buy Greek debt at a rate of sixty cent to the euro. I suspect that while the banks will inevitably grumble and complain, most will take the money they can get and run. After all 60 cents is better that the alternative….100 Drachma’s!

Keep in mind that if this sounds like letting the Greek’s off easy, that isn’t so. Have effectively defaulted they will find it impossible to borrow, meaning the Greek government will have to live within its means. And this may prove tricky, without some economic reform in the longer term.

Also in order to finally pay off the debt some privatisation or sale of state assets might be needed. However crucially this plan defers all of that till a point where the Greek economy has recovered. After all, who in their right mind would buy state assets off Greece now, with the country in depression? The only people who will do that are the same corporate sharks who got us into this mess in the first place. And I seem to remember that they tried this before and it didn’t work out so well. And such a fire sale of state assets in Russia is what led to Oligarchs and ultimately Putin.

Option two is a managed Grexit. Greece leaves the euro and transfers its debts into Drachmas. Again, this will not be a cheap or easy option, either for Greece but especially not for Germany who might well be crying after its over harder than a migrant who met Merkel.

Greece will take a substantial economic hit in the short term. However in theory, with some assistance from the Troika, it should eventually recover. The key goal of such assistance will be to prevent hyper inflation, which would hamper any recovery as well as rendering any debts held by Greece effectively worthless (in effect a default by the back door). However, once Greece is over the transition period with its debts now more easily managed they can start to service them and pay off its creditors. Although inevitably, as the Drachma will loose some value v’s the euro, creditors won’t get all their money back, but they will get something back.

While neither of these options sound terribly palatable, they are really the only way Greece and the eurozone is going to get out of this mess.

Iranian nuclear deal
Another deal struck over the last week was between Iran and the West over its nuclear weapons programme. This is a major diplomatic victory for all, particularly Obama. It could well be a key legacy for him to patch up relations with Iran and help stabilise the region.

Of course, the Israeli’s and the Republicans were fuming. They tried to raise the spectre of an Iranian nuclear strike against the US, promoting all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories, even running a slot on US TV depicting an Iranian strike against the US using a nuke in the back of a truck. This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly it would be stupid for Iran, if they could somehow secretly build a bomb of course, to use a nuclear weapon in this way. The US would eventually find out and turn the country to glass as a result. If Iran wanted to attack the US, far easier to steal one off the Russians (despite Putin’s rhetoric, Russia is getting $60 million in aid from the West to help guard their nuclear arsenal), or buy one of the North Koreans. That would give them plausible deniability. Iran wanting a nuclear bomb was always borne out of fear of the Israeli nuclear bomb, as well as the WMD’s held by its bitter rival, Saudi Arabia. Indeed the Wiki-leak cables revealed, how the Saudi’s had been urging the Bush Adm. into bombing the Iranians.

The reality is that Israel and its supporters don’t want this deal because it means that there is now only one nuclear armed state in the middle east. This of course raises awkward questions, if Iran has gone the extra mile and disarmed, why exactly aren’t the Israeli’s? And if sanctions forced Iran to the negotiating table, much as they forced the South Africans to give up their bomb (and apartheid), surely this is the way to force Israel to giving up the West bank settlements and its nuclear arsenal? So its classic bait and switch.

Go set a racists
Much has been made about Harper Lee new novel, in which Atticus Finch has turned into a ragging segregationist dittohead in his old age. This has led to many asking the question as to whether people do become more racist as they grow older. I’m wondering if this works in reverse also. Will Nick Griffin have become a anti-racist firebrand when he’s eighty? :))

I do wonder however, if the timing of this new book has something to do with the upsurge in racism in the US. This is largely thanks to fringe groups within the Tea party which has seen, amongst other things a rise in membership for the Klan, various racist incidents involving police and of course the recent Charleston shootings and the controversy over the confederate flag that followed. Inevitably, this has provoked an anti-racists backlash and I’m wondering if this novel was something that was being sat on for sometime.

Either way, I would argue that the reason why some people are racist is that it affords an easy way out of things, while avoiding certain uncomfortable truths. For example, there’s been a programme on TV recently, called “how to get a council house”. One of the many myths you’ll hear is that the council are swamped by migrants and will give them a council house, with none left for British people. However, the councils point out that 95% of their stock goes to rehousing British citizens, not migrants, so this simply isn’t true.

The reality is that the UK’s stock of council houses was decimated by the Thatcher government’s right to buy. Something that many who got a council house on the cheap are perhaps reluctant to admit they were active participants in. Since then successive governments, including the Blair/Brown labour governments (or as a old Tory once put it too me “the best Tory government ever” :no:) failed to invest the money to rebuild the country’s stock of council houses, or maintain the stock they have got.

Add into this the fact that Thatcher’s policies decimated heavy industry. This has had a knock on effect of greatly increasing demand for council houses in certain parts of the country. Either because the people in former mining and manufacturing towns are stuck in a poverty trap. Or because they’ve attempted to move to where there are jobs, leading to a massive crush of people moving to cities such as London.

There are of course solutions to this, building more council houses, as well as reversing past policies being a start. Far from extending the right to buy, I’d start trying to buy back any flat in a council block once it goes up for sale (at the same discount rate it was sold!). And bringing in measures to curb property speculation, particularly by private landlords, would also help. Of course none of this would be popular with the nouveau riche who have done quite well out of rises in property prices over the last few decades. So its all too easy to play the race card (or the class card) and blame a convenient scapegoat instead.

As I discuss on my energy blog, many on the right (libertarians in particular) deny climate change because they have too. The minute you accept that climate change is a real international threat, you also have to accept that we need some sort international agreement to deal with the issue. Which is a bit of a problem if you’re political philosophy is to get rid of government altogether. So instead, its all to easy to concoct various lunatic conspiracy theories and believe some half-baked quackery dressed up as science, ignore the problem and generally hope it just goes away.

Similarly racism allows many to blame some minority for all of live’s ills and ignore certain uncomfortable truths. Not least of which is that there are few easy solutions (but plenty of difficult and expensive ones!) to many of the major problems society faces.

MI5, not quite nine to five….more ten to half four
One story that got buried this week was that of a former MI5 agent. He made some embarrassing claims about the agency. Claiming for example that they had so few Asian or Middle Eastern agents they seriously considering “blacking up”. On another occasion they were asked to investigate a politician on suspicions of paedophilia, something that he challenged as it was clearly outside the agency’s remit (which is supposed to be non political). And this was not a one off incident, several times they were asked to perform investigations into police matters because the police were considered to corrupt to handle the matter.

Then to add insult to injury he claimed that after he began suffering panic attacks the agency got rid of him. So much for never leaving any men behind.

Boy for sale?

I made a throw away joke about the budget a week or two ago and how the cuts to tax credits could lead to Dickensian scenes like “boy for sale”. Well it seems I was a little closer to the truth than I thought, if you believe stories coming out of Manchester!

I recall one of the writers for Judge Dredd once commenting that they would sneak in political jokes from time to time as a parody of the modern day…then find a similar thing happening in the real world, which they found really disturbing.

A budget for inequality

I was at work during the budget, but I knew it had to be bad when I heard about this living wage being in it. The only possible reason why a Tory Bullingdon boy from a wealthy Baronet family of tax dodgers would be remotely interested in a living wage for the working class, was because the budget included so much bad news he needed to soften the blow and distract the media for long enough for him and Cameron to make in back to Downing street without being lynched!

And clearly my fears were correct, as the IFS has suggested in its review of the budget. The news is bad for pretty much everyone, except the very wealthy. While a higher minimum wage (in a few years time for over 25’s only) will offer some respite for those on low income, the decimation of working tax credits and welfare payments will see the poorest households in Britain loose out to the tune of thousands of pounds a year. And while those on middle incomes will see their tax free allowances go up, this will largely be wiped out by higher taxes and rates on things such as insurance as well as higher living costs. And the IFS also point out, that by cutting working tax credits, the incentive to have someone in a family working is reduced. Hence these measures might have the opposite effect that the Tories are hoping for.

I mean let’s look at my position. On paper, I’ll be £80 a year better off, that’s about £1.5 a week better off. Maybe I’ll go to the movies…..by myself…..and it might just pay my bus fare! Unfortunately, given the proliferation in Big Issue sellers and beggars it will create I might end up spending it all on that instead. And when the poor and the desperate turn to crime, as they have been doing in other parts of Europe where austerity has hit hard, one can only imagine what will happen to my insurance premiums.

Worse still this is a budget that will further extend the growing inequalities in British society. The wealthy will see their pensions and inheritance protected allowing their fortunes to grow all the more. While at the other end of the scale some will struggle to keep their rented council house, nevermind be able to afford to buy a home. And the other inequality gap, that between the young and older generations in the UK, this budget also further widens.

It raises the risk of creating the sort of dangerous social stratification of a sort which we’ve not seen in the UK for sometime. In fact about the only scenario I can think of when any part of the UK was this unequal was when Osborne’s family was one of a number of wealthy Protestant families who controlled nearly all of the wealth and land in Ireland. And we all remember how that ended, with the likes of Osborne and Cameron burnt out of their homes and forced to flee the country!

Greek Games

The recent behaviour of the Greek PM has come in for quite a bit of questioning in the media. First, he wins a referendum overwhelmingly rejecting the terms set by Greece’s creditors and the ECB. Then he turns around and proposes most of them himself, and parliament votes for them! What was the point of the bailout referendum then? Is the guy suffering from senile dementia or something? Well there are two ways of looking at it.

It could well be that Tsipras is a masterful political manipulator who would put Frank Underwood (from House of cards) to shame. His game plan is essentially to extract Greece from its debt obligations, perhaps temporarily leaving the euro in the process, but setting up the Germans and the ECB as the fall guys. By appearing to be conciliatory he can pin the finger of blame for any default on Merkel and the German government, claiming that he was willing to stick his neck out and go the extra mile, while the Germans, for entirely ideological reasons, refused to budge. In fact they want Greece to leave the Euro. And thus the Germans are liable for the all the costs that result from that. Thus if Greece’s creditors want to be paid, go talk to the Germans.

And if this is the plan, it might well work. I suspect creditors and the international money markets will eventually forgive the Greeks. As, after all, its the sort of behaviour we’d expect from them. However, its not the sort of thing we’d expect of the Germans. The fact is that a major obstacle in this crisis, going right back to its start, has been the rigid ideology of the German conservatives. They have in essence put domestic politics ahead of political and economic necessity and this is something the markets will not forgive or forget quickly. I could easily see as a consequence of this crisis, regardless of how it pans out, Germany loosing its AAA credit rating. And I doubt they’ll get it back any time soon. Meaning many of those Germans urging a hard line could well see their pensions devalued and their mortgage rates increased.

Of course the other possibility is the Tsipras is in fact a politician floundering in political waters where he is way out of his depth. The constant shifting of the Greek government position reflects the fact that far from any sort of master plan, they are instead reacting to one crisis after another on a day to day basis. That far from secretly printing Drachmas since coming to power (as I speculated they might be doing before) instead they have no contingency plan for what to do tomorrow morning when the banks are supposed to open….and in all probability go bankrupt. If this is the case a messy exit from the Euro is very likely. Which will be bad news for everybody.

The Greek patient cough’s up his snake oil

In the wake of the Greek vote (an inevitable no) the situation has gotten more polarised. The Greeks seem to angling for some sort of debt relief, which the ECB and Germans are reluctant to grant. In part because of the “moral hazard” it would create, but perhaps more because of domestic politics.

Of course one of the issues often raised is, well Ireland (and Portugal) recovered and paid off its bailout, why can’t the Greeks? Well because the crisis effecting Ireland was very different from that affecting Greece. Ireland had been running budget surpluses for a decade prior to the crash, at times when Britain and Germany had been running up deficits. There was never any doubt as to Ireland’s ability to pay back its debts. The problem was that with the aftershocks from a massive property bubble and a collapse of tax revenue, the Irish government had some temporary cash flow problems. The major debt issue was (and still is) not the few billion the Irish state owes but the 1.7 trillion euro’s Irish citizens owe on their mortgages, credit cards, business loans, etc.

So the situation in Ireland was therefore very different, as all the country needed was some respite while things recovered. Indeed there is good reason to question whether the Irish bailout and the austerity that came with it actually helped or hindered the recovery. But either way its wrong to assume the same medicine will work with Greece.

Let us for example imagine we’ve a quack German doctor. He gives the Irish and Portuguese patients his patented snake oil cure. It seems to work and help them get better. Of course in truth, it might well be having no effect whatsoever. A bit of bed rest is doing all the work, which our quack wrongly ascribes to his formula.

Then in comes the Greek patient. He is also given the snake oil. But as his condition was much worse to start with, he does not recover. So the quack up’s his dosage, but the patient gets worse and worse. This may or may not be the fault of the snake oil, but it certainly looks that way to any outside observer, including the patient. Who in the end fights off the doctor and runs away without paying. The quack doctor then goes off in a huff claiming he was only trying to help.

In a nutshell that’s the crisis facing us. However the problem is people see it as a crisis of economics when I would argue, as I have been saying for the last few years, that in truth its a crisis of politics. There’s been too much kicking the can down the road by politicians, in Brussels, Berlin or Athens and what we see is the end result. Unfortunately, this also explains why the solutions coming out of both Athens and Berlin aren’t going to work.

The Germans seem to think the answer is regime change, get rid of that annoying tie-less finance minister in a tee-shirt on a Harley. Or better yet, get rid of Syriza and everything will be fine. Well no! Syriza are the inevitable consequences of 5 years of austerity and the dire poverty it has created. It was literally either Syriza, the communists or the fascists. And if Syriza falls, that’s what they’ll get. And no doubt the fascists will try to solve Greek’s problems by invading Macedonia or start a war with Turkey over North Cyprus or something.

Similarly, if the Greek’s plan is to go bankrupt and go back to the Drachma, I don’t think they entirely understand what that means….nor perhaps do the Germans understand how costly it would be to them. In short, if you think the current austerity is bad, wait a few years. The consequences of this are likely to be that anyone with any sort of savings or a pension, kiss it goodbye.

Put it this way, if you were a taxi driver in Brussels and the Greek PM got into the back of your taxi I suspect you’d be insisting he pay cash in advance ;D. Same with any hotel or restaurant. Greece will be the butt of economic jokes for the next decade or two. With the state unable to borrow, rampant inflation and collapsing tax revenue’s it will become impossible to service social welfare, meaning massive cuts in the public sector and probably a reneging on welfare, pensions and healthcare spending.

Of course Greeks point to Iceland as an example. But much like how the ECB pointing to Ireland is flawed, so too are the Greeks. Iceland’s woes were very different from those of Greece. Iceland (prior to the crisis) was a state with relatively low levels of public debt, high taxes and a high GDP. The issue was never about the Icelandic’s government’s ability to service its debts but the large debt’s run up by the country’s banks who had been playing the Wall Street casino.

And should anyone think, oh I’m alright Georgios, all my money is in an account abroad. Ya, and how long do you think it will take for the cash strapped Greek state to work that one out and slap a 25-50% asset transfer tax on all cash transfers into the country? Or indeed, how long before the Germans impose some sort of financial recovery charge on all Greek bank accounts held outside Greece?

Until there is some realism from both sides, its impossible to see how this crisis can be solved.

Blogging catch up

Been a while since I’ve had a chance for any blogging, I thought it was time for a catch up.

Greek default
The Greeks are going bankrupt….like a Greek. I think this was the problem the Germans never anticipated. They assumed that if the Greeks did default, they’d default like a German, but of course that’s not going to happen.

Instead, we have Athens basically saying they need to sleep on it over the weekend, have a referendum and even then with it looking like talks are finished, they come back to the table. If the Eurocrats thought that this was going to go to any sort of plan, they were wrong. And the assumption that the Greeks, if they vote no, will quietly leave the Euro, is flat wrong also. That would be way too logical and organised.

Again, this goes back to the beginning of this whole saga, when a failure to tackle the crisis quickly, largely because of resistance from the Germans, let to it building from a minor issue into a full blown crisis. In the end the very thing the German’s resisted, Quantitative Easing, the ECB have been forced to bring in anyway. So while yes the Greeks have to take some of the blame for this crisis, so too does the rest of the EU. And if anyone things the Greeks are going to make things easy for them, they’ve got another thing coming.

Heathrow
An interesting piece here from the BBC about the long running saga of choosing the next airport for London. Would you believe that committee after committee has been debating this matter since the Roskill Commission in 1971. They recommended a new airport on a greenfield site in Buckinghamshire. Then, as now, the government rejected this proposal and fudged the issue. And successive governments have been fudging it ever since.

So with that in mind you can understand why this week’s Airports commission report went down like a lead balloon. The problem here is that politicians keeping asking for an answer to a simple question and then not liking the answer they get back.

Expansion of Gatwick or building a new airport in the Thames estuary comes with numerous difficulties, not least of those cost, but also the issue that such an airport will be in the wrong place. Any replacement for Heathrow will serve not just London but a large chuck of England, and the bulk of people in England live either north or west of the Thames, so an airport tucked away in the South East corner of the country will necessitate a change of trains in London, something that will automatically add 1-3 hours onto any journey time.

This is the whole reason why the Roskill commission picked a site north of the capital. The present Airports commission, perhaps recognising the impracticality of this option went for the next best thing, which was to expand Heathrow.

My own view is that instead of expanding Heathrow, just make sure its integrated into the HS2 network, as this will eliminate the need for commuter flights to Heathrow, freeing up capacity. Furthermore, as HS2 passes close to Manchester and Birmingham airports, it offers the alternative of expanding them instead and offering a fast connection time to London, Heathrow and the rest of the country. Its also worth remembering that much of Heathrow is given over to cargo. Do the parcels really care where they land? Can’t we just take one of a number of airfields near London (or take over Luton or Oxford airport), turn it into a dedicated cargo handling facility (again ensuring good connection to the rail network as well as the motorways) and redirect all the cargo flights away from Heathrow?

But, like I said, the problem is that no matter what answer they come up with, its going to be unpopular with someone. The Heathrow HS2 link for example has been killed off by the usual NIMBY-ish, indeed Gatwick expansion is also resisted by various NIMBY’s in that part of the country.

Ultimately the government needs to realise that part of their job is to make unpopular discussions. So either they need to disappoint someone by expanding Heathrow, or building a new airport to the South West of London. Or re-route HS2. Or do nothing and point out to anyone in London that wants to complain about how awkward air travel is in London, or that prices are so expensive and the airports so inaccessible, well we had plans to fix this, but you objected to it!

Railway cuts
The Tories promised billions to help upgrade railway lines in the UK, all as part of their election plans for a “northern power house”. Needless to say, that promise didn’t last very long. But I have to give the Tories credit. Most governments would at least go through the motions of pretending to keep their election promises, for a year or two anyway, then act shocked and surprised when the programme they’d badly managed and starved of funds failed.

Certainly it is true that there is a desperate need to upgrade the railway lines of Northern England. Taking a train in that part of the world is like going through a time warp. It takes so long to get from, say Liverpool to Sheffield or Leeds to Hull, you’d swear they still used steam trains. But any sort of meaningful upgrade of systems here was always going to be a major job, as big as HS2 itself.

But frankly anyone who honestly believed that the Tories, a party who have been screwing over northern England since the 1800’s, were going to spend tens of billions on the north, well I’ve got some magic beans you might want to buy! This was clearly an election ploy to steal a few lib dem seats.

Tax does have to be taxing
Another lie promise that the Tories made was not to cut working tax credits. Again, any meaningful reading of their election manifesto would lead to the conclusion that there spending plans simply did not add up without some major welfare spending cuts. And the only two line items in the welfare bill with enough zero’s behind them to make those numbers work are a) pensions or b) working tax credits.

And should anyone be in any doubt that working tax credits are going, look no further than the fact that the tabloids are already selling such a cut. They are claiming that migrants in receipt of working tax credits are sending them abroad. Again, this wrong on so many levels. Migrants are at most 13% of the work force, and if this is going on (no proof is offered), it probably only effects a tiny handful (indeed the tabloids seem to admit its a figure in the tens of thousands against recipients in the tens of millions).

And when did we have that vote to impose communism and let the government tell people what to do with their money? I have a bank account in Ireland and yes I push some money from my British account into it every now and then (I don’t receive any working tax credits, but no doubt if I did they would probably class this as “sending it abroad”), as this means I’ve money I can then withdraw in euro’s when I go on my hols. Are the Daily Mail saying the government should now regulate bank account transfers? If so let’s start with the non-dom’s, like the people who own them!

More crucially of course is that these tactics mirror those used prior to previous benefit cuts. Have the tabloids claim migrants or lazy scroungers are receiving them, propose cuts, etc. So working tax credits are likely to be go quicker than you can say “boy for sale”.

United Disgust
Fifa have enough problems as it is, but if you want a good example of the endemic corruption within the organisation, or its wasteful spending on very public vanity projects, look no further than the recently released film “united passions”.

I have yet to come across a film so universally panned by critics 😳 as this film. And probably for good reason, for a film that has taken in all of $200,000 since May….against an alleged budget in the tens of millions. The film’s director has already disowned it, while Tim Roth, who inexplicably plays Blatter :??:, has been making all sorts of excuses.

Of course the film glosses over a few details. Such as the fact that the only reason why we have a world cup was due to a Bernie Ecclestone-esque power struggle between then FIFA president Jules Rimet, the British and the IOC. The film also glosses over the decision to host the second world cup in Fascist Italy. Plus they were in talks with Germany about hosting the 1942 world cup, until Hitler’s little “excursion” into Poland. Then there’s the closeness of FIFA top brass to various shadowy figures, notably various South American dictators and corporate sponsors. Or how on behalf of said sponsors FIFA has put pressure on governments to pass various legislation.

If you want to see a blatant piece of ego massaging propaganda, might I recommend this instead. On the plus side, there are rumours that Ben Afleck and Mat Damon are planning to make a movie of the book House of Deceit about the recent FIFA scandal. Perhaps they can get Tim Roth to reprise his role?

Trump, you’re fired!
Donald Trump :crazy:, professional buffoon and ego manic, has announced his candidacy for the US president. A gift of comic gold dust to US late night comedians. For Trump is known for his habit of suffering from a condition known as “diarrhoea of the mouth”

He has also shown an inability to understand the concept of irony or get a joke, as his recent spat with Bill Maher demonstrates, or indeed his various spat’s with John Steward of the Daily Show. Of course any politician who can’t handle a few comedians is sort of screwed. After all, how does he plan on handling an interview with a serious journalist or a debate with someone like Hilary Clinton?

However in amongst the various comments he’s made since declaring, were a number of racist ones about Mexicans, something which has led to NBC firing him from his own show. Mexican TV have also pulled his shows and even Macy’s has cut its ties with him.

Trump’s problem is that he’s basically a spoiled little rich kid who has lived his life in a little yes man bubble where nobody around him dares to question him. Hence he doesn’t realise how bad what he’s saying sounds to anyone how lives in the real world. I mean even Glenn Beck, a man famous for suffering from Nazi Tourettes, has come out and called Trump crazy.

Battle flag of the racists
And speaking of racists we have the controversy over the Confederate battle flag in the US. After the Charleston killer was seen posing with it, there were calls for the flag to be removed from public buildings. A problem, because inexplicably it still hangs in front of the state capital of South Carolina and its incorporated into the state flag of Mississippi.

Now some will defend the flag and say it means different things. However as John Steward puts it, this is like neo-nazi’s waving swastika’s about and claiming that it means support for Germany’s tough anti-smoking policy. The problem is that the confederate flag has long been a symbol of racists and white supremacists in the US. And it is forever tainted with the legacy of slavery. Now if they people defending it were black or liberals, okay maybe we could believe its defenders, but unfortunately they are almost universally white, conservative, right wingers.

Backing down on climate
The Pope’s letter on climate change released a few weeks ago, which was basically one step removed from a papal bull, has put Republicans in a bit of a pickle. Basically, they can’t bring up climate change denial now, without running the risk of being ambushed by journalists with the line “the pope say’s its happening and its a sin, do you plan on going to hell?”. This is a particular problem for catholic candidates, particularly given their previous positions on issues such as gay marriage and stem cell research.

Traditionally, Republicans have campaigned on the four G’s. God, Guns, Gay’s and Global warming denial. Now they don’t dare mention the first or last G, as that raises the risk of them being ambushed with the other. So this means they’ll probably be focusing more on the two middle G’s from now on…..

Taking it back
….On which point we finish with the story of a US pastor (I’ll let you guess which church) who wants to take back the word “gay” and restore its original meaning.

I happen to agree with this one. I mean “gay” is a crucial word in the English language and we need it. Now thanks to the LGBT lot you can’t read aloud a William Worthsworth poem without someone sniggering at the thought of “feeling gay”.

So yes, let’s restore this word’s original meaning. Hence why I’ll be referring to all US Baptists and Tea party members as gay #babptistsaregay #teapartyaregay :))

Of course we need someone in the UK to front this campaign. So what about Farage? He’s always hanging out in pubs with a big gay grin on him? Maybe he can do it? #farageisgay ;D

Think it will work?