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Archive for September, 2007

Tomorrow sees yet another attack on our civil liberties here in the UK.

Under a European Union directive to “…ensure the investigation, detection and proscution of serious crime”, a direct result of the terror attacks in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005, it will become compulsory for telephone companies to make available the time, date, duration and location of calls, to 795 new agencies including the Department of Health, the Immigration Service (sic), tax authorities and 475 local councils.

Britain, already arguably the most surveilled country in the world, with over 25% of the world’s CCTV cameras, has taken another worrying step towards a police state. There seems to be little oversight into how and why public bodies are to use this information.

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Aqua lungs for Olympic visitors?

Remember you read it here first. Can you spot the problem?

We learn today that the London Olympic stadium for 2012 is to be sunk 20 feet into a bowl hollowed out in the ground. (1)

The site of the stadium is 15 feet above sea level on the flood plane of the Thames, which at its nearest point is fractionally just over two miles away. The Thames at this point is also 15 feet above sea level.

“1.25 million people are already at risk from flooding by the Thames and a major flood in the Thames Gateway could cost as much as £12 billion. According to the recent Association of British Insurers report, climate change could increase fluvial and coastal flood risk by a factor of 8 to 12 times.” (2)

So in the event of a flood, spectatators on the lowest level of the stadium will be 20 feet under water.

This desperate conjunction of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and a geographically challenged Labour administration in the UK, is what sadly passes for joined up government in Britain today.

Do these people have no common sense?

(1) Report in the UK Sunday Times:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/london_2012/article2558206.ece

(2) From the London Assembly’s October 2005 report, “London under threat? Flooding risk in the Thames Gateway Environment
http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/reports/environment/flood_thamesg.pdf

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Who does the EU think it is?

I am constantly astounded at the interfering nature of the EU, so I’m not entirely surprised to see that the EU’s Court of First Instance is now meddling in the affairs of Microsoft. I though the West was essentially a capitalist society, where people and companies take the risks associated with innovation, for the rewards if their innovations are successful. The EU appears to want nothing of this capitalist ideal.

The European Commission has decided that it’s just not fair that Microsoft is as succesful as it is, and has decided that it needs taking down a peg and fining a massive amount of money.

What’s the problem? Well Microsoft has had the audacity to build arguably the world’s most succesful software product, viz. Windows, and furthermore has had the temerity to build into it a media player. The EU regard this as an abuse of a monopoly since it makes it difficult for other manufacturers, such as Apple with its Quick Time software, to sell their products. The EU apparently want Microsoft to make Windows available without the Media Player.

Of course in true EU fashion, the same sort of logic mustn’t apply in its own house. We never see the EU divesting itself of any of its ever increasing powers, and returning some of them to the member states. The EUs escalator only goes in one direction.

The only other thing that surprises me is the reaction of Microsoft. If it were me I’d tell the Commission just where to get off.
Come on Bill, get your act sorted and don’t be so damned supine.

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sub-prime

as in “sub-prime mortgage”

  • Translation

    A loan to this borrower is extremely risky: let’s invent a cuddly sounding name for it and sell it on to stupid bankers who don’t know any better.

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  • I’m getting a little sick and tired of politicians jumping on the global warming bandwagon, and claiming it’s all due to our burning of CO2. In the UK it’s being used to inflict ever more taxes, fines and laws on us.

    When no one can forecast the weather more than five days hence with any certainty, I totally fail to understand the credence given to climate change models which look forward to the end of the century. I was therefore interested to read the following from the Wall Street Journal.

    Scientists have no clear knowledge of the cause of the Little Ice Age and of the subsequent rebound; or of the Big Ice Age; or of a warm period when the Arctic Ocean had no ice; or of the medieval warming period. In fact, IPCC scientists do not understand the causes of the rapid increase of temperature from 1910 to 1945; or the decrease from 1945 to 1975, when CO2 levels were rising. Without understanding these recent changes, it is premature for the IPCC to jump to the conclusion that CO2 is the main cause of the last 30 years of global warming.

    –Syun-Ichi Akasofu, The Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2007

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    Could Northern Rock go bust – to use the vernacular? (For non UK readers, Northern Rock is a UK bank which has today had to apply to the Bank of England for emergency financial support. The most visible effect so far of the impact of the US sub-prime lending debacle). Northern Rock is no different to any other commercial organisation, and if its liabilities are consistently larger than its assets for a significant period of time, the answer of course is yes. Would it be allowed to go under? The answer is probably no. Or certainly no on this occasion.

    In a rare move the Bank of England has agreed to throw Northern Rock a lifeline and step in as the lender of last resort. Nevertheless this has been an unsettling morning for savers with NR. It appears that the intervention by the BoE has probably not stopped a run on the bank by its savers. One of the savers interviewed commented that withdrawing savings would undoubtedly add to the general air of panic, but as he succinctly put it, even if he stayed as a depositor he couldn’t trust others to do the same, and he was not prepared to take the risk. Although the media and banking authorities are pointing to this being a direct result of problems associated with the US sub-prime mortgage lending of recent years, there are more fundamental questions to answer. Why have Northern Rock got themselves into this position?

    In recent years is seems to me that we’ve let the money men get away with murder. Whatever happened to prudence, a word the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, now Prime Minister, was keen to be associated with. In years gone by, mortgage lending was driven by how much a bank could attract from savers. Money in through one door (largely from savers), went out the other. Not these days. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, seemed quite blase about the way ever increasing loans between financial institutions have ratcheted up the levels of mortgages available. He seemed to regard this as a great virtue of the current system.Not in this region of planet reality it isn’t.When this easy access to funds by the lenders, is coupled with the ease with which, and the amount, borrowers are allowed to borrow, then it’s not rocket science to see that we’re on an escalator to the precipice. When I first borrowed for a mortgage, not only had you had to have been a saver with the Building Society for a period beforehand, thus demonstrating presumably a certain degree of financial understanding, but more importantly you could only borrow usually no more than two and three quarters your salary, plus perhaps if you were lucky half a partner’s salary.

    It is just crazy to see mortgage borrowing multiples of several time earnings being the norm. Is it any wonder we have house price inflation and problems in the banking and funds market, when both money supply, and the ease of accessing it have few controls attached? But I come back to the question. Why were NR allowed to get to this stage? What has happened to the regulatory authorities that we hear so much about and why didn’t they step in sooner? Did no one see the significant increase in loans undertaken by NR in recent times and ask questions?

    This would never have happened in Worthington-on-sea under Captain Mainwearing.

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    …secure gated community

    When used by estate agents marketing new housing developments.

    Translation

  • Friends and family visiting by car will be inconvenienced, but so too will the local low life who will move elsewhere.

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