Monday, 15 September 2014

Britain - doomed?

No, not because the unruly Scots won't learn to behave, but because useless Tories are in charge. Trade deficits are running at near record levels and this is not a good thing.

With the trade deficit widening, growth slowing, and unemployment still high, house prices still rising (but more slowly - which in itself is another worrying sign), we're doomed, frankly, and we might as well face up to it.
The trade in goods deficit – exports minus imports – widened to £10.2bn from £9.4bn in June, disappointing City expectations that the deficit would narrow to £9.1bn. 
It was almost matched the largest monthly deficit on record, which was £10.3bn in April 2012. 
The broader trade in goods and services deficit also widened in July, to £3.3bn from £2.5bn in June. The Office for National Statistics data showed a larger goods deficit in July driven by a £1.3bn rise in imports to £34.2bn, outpacing a £500m increase in exports to £24bn. 
Rising imports of fuel, chemicals and aircraft drove the deficit higher, while the rise in exports was driven by oil trade with non-EU countries and pharmaceutical exports. 
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research thinktank estimated separately that the UK economy grew by 0.6% in the three months to the end of August, suggesting the rate of growth is starting to slow.
Britain has been running a trade deficit for decades, of course, but the scale of it is the concern here.  It is simply too much, sustained for too great a period.  And Tories are in charge.  Which means it is time to buy beans and head for the hills.

(It's worth noting that the rise in exports was partly driven by oil sales - which belong to Scotland, of course.  Which might explain why the establishment is so fervently opposed to independence.  The Tories would rather have oil + 40 odd Scottish Labour MPs, than a Conservative hegemony over an utterly ruined, bankrupt country called England.  At least with oil, they can carry on keeping up appearances a little while longer. )

It's almost like exporting 90% of the manufacturing sector, closing don traditional heavy industries and failing to invest in modern light alternatives, neglecting potential growth markets in renewable energy tech and so on wasn't such a smart idea.  It is hard to run an economy based on serving coffee with flair and answering telephones.  Especially as it is cheaper to do the latter from India.

Still, it isn't all bad. Economists are still getting things wrong, so at least some of the Eternal Verities are intact.

And, yes, I know, I am relying on these same economists for the forecast of slowing growth.  Which makes me a hypocrite and a Bad Man.

Am I turning Tory?

Either I'm becoming old and conservative, or Peter Hitchens is starting to become less deranged, or something like that.

No matter.  In a shocking development, the Mail has actually printed a referendum story that isn't actually anti-independence. Further portents of the apocalypse are imminently expected.

Okay, it is only a opinion column, and it is more about how shoddy the 'No' campaign has been and about how Europe = evil, but it is a start. After running about a dozen anti-independence stories every day, we should be grateful for this limited acknowledgement that other opinions exist.

There must be some rule somewhere that at least 1% of the stories must cover an alternate viewpoint ...

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I was, of course, completely right

According to a new book by Naomi Klein, described in the Guardian, it turns out that Richard Branson's much publicised attempts to green his humungeous planet wrecking fleet of aircraft was just hot air.

(See what I did there?)

I, of course, predicted just such a possibility back in 2008 when Branson announced his conversion to unrelenting self publicity saving the planet.

The British entrepreneur famously promised to divert a share of the profits from his Virgin airlines empire to find a cleaner fuel, after a 2006 private meeting with Al Gore. 
Branson went on to found a $25m Earth prize for a technology that could safely suck 1bn tons of carbon a year from the atmosphere. In 2009, he set up the Carbon War Room, an NGO which works on business solutions for climate change. 
But by Klein’s estimate, Branson’s “firm commitment” of $3bn failed to materialise. 
“So the sceptics might be right: Branson’s various climate adventures may indeed prove to have all been a spectacle, a Virgin production, with everyone’s favourite bearded billionaire playing the part of planetary saviour to build his brand, land on late night TV, fend off regulators, and feel good about doing bad,” Klein writes in This Changes Everything, Capitalism vs The Climate.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Three reasons for Scotland to vote YES! (Warning - content may disturb)

In a last ditch effort to save / destroy the union, Westminster has sent Cameron, Clegg and Milliband - all English -  on a desperate mission to persuade Scots that they are not dominated, patronised and bossed about by the English.

Franklin ship found

Not really political news at at.

But the story of the Franklin expedition for the Northwest passage, which vanished into the ice in the mid nineteenth century, has always been quite my favourite tale of exploration and cannibalism.

There's a wee bit of a New Zealand connection as Mount Erebus is named after one of the two Franklin ships, rather than directly named for the Greek god of the underworld.

And now it seems the Canadians have managed to find one of the ships from his voyage.

Well done, chaps.!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ultimate weapon

The 'No' camp have deployed Gordon Brown.

I suppose, after saving the world, preserving the union should be an afternoon's work for the Great Man.

Let's hear it for Hone

The election is about two minutes away, and I still haven't decided who I'll vote for.  Last time, I voted Mana.  This time, I'm struggling to see past the large shadow of Kim Dotcom.  Yeah, you can put Hone Haraira and Laila Harre and Annette Sykes and John Minto on one side of the side of the scales - but Kim weighs heavily on the other side.  So probably not.

The Greens I like.  I particularly like their new tax plans.  Labour, well.  It's Labour.  I could vote Labour.  I was tending that way.  Either Labour or the Greens.  Probably Labour, mostly because Dirty Politics made me want to do the opposite of whatever Slater et al wanted me to do, and they didn't seem to want me to vote Labour.

Then Hone Harawira fires off one foul mouthed tirade and suddenly I'm all desperate to vote for him again.  Because who couldn't agree with the rage at the way a really important issue like child poverty is being sidelined by a campaign to legalise weed:
Why am I seeing all this shit about weed and so... f***** little about feed [Feed the Kids]... just because the Internet Party is keen on weed … and got all the money to spend on all this flash advertising shit is no reason why… the same people who are also supposed to be working for Internet-Mana aren’t doing the same kind of package for Feed the Kids.
I am ambivalent about legalising marijuana.  I can see that it is a colossal waste of police and court time.  I can see that it is utterly wrong to render swathes of the population - including an awful lot of Maori - criminal.  But at the same time, I see the effect that marijuana on young people every day in my job.  I know that it won't be legal for 13 year olds - but increasing its availability won't make it less common, will it?   I see numbed minds and personalities utterly blighted by this shit.  I'm with Hone for those reasons alone.

But I'm also with him because, while I'm ambivalent about weed, I'm totally not ambivalent about child poverty, another scourge that our selfish narrow politics tries to squeeze to the sidelines.  Harawira has always made it the central plank of his political platform, and for that, if nothing else, he's one of the most important voices in New Zealand politics.

Anything that moves this from the centre of the campaign is an irrelevant, frivolous distraction.