Friday, 24 June 2011

Every little helps

Headlines on Sky News is ‘Supermarkets are slashing petrol and diesel prices as world oil costs tumble’.
Seeing as I had just paid £1.35 a litre earlier today and moaned about it, I was happy to hear that finally I was not going to be ripped off anymore, or not quite so ripped off anyway.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) decided to release a stockpile of 60 million barrels over the next 30 days to make up for production shortfalls in Libya and will increase global supply by around 2.5% for the next month.
Tesco UK chief executive Richard Brasher said: "We know our customers are feeling the pinch at the moment so we want to pass on the benefit of a fall in oil prices straight away."
It isn’t until you read the story properly that you realise that the slashing prices is ‘up to 3p a litre’ so not so much of a slash.
To make the blood boil even further, yesterday Tesco put their petrol prices up by 1p a litre so really it’s only a 2p a litre slashing.
Cheers Tesco, thanks to your generosity I can now save £1 when I buy 50 litres of petrol. Every little helps and that really is a little but not as little as the rip off petrol stations who always seem to have forget to change the prices when oil prices drop quite as quick as they remember to put them up when the prices rise.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Greek tragedy

I have to admit that i haven't been paying particular attention to the Greek crisis but from the bits and pieces that i have heard, it's all a bit of a minefield.
The bare facts as far as i can grasp them is that Greece is in danger of defaulting on the loan they received last year.
This would mean disaster for the French and German banks who dug deep to loan the money to Greece and the American financial institutions who insured the French and German banks against Greece defaulting. In short, an almighty crash all around.
The most discussed option is lending Greece another £120bn but the choice of easing debt by plying them with even more debt seems like a crazy solution. The austerity measures bought in after the last loan has led to almost daily rioting in the Greek streets and a new loan will come with even stricter cost cutting.
Another choice is kicking Greece out of the single currency but apparently that would cause even greater chaos and end in default anyway and the resulting crash for the Germans, French and Americans.
All in all it's a massive mess and the rest of the PIIGS are not looking very healthy either so it all adds up to the financial crisis being deeper and longer than anybody seemed to think.
If Europe is going to run a single currency, the halfway mish mash that we seem to have at the moment needs to be sorted so countries hand over the power of their economies to a central government. This part where countries run their own economies isn't working which is why you have the likes of France and Germany bailing out places like Ireland and Greece.
It has to be all or nothing and everyone packs up and goes back to their own currencies and you are responsible for your own economy.
I was always a big fan of Euro and thought Britain should have joined at the outset but looking at things now, i was wrong and we shouldn't touch it with a bargepole because we would be stung for billions and join the Germans and French taxpayers growing more and more angry at being asked to provide the money to the likes of Greece who want to have their cake and eat it.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

What a weiner

Much sniggering at the ludicrously named Anthony Weiner who has resigned following sending lewd photos of himself to women he chatted to online.

Having Weiner as a surname is amusing sure but it doesn't come close to the best name i have ever heard which belongs to the former United States Ambassador to Denmark.

Ladies and gentleman, meet Dick Swett.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Beware chess players

When we were about 10, one afternoon a week we would pack away the school books and the whole class would be taught how to play chess. I even pestered my parents to buy a cheap Chess set but apart from my fellow pupils, nobody else knew how to play it.
After leaving middle school, the chess dropped by the wayside and occasionally i would find someone to play against and i even had an electronic chess set so i could play against the computer but the magnetic pieces quickly got lost and knights and bishops were replaced by girls and football.
Memories of my short lived Chess career was revived by the picture of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi playing a game of chess against the World Chess President, carefully contemplating his next move while Tripoli burned.
I wasn't ever very good and apparently nor is Gaddafi according to the Chess President who said that he held back and offered a diplomatic draw because 'winning on a visit would be embarrassing' which was probably a wise move.
It does seem that there is a long list of famous chess players with a less than savoury reputation such as Stalin, Menachem Begin, Napoleon, Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Ivan the Terrible, Franco, Goebbels, Henry VIII, Rudolf Hess, Hitler, Ho Chi Minh, William Joyce, Machiavelli, Bin Laden, Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, Tito, Kaiser Wilhelm, William the Conqueror and Bono of U2.
My teacher told us that learning chess would serve us well in life because it would teach us to think ahead of the possible consequences of our actions but that is quite an impressive list of chess players who didn't take that message on board.
If only someone had hid the chess pieces from a young Adolf and Bono we could have avoided WW2 and the awful Zooropa album.
There does seem to be a casual link between knowing the rules of chess and rising up to become a Nazi, despot or over hyped singer so maybe we should be looking in chess clubs for the next big bad.

Conservative u-turns

The Government is getting a bit of a reputation as the u-turn kings but i am undecided if a Government that states it is going to do something and then changes it mind after uproar from the public is such a bad thing.
Some people are arguing that it shows weak Government and is humiliating while others argue that it can't be a bad thing that the Government is listening and making changes accordingly.
The Conservatives do seem to have a problem with getting their message across, the Big Society idea has been relaunched so many times and still nobody really understand what it means.
The pause in NHS reforms, the change of heart regarding selling off the Forests and the reinstatement of the Employment Maintenance Allowance for college students are the big volte-face and i'm thankful that they did but i have a sneaky feeling that these were a case of losing a battle to win a war.
There is a political trick where if they want 1000 but they know it will cause outrage, they ask for 50,000 and then put up a small fight before agreeing to settle for 1000 so the public think they won by forcing the Government to backtrack and settle for remarkably less than they wanted while the politicians get the 1000 they wanted to start with and come out of the situation as having respected the voters wishes.
That's what i think is going to happen here either with the NHS which has always been a Tory target or some other major part of society that is yet to be unveiled.
The Conservatives are known as the nasty party for a reason, they are nasty and this lot are no different so when Dave Cameron announces he has listened to us and will review his decisions, i don't get the feeling that he is u-turning because he has taken on board the opposite view and came to another conclusion, it feels like he is trying to bank enough good credit, show that he is a caring and open enough guy so he can push through the bigger, ideologically more important things.
The other view is that his party have put so little thought into its big ideas that he is having to make with the reverse gear almost immediately when the defects in his policies are pointed out and that idea is not without its merits either.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Is Syria next?

Seems like we have another problem with one of Tony Blair's friends. This time it is the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brutally putting down a revolt and the question being quietly posed is - Will Syria be next for a NATO intervention?
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said this morning that no military action would be taken, as has happened in Libya, despite him describing the torture and human rights breaches taking place as 'unacceptable'.
The cynical will say of course not, Syria has very little oil beneath its ground unlike Iraq or Libya which is dripping with the stuff, but there wasn't any in Kosovo either but we went in there on humanitarian grounds.
Syria, unlike Iraq and Libya which were pretty isolated amongst its fellows, has some powerful friends who can cause havoc and destabilise other areas if they push the right buttons.
Friendly with Russia and China, allied to Iran and a backer of Hizbullah and Hamas, Syria could cause massive problems in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and throughout an already highly volatile Middle East. The loss of Israeli friendly Egypt is already a blow to the West and huge protests against Israel are already manifesting themselves in Mubarak’s old country.
What is happening in Syria is abhorrent but if the West takes the Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq route and starts on a humanitarian mission to remove yet another brutal regime, it won't be confined to just Syria, it will engulf the whole region and ripple out to our own doorsteps.
Best to settle for the devil we know, however uncomfortable and unsettling that is, because the alternative is carnage.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

NATO warns rebels

Now that we have given up any pretence of protecting Libyan civilians from Gadaffi and make no bones about it being about regime change, bad timing that the UN today announced evidence that rebel forces had been committing war crimes against civilians themselves.
The UK and Nato forces are saying that they would be prepared to turn their guns on the Libyan rebels, if they attacked civilians which bought the reply from one rebel commander that "We object to being threatened by our allies. They are taking part in military action only at our invitation.'
With NATO already at war with half the country and threatening the other half, we can see, where this is leading.
It's a hard sell to convince us that peace and freedom can spring from the rag-tag rebels employing war crimes and it is all very reminiscent of Kosovo and the KLA who the West backed and turned as blind eye to their atrocities while bombing the Serbians for theirs. Turned out all NATO achieved was to foist a gang of gangsters into power who have been murdering and pillaging ever since.
Hard to see Libya turning out any different, replacing one murderous despot with another which we have backed with arms and finances.
We should get some lovely oil contracts out of it though.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Trusting Dave

David Cameron has told NHS staff that they and the country should trust him with the future of the health service.
Well he couldn't really admit the real purpose is to make the NHS a private health care which only the well off can afford so instead he said the NHS would be safe in his hands.
So can we trust Cameron and his Conservative buddies? Maybe if we have a peek at his own manifesto and see how many promises he has broken or have never bothered to undertake in the past year.
Top of the list is the promise of no restructuring of the NHS. I think that one fails as does no VAT increase and the extra officers employed in the police service.
The changes to child tax credits, disability allowance and college EMA when he promised no changes were planned doesn't point towards someone we can trust neither.
The obvious conclusion would be that you are the last person on this earth that people should trust Dave and if anyone thinks that this two faced, scheming liar of a man is good for the NHS and the UK in general, i suggest you go get help now while you can still afford it.

Evil Simon Cowell

Why is nobody mentioning that the young American girl, Jackie Evancho, was obviously miming on the final of Simon Cowell's cash cow show Britain's Got Talent?
Not just miming but doing such a bad job of it that the cameras stopped showing a close up of her after the first 30 seconds so not to give the game away.
The 11 year old is the latest to be signed to Simon Cowell's record label, hence her appearance with Nicole Scherzinger who is a judge on Cowell's American X Factor programme.
It is almost laughable that Cowell can command the prime time slot as an advert for his own acts and earn millions for doing it and then get first choice to snap up anyone he can make a few pound out of. I expect the BGT winner, Jai McDowall, to be a distant memory this time next year after his standard album of classic ballads.
You could almost see the pound signs in his eyes when young Ronan Parke stepped out and began singing in the audition.
The UK version of X Factor is due to begin soon and we can look forward to months of Cowell owned singers making -'guest appearances' on the show, a show that pretends the winner is down to the viewers but is set out that the judges always get to decide that who they want can progress regardless of how many times they finish in the bottom two.
I guess we are either too stupid to notice or just don't care.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Fun all summer long

Not one to learn the lessons of the past, Lucy has handed me the keys to her blog for the summer while she sits in her big armchair eating strawberries and cooing over Roger Federer's legs.
If we can put aside the fact that her blog stats dropped like a stone last time i was at the helm, i am determined that the next 12 weeks will be full of in-depth analysis of current affairs. Failing that i will whinge about everything until September.
My first whinge is about the Olympics and the bizarre ticket allocation process which must have made sense to somebody.
We were required to bid for tickets for as many events as we liked and the first anyone knew if they had been successful was when the money was taken from our bank accounts so you were the proud owner of tickets for God knows what event.
The biggest scandal that nobody seems to be picking up on was the tickets available for the big events like the 100m Final.
The Olympic Stadium holds 80,000 spectators but only 20,000 tickets were available for the public to buy for that day.
Even with my shaky maths, i know that it leaves 60,000 tickets going elsewhere, and the elsewhere is the prawn sandwich brigade of corporate big-wigs and their friends.
The sponsorship deal also prohibits drinks, food and even clothes that are not manufactured by the sponsors and security guards have been told to confiscate and deny entry to anyone who breaks these rules.
With crowds and rules like that, we are better off watching it at home where we can wear, eat and drink what we like and not have to pray that a stray piece of equipment during the hammer throwing event can take out the loud mouth on a corporate jolly sat in front of us.