October 01, 2008

Economic comparisons

The US federal government wants to inject $700 billion dollars into their economy to sort out the mess…

compare with…

The GDP of Sweden last year was estimated at $455.3 billion

The Apollo project to get to the moon in the 1960s cost $25 billion, or, at today’s rate, about $279 billion.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the direct costs of the war on terror, which include operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, have so far have reached $752bn, if the current year’s appropriation of $188bn is included.


September 19, 2008

Financial Limericks

Just a bit of fun… they didn’t take me long and it probably shows!

Right now an old merchant banker
Might be viewed by some with some rancour
But if you give him some money
He might see it as funny
and spend it on another oil tanker

There was a man and his hedge fund
walking the streets looking quite stunned
He said, “have you got any cash?
cos of in the event of a crash
I’ll be sure to offer a refund!”

There was a wizard of finance
Who led the taxman a right dance
He said “With this government bond,
I’ll just wave my wand
But I’ll need an annuity in advance!”

Two banks talked about a possible merge
after feeling a definite urge.
“At the end”, said some top guys
“after all of the goodbyes,
We’ll have a bit left for a splurge”

A share dealer couldn’t shift some stock
Everyone thought it an old crock
They said “You should sell at a loss
Just like your old boss
Though they’re changing his office door lock…”

Some men tracking the FTSE 100
began to wonder if somehow they’d blundered…
They thought of their pension,
but didn’t dare mention
the others they’d probably plundered

There once was a stock market slump
that made everyone a bit of a grump
it turned into a recession
and brought on general depression
and we landed with a bit of a bump

The scene on the trading room floor
was normally something like war
but now it’s not “buy!”
it’s more like “goodbye!”
like nothing ever seen there before!


September 01, 2008

Why is the West annoying the Russians so much?

I’m not quite sure what the long term policies of the West are right now as regards Russia. Historically, there has been an effort to play one of the communist super powers off against the other but, right now, the West seems emboldened into poking the Russian bear almost for the hell of it.

The emerging Central European democracies have been desperate to make friends with the West, joining up to NATO and the EU, so that the West has pushed into what the Russians would have historically seen as their buffer zone against Western imperialism. In fact, the ongoing encirclement of Russia has reached proportions that Truman and Eisenhower could only have dreamed about. It has almost been the case that drawing the ex-Soviet client countries into the Western sphere has been seen as the spoils of the Cold War, as though it is the end of history…

It is hardly surprising that the Russians looked for an opportunity to draw a line to this ongoing erosion of their sphere of influence and were gifted one by the Georgian leader who (I can only surmise did it for reasons of domestic politics) decided he needed to stamp Georgian authority over the Ossetian region believing that enjoying American support (following use of military facilities in the country for the latter’s War on Terror) gave him protection against Russia but leaving Russia with an excuse to invade. On the one hand, the Russians have the restless North Ossetian region to consider so need to look strong on their internal political stage but there is also the larger Great Power stage to consider.

Ten years ago, the Neo-Cons in the US wrote a book called the Project for the New American Century in which they hypothesised that the best way to intimidate a tiger in its cage was to use a stick to prod at it until it retreats into the far corner of its cage. Is this the Neo-Con approach at work, being used against the Russians to put them back in their place? Of course, the downside of poking a stick at a tiger is that sooner or later it gets really really annoyed and tries to bite back.

And then there is David Milliband. He has been going around trying to recruit various countries into a coalition to stand against Russia. When the US did it a few years ago before invading Iraq, they were a strong country looking to acquire friends before they bullied a weak country. David Milliband seems to have decided that the UK, a medium sized enterprise, should try for a coalition against a fairly strong country…

I am pretty sure that countries these days will not go marching off to war like they did in 1914 where one small incident in the Balkans set it all off, but it would be a terrible thing if NATO and the US commit to defending so many countries that they become hopelessly overstretched, and able to defend nothing. On the other hand, the West cannot commit to come to the aid of other countries then not lift a finger when these countries are attacked.

So what exactly is the West up to in its dealings with Russia?


August 01, 2008

Partial Solar Eclipse today!

Astronomical events always create awe in anyone who watches them yet I find that the British weather always conspires against actually viewing them in person. Be it an eclipse or a meteor shower, there will always be a large cloud in the way even when the hours leading up to the event have been clear and balmy. At least these days there is the all encompassing power of the internet so that you can watch the thing itself!

If the page provided by NASA will load, that is!

In the meantime… http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7536438.stm

Or this: http://www.astrofoto.no/webcast/


July 29, 2008

This is the Junk Mail crossing the border…

I was sent this very clever update of the W H Auden classic….

This is the Junk Mail crossing the border
Delivered by truck now, that’s the order
None of it wanted, all of it waste
All of it tinged with commercial distaste
Delivering catalogues all unsolicited
Names on the mailing list slyly elicited
“Yearly subscription” – that’s the refrain
“Take out a loan or a time-share in Spain”
Unwanted brochures shrouded in plastic
Thousands of leaflets bound by elastic

All come unbidden, a waste of a trip
Bound for the landfill, bound for the tip
All come by lorries pounding the highways
Blocking the ring road and clogging the by-ways
No more will the Night Mail arrive at the station
Derailed by the forces of privatisation

“Victorian problem – Victorian answer”?
That is an insult to the service they ran, sir
Imagine old Isambard taking this tack
“Sorry we’re late sir, leaves on the track”!
Now, gone is the romance
Gone is the snobbery
The twenty-first century’s Greatest Train Robbery
So while we’re asleep the postman is driving
And the profits of shareholders quietly thriving
To bring us material for which none of us asked
To redress the balance is how we are tasked
Here comes the postman rounding the block
Here comes the postman, here comes his knock
With quickening heart I leap from my bunk
“Anything interesting, dear?”
“Nothing, just junk!”


July 21, 2008

Everyone knows mobiles are not allowed in petrol stations, but…

Petrol stations everywhere are plastered with warnings about not using mobile phones on petrol station forecourts lest a caller inadvertently blow the place up. Yet has it ever actually been done? I don’t recall ever hearing of anyone actually having been seen starting a fire with a mobile phone.

Static electricity seems a much more dangerous thing, yet there are few if any signs saying beware static electricity, or of the need to electrically ground yourself:

Yet anyone who has put their phone next to their in car radio will have heard the interference, and this is a known issue in military circles where every effort is made to avoid Electromagnetic Interference which is generally reckoned to have caused the accidental firing of a missile on an aircraft carrier off Vietnam causing several deaths. Modern planes are subjected to every test manufacturers can think of. Closer to home, a car’s ignition coils are shielded to prevent interference with the car radio.

So I find myself wondering… is this phone thing an urban myth to stop people rebooting fuel pump computers so that they don’t have to pay for their petrol?


July 18, 2008

For soldiers everywhere…

I don’t normally do poetry, or if I do, then it’s normally throw away limericks. But I got a bit serious elsewhere in a limerick forum and I repost here…

I killed a man
In another land
Then home I came
Not seeking shame
Over what we did in the sand

Though I killed a man
In another land
I just wanted support
It wasn’t in sport
Just part of the battle plan

We killed many men
Cared not who or when
But they keep us away
Treat us with dismay
Those men who just hold a pen

We want people to be inspired
All the time, not just when required
But old soldiers want peace
For the fighting to cease
We don’t want to be dead, just retired

When we return
For the rest that we earn.
Watch silent when we pass
Wait respectfully ‘til the last,
And allow us the peace which we yearn


July 16, 2008

British Justice is the best in the world

Ask any British person and they will tell you it is so.

Clearly we do it so much better than dirty Johnny Foreigner which is the reason we look down our noses at those barbarians overseas whenever they catch one of our nationals breaking their laws, and try to get them home with all speed lest they somehow become the victim of an automatic miscarriage of justice…

But is that necessarily true, or is it just good old fashioned nationalism?

I asked a couple of friends from other countries about this, and they tell me that people in their country say that their own national system of justice is the best in the world and they look down their noses at other people’s, including our own in this great country of ours….

It would be an interesting exercise, I think, to try to work out whose is the best. When people say one country’s system is better, what they usually mean is it is least corrupt, or least brutal to those accused of a crime. Justice has to be seen to work fairly and openly else people lose confidence in it and take matters into their own hands.


June 16, 2008

Cars are just getting bigger… car parking spaces are getting smaller

Cars generally get bigger over time yet I read that planning concerns mandate that individual car parking spaces have been shrinking over the last few decades… It does suggest that we ought to be making an effort to park them better, maybe parking should be part of the driving test!...

Given that it is quite possible for three badly parked cars to use up 5 spaces, I would love to see more use made of the fork lift truck in removing said badly parked cars. It would be sweet revenge for all of those frustrations we experience when searching for space to leave the family motor. And, in a world where there never are enough parking spaces, wouldn’t it be wonderful to find out why so many spaces end up getting roped off for no apparent reason whatsoever!


Don't be afraid…

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.
You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
—David Lloyd George


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