Sunday, 29 January 2012

The great EU conjuring trick

"In 2004, with Greece a member of the euro, the conjuring trick was becoming transparent. A new, centre-right government was elected, with Peter Doukas appointed Budget Minister. “I asked the senior staff of the ministry to give me details of the budget that had been passed the previous December,” says Doukas. “I said don’t worry about persecution or anything, just tell me the true story.” The difference between the published deficit and the real one was huge. “[It] was about 7 per cent of GDP. The budget said the deficit was 1.5 per cent. The real shortfall was 8.3 per cent.” Under the Maastricht treaty, member states must keep their budget deficits below 3 per cent of GDP.

So what did he do? “I said we should start chopping down the budget. But the answer I got at the time was: 'We have the Olympic Games in a few months and we cannot upset the whole population and have strikes and everything just before the Olympic Games.’” To meet the deficit, Greece borrowed and borrowed. Banks queued up to lend. The markets did not believe there was a risk of default because Greece’s currency was locked into that of Germany."

Saturday, 28 January 2012

How I woke up to the untruths of Barack Obama

Christopher Booker of The Sunday Telegraph
"I recalled a piece I wrote in this column on January 29, 2009, just after Obama took office. It was headlined: “This is the sub-prime house that Barack Obama built”. As a rising young Chicago politician in 1995, no one campaigned more actively than Mr Obama for an amendment to the US Community Reinvestment Act, legally requiring banks to lend huge sums to millions of poor, mainly black Americans, guaranteed by the two giant mortgage associations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It was this Act, above all, which let the US housing bubble blow up, far beyond the point where it was obvious that hundreds of thousands of homeowners would be likely to default. Yet, in 2005, no one more actively opposed moves to halt these reckless guarantees than Senator Obama, who received more donations from Fannie Mae than any other US politician (although Senator Hillary Clinton ran him close)."

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Why the US Web Piracy Bills walked the Plank – Kirsten Sjovoll

The International Forum for Responsible Media
"The Internet is one of civilisation’s most innovative creations and while it cannot be used as a vehicle for criminal activity protected by an immunity of “freedom”, it should not be used as a vehicle for state censorship and heavy handed restrictions on the information it holds. Quite how the balance is going to be struck is a question even Wikipedia doesn’t yet hold the answer to."

Monday, 23 January 2012

Pay as little tax as Tony Blair

Yahoo News

"Tony Blair pays just £315,000 tax on an income of £12 million. Robert Powell explains how he does it and looks at ways you can reduce your tax bill by following the former PM’s levy-restricting methods..."

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Thousands of EU students fail to repay loans

"Official figures show that 45 per cent of students from European Union countries who were liable to start repaying loans had disappeared or were in arrears as of last April. The findings will raise concerns that many of the students, who qualify for subsidised Government loans to cover the cost of tuition fees, could effectively gain a degree for free. By contrast, only two per cent of UK students who were eligible to start repayments had disappeared or were in arrears. Many more had been permitted to defer their repayments because their salaries were below a set threshold. Many of the EU students had returned to their home countries and either failed to inform the Student Loan Company (SLC) of their whereabouts or let their repayments drop. The total outstanding debt liable to be repaid by EU borrowers at the end of 2009/10 was £47.4 million, according to the Department for Business (BIS), which published the figures."

Why should broke Britain bankroll immigrant spongers?

"A couple of days ago I posted on the heartwarming story of Firuta Vasile, 27 – the Roma woman with four children who came to Britain five years ago, claims not to have been able to find work except as a Big Issue seller, and currently snaffles in excess of £25,000 in benefits, courtesy of the British taxpayer. And who has just snaffled another £2,500 in housing benefit having argued – through an interpreter, also funded by you, the British taxpayer, and with the support of a Welfare Benefits Adviser called Andy King – that this is no more than her fair entitlement.


What shocked me almost more than the story itself was the reaction from some of our menagerie of trolls."

370,000 migrants on the dole

"The figures are likely to reopen the debate over the generosity of the welfare system amid growing concerns that the country has become a destination for “benefit tourists”.

Stop this abuse of British hospitality

Daily Mail
"This week provided a series of deeply troubling pieces of evidence of Britain’s inability to control who lives here. In Walthamstow, east London, eight Moldovans occupied the family home of Janice Mason – but the police refused to help because squatting is a civil, not criminal, matter. The horrific case of Victor Akulic, who was convicted in Lithuania of raping a child, before travelling to the UK under EU free movement rules and sexually attacking a new victim, prompted Appeal Court judge Lady Justice Hallett to ask: ‘Do we let in just anyone?’ Meanwhile, in a case involving a man who was allowed to make 16 asylum appeals, an exasperated Lord Justice Ward scalded a system in which asylum seekers go ‘up and down on the merry-go-round leaving one wondering when the music will ever stop.’ Most disturbingly, Abu Qatada – regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists – was spared deportation to Jordan in case his human rights may be breached, and will soon be back on the streets, claiming benefits."

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The horrifying graph that shows why Britain's debt addiction now equals FIVE TIMES national GDP and why we face a decade of austerity

Daily Mail
"Britain has the highest level of debt among the major economies bar Japan, research has found. Over the past three years it has risen to more than 500 per cent of national output. The alarming rise since the height of the financial crisis has been fuelled by debt in the financial sector as people seek to borrow their way out of the economic slump, according to consultancy McKinsey. Even at current trends it will take until 2020 for the UK to return to pre-2003 debt levels."

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tony Blair's fortune to treble to £45million next year

"The former PM and wife Cherie are building up a property empire and Mr Blair now plans to maximise his earnings over the next two years. .....His earnings this year alone could hit £15million, on top of the estimated £15million he has raked in since standing aside as PM in 2007. A ­further £15million next year through Mr Blair’s jobs, ­ speeches and expanding property empire would take his estimated family fortune to £45million. ......“Many of Tony and Cherie’s friends now are extremely wealthy and they both enjoy moving in those sort of social circles. But that takes serious cash.” Mr Blair’s millions are paid into a complex network of companies involving up to 12 different bodies – making his exact riches hard to calculate."

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Inside the intriguing world of Tony Blair Incorporated

"It is easy to walk past the anonymous, Georgian townhouse in central London without giving it a second glance. But the five-storey building on Grosvenor Square, close to the American embassy, is home to a multi-million pound industry with tentacles that reach across the globe. ......In all, about 100 people are based there, although insiders say it is often much quieter because so many of his staff, among them several former Downing Street aides, are travelling at any one time. The offices, once the home of John Adams, the second US president who established the first American mission in London, are rented at a cost of £550,000 a year on a 10-year lease. They cover almost 6,000 sq ft.

Mr Blair is rarely present, turning up perhaps once a month. An analysis by The Sunday Telegraph of his travels, garnered from published sources, shows that in 12 months Mr Blair made 61 trips abroad totalling almost 224,000 miles – the equivalent of travelling to the moon.

A rough calculation suggests Mr Blair, who launched the charity Breaking the Climate Deadlock to combat global warming, has racked up 58 tons of CO₂ emissions in a year through jet travel alone. That’s about 30 times that of the average British adult.

Mr Blair may have travelled far more than that but these are the trips we know about. He is reckoned to spend as little as two months a year in the UK.

The trips, from April 1 2010 to March 31 last year, included frequent visits to Jerusalem, where he is a Middle East peace envoy; and to Africa, where his charities do much of their work. The US and China were also popular destinations. The trips occasionally appear to mingle business, philanthropy and pleasure."

Greece gets closer to brink of bankruptcy

"Fears are mounting that Greece could be the first European country to default on its debt in 60 years, as the country gears up to salvage collapsed talks over bond repayments on Wednesday."

Friday, 13 January 2012

Debt crisis: Eurozone back on the brink as France has credit rating downgraded


Humiliation of the French: After lecturing Britain on its finances, France is stripped of its gold-plated AAA credit rating

Daily Mail
"France was tonight stripped of its coveted AAA credit rating in a crushing humiliation for Nicolas Sarkozy. Leading ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut the French credit score by one notch to AA+ in a major setback to the President’s hopes of re-election. The downgrade – on Friday the 13th – came just a month after a bitter war of words broke out between Paris and London over the relative health of the French and British economies. Fears are also rising that the credit ratings of several other eurozone countries could soon be downgraded - prompting global markets to fall and the euro falling to a 16-month low."

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The irresistible case for England and Scotland remaining united

Daily Mail
"Will Scotland – which, assuming that it took responsibility for its share of total UK debt, would start life £140billion in the red – be immediately faced with a Greek-style borrowing crisis? Crucially, how will it cope without the estimated £10billion-a-year subsidy it receives from the English taxpayer – money Mr Salmond uses to fund free care for the elderly and waive tuition fees? Indeed, experts say that even if all North Sea oil and gas revenues had been allocated to Scotland, the country would still have run a deficit for the past 18 years. Add these deeply serious warnings to the positive case for maintaining a union which has served the English and Scottish people well for 300 years and Mr Cameron has an irresistible argument.

It is now up to him – and perhaps the less provocative advocates he selects – to persuade voters north of the Border. The Mail fervently hopes that, when confronted with what they stand to lose, the Scots will deliver a resounding No to Mr Salmond.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Daily Express
"GORDON BROWN faces calls to stand down as an MP because he has been on money-spinning engagements around the world and barely working for his constituents. The Scottish Sunday Express can today reveal the jet-setting ex-Prime Minister earned £1million in 2011 and spent up to 100 days on trips pursuing his own private business. He had 33 long-haul engagements, including speeches to bankers, billionaire investors and secret business syndicates, commanding fees of up to £60,000 a time.The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP also holds two part-time roles – chairman of a policy group at the World Economic Forum and “distinguished global leader in residence” at New York University.

In total, he was paid around £800,000 for his speaking engagements and other business last year, as well as more than £180,000 for air fares and hotels. Most fees were either paid to charity or to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown, which supports projects around the world. Many of the MP’s overseas trips – to cities such as Singapore, Las Vegas and Seoul – required him to be away from his Fife constituency for at least two nights. Mr Brown spoke in only two Westminster debates last year, on the Dalgety Bay radiation scare and an infamous appearance to attack News International during the phone hacking scandal. He asked 10 written questions and took part in 16 per cent of votes on 32 occasions.

By contrast, his busiest months in the international speaking calendar were April to June and September to November, both periods when Parliament was sitting. Dave Dempsey, leader of the Tory group on Fife Council, said yesterday: “Mr Brown should consider whether he is giving his constituents the service they deserve, and, if not, then he should give way to somebody else. For him to be spending that amount of time doing unrelated things sounds like his constituents are being short-changed.”
Among Mr Brown’s engagements last year was a speech to the World 50 group in New York, for which he was paid his standard £36,000 fee as well as flights and hotels worth £11,255. The World 50 is an invitation-only club for global tycoons and executives where members can plot their business dealings secretly “in an environment free from press, competition or solicitation”. In May, he gave a speech to a conference organised by investment firm Skybridge Capital at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas alongside George W Bush. Mr Brown again shared a platform with the former US President the following month, when both men addressed the Pershing Insite conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In October, he was paid £62,000 to address the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, South Korea, alongside former US Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Annabelle Ewing, the SNP MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said yesterday: “It won’t sit well with people in Kirkcaldy that Gordon Brown is travelling the world. He was elected to represent the people of Kirkcaldy at home and in the Commons and that should always come first.” H/T Guido Fawkes

Tony Blair's tiny tax bill and the foul stench of fat-cat greed

Daily Mail
"For instance, one private company with a sole owner declared an income last year of £12  million, but paid just £315,000 in corporation tax, after writing off ‘administrative expenses’ of nearly £11  million. Shocking, is it not? The owner, a Mr Blair, apparently conducts his business operations across several continents through a network of companies, most of which escape having to publish accounts.Their activities are perfectly legal. But they create a stench in the nostrils to compete with any banker’s body odour.

This Mr Blair could not, surely, be any relation of the Tony Blair who said in a 1994 speech when campaigning to become Opposition leader: ‘We must tackle abuse of the tax system. For those who can employ the right accountants, [it] is a haven of scams, City deals and profits.

We should not make our tax rules a playground for revenue avoiders and tax abusers who pay little or nothing, while others pay more than their share’.

But, of course, this is indeed the very same People’s Tony, in his new guise as a jet-setting multi-millionaire. His company Windrush Ventures is a pace-setter for those who earn vast rewards while contributing an astonishingly small proportion to the Britain he once governed.Blair’s ascent to riches suggests that the Titanic’s captain, had he survived the sinking, might have enjoyed a lucrative second career advising on maritime safety."

Monday, 9 January 2012

Tony Blair and the £8million tax 'mystery'

"Former Prime Minister Tony Blair channelled millions of pounds through a complicated web of companies and paid just a fraction in tax, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. ....Official accounts show a company set up by Mr Blair to manage his business affairs paid just £315,000 in tax last year on an income of more than £12 million. In that time, he employed 26 staff and paid them total wages of almost £2.3 million.

The accounts provide the strongest evidence yet of the huge sums generated by Mr Blair through his various activities since quitting Downing Street in June 2007.

He runs a business consultancy – Tony Blair Associates – which has deals with the governments of Kuwait and Kazakhstan among others and is a paid adviser to JP Morgan, an American investment bank, and to Zurich International, a global insurance company based in Switzerland. Mr Blair makes a further £100,000 a time from speeches and lectures while also presiding over a number of charities including a faith foundation.

Mr Blair has previously been criticised for cashing in on contacts made in Downing Street and these accounts will likely add to those concerns.

The documents also reveal that in the two years until March 31 last year, Mr Blair’s management company had a total turnover of more than £20 million and paid tax of about £470,000. "

Blair Inc: How Tony Blair makes his fortune

A coincidence? Youth unemployment rises 450,000 in the time it takes 600,000 migrant workers to flock to the UK

Daily Mail
"Migrant workers from the EU are keeping young Britons out of jobs, new figures suggest. Campaign group Migration Watch UK said statistics released today show the number of migrants working in the UK who were born in Eastern Europe rose by 600,000 since the so-called A8 countries joined the EU in May 2004 while youth unemployment rose by almost 450,000 in the same period. Sir Andrew Green, the campaign group's chairman, said it would be 'a very remarkable coincidence if there was no link at all between them'.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Aussies, Kiwis lead world in cannabis use

ABC (Australia)
"A new study shows Australia and New Zealand have the highest proportion of cannabis and amphetamine use in the world.The figures published by medical journal The Lancet show marijuana use in Australia is three times the global average, with amphetamine usage twice as common."

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Spanish economy in free-fall

"This does not come as a surprise to anyone but here are some interesting graphs about the Spanish economy, published by The Atlantic. ......I have noticed that there are more Spanish youngsters working in various low-skill jobs in London than there had been for years."

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Europe cannot save the euro, nor save itself from the euro

Christopher Booker,Telegraph
"One faint consolation in recent months has been the sight (as broadcast on YouTube) of Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip and of the Freedom and Democracy group in the European Parliament, repeatedly standing up in its front row to rub in the inescapable realities of this disaster only a few feet from those currently responsible for it – Barroso, President Van Rompuy and the leaders of the other political groupings in the parliament. These deflated apparatchiks simply stare ahead, dead-eyed and stony-faced, knowing just how powerless they are in the face of the unfolding tragedy.

We must not forget, however, that, when it comes to nations running up a debt out of control, our own Government is still having to borrow an additional £2.5 billion every week, just to fund its own overspending – which, despite all talk of “cuts”, still races upwards. Any moment now, our own national debt will top the £1 trillion mark, having more than doubled in six years. However damaging a disintegration of the euro may be to our economy in 2012, we also face a crisis we have brought upon ourselves – one for which our Government has no more of a real answer than do the impotent rulers of the eurozone."

You thought 2011 was tough?

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shaky Europe. Political gridlock. Volatile markets. Familiar themes for those who lived through 2011, and investors should be ready to revisit them next year.With a spiraling debt crisis in Europe, political upheaval around the world, and crumbling creditworthiness in major industrial nations, 2011 was a tough year to know where to invest. 2012 is unlikely to offer much respite."