Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Privatising Air-Sea Rescue Services.

One of the most idiotic decisions that has been made by this government is, in my view, the decision to privatise the air-sea helicopter rescue service which is at present provided by the R.A.F and the R.N.
See the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
What possible logic can there be or this decision? How can it possibly be in the best interests of this country?
It would seem that for some reason, the responsibility for such rescue work comes under the Ministry of Transport, and no doubt some bureaucrat has worked out that it will be cheaper, at least in  so far as his budget is concerned, to privatise the activity. No doubt each flight will require authorisation, thus providing more work for administrative staff (Mon-Fri 9am-4pm only!). Of course, such narrow-minded officials never consider the "overall picture" or the overall cost, just their own budget.
Now, I'm not suggesting that the decision is wrong just because Prince William says so, although I think he is right.
If one looks at the situation from a Military viewpoint, it is clear that our Services need an increased helicopter capacity for the various roles that they may have to undertake in the coming years. One of these roles is search and rescue, whether it is a seaman who has fallen overboard from a ship, or a soldier on the battlefield, with numerous other scenarios in between. You can neither acquire the helicopters to carry out such work in five minutes, nor can you instantly train the crew, and thus, if we are to continue to be a military power, we must be prepared to have such men and equipment available for instant deployment. We all should be aware of the time that it takes to train a rescue helicopter pilot from the snippets of news about Prince William's training which have appeared in the media.
So how do you train such crew, and more importantly, keep them fully trained?
When a country is nominally at a state of peace, military training is carried out by various exercises, which by their very nature, can never be true to life, as clearly under such circumstances no one wants to take any unnecessary risks. Such exercises are also very expensive and there is no visible result at the end of the day.
Presumably, for the rescue helicopter crews, exercises would involve picking up dummies and shifting them elsewhere. Even so, the cost of keeping the helicopter in the air is no less, it still has to be serviced and requires fuelling, etc. All that will probably be different, is that the military helicopters, which will still be required, will have a few less "Hours on the clock", and our military pilots.and less training for vital military roles.

The Telegraph states that the Minister's view is that the changes will provide a modern fleet of “fast, reliable helicopters” that would lead to “major improvements in the capability available from the present mix of helicopters”.  The minister said. It would also provide “a more reliable service”.

On the other hand, one might deduce that Ministers don't consider that the R.A.F. and the R.N. require a "modern fleet of fast, reliable helicopters” and that they will have to carry out their Military duties, as usual, with out-of-date equipment and minimal training.

Incidentally, the funding for one of the proposed bids will come from a consortium which includes the Royal Bank of Scotland. As RBS went broke and is now owned by the government, how comes it that it has the funds to provide this "modern fleet of fast, reliable helicopters”? Wouldn't it be better for the government to simply go out and buy them without using an intermediary?

To me the whole deal stinks, we are letting our Services down by using financial slight of hand to make it appear that spending has been cut, and then funding the helicopters by the back door. The main difference is that if the military purchased them, they would be available for general Service use should the need arise. As it is the country will own nothing, just as with our schools and hospitals bought under PFI agreements. Presumably it will also allow the RBS to appear to make a profit on the loan that it will be providing to fund the helicopters, which in turn will allow the government to return it to private ownership.

As I said, the deal stinks, and I'm not smelling AvGas or Jet Fuel!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Builders Part 6

The Builders had a week off last week, because the boss-man, Billy, was at the Ideal Home Exhibition. However work has resumed in earnest this week.
The framework has been erected and the roof structure installed on Monday, but I didn't realised that it would take so long to put in the glass. All the window and door glass is now in place and work has started on the roof, and the first significant snag has been encountered. Two of the angled panes of glass for the complex roof structure are the wrong size, and these need to go in before the panels higher up the roof.. No clue at the moment how long they will take to arrive. While this has been going on, the plumber has prepared the pipes for the radiators, and the electrician has been installing the wiring for the lights and power sockets.
Mrs EP has done the rounds of lighting showrooms - one problem is that numerous types of light bulbs are now being phased out (blame the EU), and of course for a glass roofed structure, one needs lamps that direct the light downward and don't attempt to illuminate the night sky!
What I did discover is that you can now get an equivalent of a standard 60 watt bulb comprising a small halogen lamp inside a standard 60 watt sized envelope with a bayonet cap. For the same light output it consumes a little less than the old bulb, but can hardly be considered "energy saving" in view of the extra materials and energy used in its manufacture, but it does escape the EU ban on standard tungsten 60 watt bulbs. Useful knowledge for when my stock of 60 watt bulbs runs out as we have about 15 currently in use around the house.

The "Strong" German Economy

Over the past months with the Euro crisis looming, everyone has believed that the German economy is strong and that Germany would be able to (or have to) support the Euro in order to prevent its collapse. One got the impression that the Bundesbank was stuffed so full of money that nothing could go wrong, at least as far as Germany is concerned.
But is this true?
The German government debt as a percentage of GDP is in excess of 80%, not significantly less than that of Spain. The prime minister of Luxembourg, where the ratio is a mere 20%, has said that he thinks that the level of German debt is troubling. 
Yesterday, the German Government tried to sell  €6 billion of government bonds but were left with some €2.35 billion unsold. Whether this was because investors were not prepared to buy them, or Germany was not prepared to pay higher interest rates is unclear, but what does seem to be clear is that investors are steering clear of the Euro. It has also become apparent that, far from the Bundesbank being stuffed with money, Germany is also borrowing billions to make ends meet. In cash terms, rather than as a percentage of GDP, Germany's indebtedness is probably the highest in the Eurozone.
Details are here (Der Spiegel):

 Or if you hold any Euro banknotes, perhaps you should consider this, from today's Telegraph

Monday, 21 November 2011

95% Mortgages

Remind me!
I thought that it was the reckless lending of the banks and other financial institutions which lead to the banking crisis and the Northern Rock and a number of other lenders going broke, both here and in Ireland. The institutions concerned were rightly castigated by the government for being insufficiently prudent in their lending. Don't we now have a state owned "Bad Bank" containing all the failed loans from the Northern Rock?
But it seems that this isn't enough, our government is now proposing to encourage such loans by underwriting 95% mortgages for those who can't save any more! The stated objective is to encourage the housing market and enable first time buyers to get on the housing ladder.
Whilst the objective might be laudable, I cannot believe that a person who can only manage to find 5% of the property price should be taking on a mortgage. Without even thinking of the interest, if the person has had difficulty in finding 5%, how on earth is he going to find  this amount, year on year, for a further 19 years?
Looking back some thirty plus years ago, mortgages were then in short supply, and most building societies at the time insisted that you had a significant amount of money in an account with them for six months or more before they would even consider putting you on their waiting list. Others wanted you to demonstrate that you were capable of making the estimated monthly payments by putting that sum into a regular savings account for an acceptable period, this frequently being a quite difficult requirement for anyone who was paying rent on existing accommodation. A 5% deposit, you're joking, 20% minimum maybe more!
Another point is that making mortgages more readily available is likely to inflate house prices, bringing us back to square one.
Again, before buying our present house, we  had agreed the details and selling price of our previous one with a local estate agent and I was to go in Saturday morning and sign the agreement. On the Thursday the Bank of England reduced the bank rate by quite a bit, and when I went in, the agent said that he'd increased the asking price because buyers would be able to afford a bit more and more buyers could be entering the market.
In other terms, a house has no absolute value, it is merely the amount that someone wanting to buy a property of that type can manage to borrow. Make it easier to borrow, and up goes the price.

So what will the government achieve? It's proposed action seems unlikely to genuinely help first-time buyers as more people will be able to enter the market. At the same time it could leave the taxpayer with a load of bad debts.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Why Socialism will never work!

I was rather taken with this article from "The Commentator"
It explains the flaws of equality in terms that the simplest students might understand!

The Newspapers

I gave up buying a newspaper on a regular basis some while ago when my subscription to the Telegraph ran out and I decided to read the news on-line for a while and see how this compared with the real thing. Now I must make it clear, my interests do not extend to the so-called "celebs", to pop stars or to reality TV shows. Nor do I have that much interest in sport and none in all the sporting scandals. I have been to one football match in my life, in Sweden, because my business host at the time thought it appropriate for an English guest!
The advantage of reading the news on line is that I have set up RSS feeds from those papers that I prefer to read, and can then scan down the headings to see if there is anything of interest. I don't feel that I have to read it all from cover to cover because I've paid good money for the paper and must get my value out of it! I tend to miss the crosswords and Mrs EP misses the Sudoko, but as a book of these costs about the same as a daily paper, there is no problem. So now, I just buy one of the Saturday papers which has a TV supplement for the week, and so save a few hundred pounds a year!

Reading the news on-line also has the advantage that if something happens in another country and you have an interest in the matter, you can invariably find a local English language paper to provide more details. With Germany and the EU being in the news at the moment, one can read various German viewpoints in Der Spiegel which produces an on-line version in English.

Would I go back to buying a Newspaper on a regular basis? It seems unlikely unless one should revert to being just that, a newspaper. It would need to contain real factual, hopefully unbiased, news from around the world and confine issues such as the winner of "Big Brother" to not more than a small paragraph at the bottom of page five.

And as I've mentioned Der Spiegel, I thought that I should quote this from yesterday's on line edition
"The German statesman Otto von Bismarck once said that only fools learned from their own mistakes -- he preferred to learn from the mistakes of others. At the moment, no politician or adviser in Europe has bothered to learn the lessons of the Argentine or Asian debt crises. Indeed, in Europe, they aren't even learning from their own mistakes."

Bismark had something there!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Autumn in the Woods

I went for a walk through our small wood this morning on the way to get my morning newspaper; a lovely day for walking, the temperature was just right and there was just a gentle breeze.
I thought I'd try out the camera on my newly acquired iPod, these are my first attempts.

I don't think the camera (or is it the display) does justice to the colours, but except for the evergreens, most of the leaves have now fallen and the muddy path is well hidden. You could be in the depths of a great forest. were it not for the noise of the motorway traffic in the distance!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Neville Chamberlain or Winston Churchill?

David Cameron has gone off to Berlin today for talks about the EU and its finances with Angela Merkel.
I wonder if he is using Neville Chamberlain or Winston Churchill as his role model?

Will he decide to appease the Germans, and come back having acceded to their wishes waving the equivalent of Chamberlain's piece of  paper, "Peace in our Time"?
Or is this the point when he decides that "enough is enough" and decides to emulate Churchill  and make it clear exactly what he wants - unconditional surrender.

Today's papers seem to make Germany's position quite clear.
The Telegraph headlines "German attempt to derail UK poll" seems clear enough, with the on-line Telegraph giving details here.

The current on-line headline is "German finance minister predicts end of pound as PM meets Merkel".
Wolfgang Schäuble says all of EU will have a common currency  "sooner than people in the British Isles believe", as David Cameron arrives in Berlin for tense talks with Angela Merkel.
This is also reported in the Mail

Elsewhere the Telegraph reveals that, according to a leaked German government document. the Germans want "An intrusive European body with the power to take over the economies of struggling nations should be set up to tackle the eurozone crisis."
As in 1939, many of the other countries in the EU seem to have surrendered or are on the point of capitulation. I wonder how the people of the erstwhile eastern bloc countries are feeling, having rid themselves of their most recent oppressor only to find that their previous invader is now in charge? I wonder how the Danes and the Dutch feel about all this? One might expect Sweden to remain neutral as before and make a substantial profit out of the situation, and France will in due course get a new Vichy style government. Ireland, Spain and Portugal will continue to sit on their fences.

I hope that it will be the equivalent of this picture we see after Cameron's talks

But I fear that it will be the one at the top of the page.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

World War One and my Father

Every Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts always turn towards the First World War rather than more recent wars. There were of course more British fatalities in this war than there have been in all the subsequent conflicts, and it was after this war that the tradition of the Remembrance Sunday
was borrn. Then my thoughts always seem to turn to my father, born in 1899, who served in the closing stages of the war. He never spoke about his experiences, all I know was that he was in the Machine Gun Corps and for a period in the trenches he was attached to a regiment of Australians for whom he had great respect.

After the war, he qualified as a accountant and, presumably because he spoke German as his father was Swiss, he secured a job with the Bayer Products, the British subsidiary of the giant Bayer chemical company. He, and my mother, went to Germany numerous times in the late twenties and thirties and on one occasion he visited Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden, I don't know if he actually met Hitler!

What he did do during this period was to develop a deep contempt for all our politicians and particularly the pacifists who were pushing disarmament. The only exception was Churchill, who at that time was "out in the cold" for advocating rearmament. As my father frequently told me, in his later years, if you had travelled around Germany at that time as he did, you would have seen all the signs of a country preparing for war. They were devoting massive amounts of effort and money into building the autobahns, far more than could possibly be justified by the number of vehicles using them.
But it seems that most of our politicians of that time were totally blind to what the didn't want to see; Churchill was the main exception and because of this was branded a warmonger. In his memoirs, Churchill frequently refers to "information that I have received from Germany" and similar phrases. I like to think that my father was possibly one of those supplying information, although it seems unlikely.
I do know, at the start of the war when the government asked anyone who had any recent photographs taken in Germany to forward them to the War Office, my father supplied a considerable number. I don't know if this was amongst them, my parents are in the second row, just behind the arrowed girl in the white dress.

What would my father think of our politicians today?
Like those of the thirties, most of them seem to prefer to ignore reality. They have taken us into an unwinnable war in Afghanistan and prefer to ignore the realities of what is happening in Europe. They have reduced our military to such an extent that they couldn't possibly defend the Falklands, let alone this country. They refuse to accept that we now have an enemy within due to mass immigration or that Germany remains a threat to Europe, using money this time rather than tanks. And more to the point, if they turn out to be wrong, like Chamberlain, where is the latter day "Churchill" to take over?
Is it any surprise that I, like my father before me, hold the majority of our politicians of all parties in total contempt?
- - o o O o o - -

As a side issue, if there is anyone reading this who has any contacts in Switzerland who might be able to help me find more about my grandfather, Johan Schütz, whom according to the 1911 census was born in Fribourg, Switzerland around 1865, please contact me.

Remembrance Sunday

I have just returned from the Remembrance Sunday services at our War Memorial and afterwards in the Parish Church. We rang the half-muffled bells for about twenty minutes before the service started outside at the War Memorial. A small military contingent was present from the Defence School of Languages - all officers with a much decorated NCO to parade them. The Royal British Legion provided a small band and veterans wearing their medals along with the local cadets, scouts and guides provided an impressive turnout. This year the crowds there seemed bigger than ever, and the church was packed afterwards. We sung the hymns that I had learnt and sung at school assembly almost every day of my childhood during the war years. The whole ceremony was very impressive, the more so because of the numbers present.

Returning home, I read John Redwood's daily blog.
He writes about the futility of the first World War and asks why it was fought. It was in no way a "necessary and worthwhile war", there was no ideological reason for our involvement, it was a Balkans war which developed into a Franco-German war and nothing to do with us; we were safe on our side of the English Channel and had no reason to get involved. There was no imperative as with the Second World War; when we had to fight to preserve our independence.

Today, I fully agree with every word that John Redwood says. What he does not say is that to many people in this country the war in Afghanistan is as futile as the First World War, and lives are being needlessly lost for no discernible purpose. There is no idealogical reason (unless you regard it as a war against Islam, and if so why start there?), and it lacks the imperative of being a "necessary and worthwhile war". On this day, more than ever, I ask why our military forces are there.

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Border Controls - Traitorous Officials

The other day I suggested that our borders were being compromised not so much by Mrs May or indeed by the Head of the Borders Agency, but by officials who owed no loyalty to this country.

Today, the Telegraph reports that an official who wrongfully issued "scores" of visas in exchange "tens of thousands of pounds" faces prison after being found guilty of "misconduct in a public office". Samuel Shoyeju, 53, who is of African descent was a senior border official at the agency’s head office in Croydon, where he vetted African applicants for British passports,
Presumably he is a British Citizen; in my view we should re-think our Treason Laws and charge such people with treason for acting against the interests of this country rather than the minor charge of "misconduct in a public office".

And how many more are there like him, still in their jobs?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Euro Crisis.

I have a great idea for solving the Euro Crisis!
Instead of Greece dropping out the Eurozone, followed in due course bty Italy, then Portugal, Spain and Ireland, why don't France and Germany form a new currency, the "FrancMatk" and leave the Eurozone themselves?
The Euro could then be allowed  to fall in value, just as the Drachma and the Lira did in the good old days, allowing the countries' debts to decrease in value as they did in the past, solving all their problems and at the same time providing cheap holidays for us British.
Better for Germany and France to leave in a planned orderly manner, than the others to leave one by one in chaos.
Stable countries like Holland and Sweden would be able to decide which group to stay with, or even perhaps join the Sterling Zone.

Just a (late night) thought!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Brussels - Just like Moscow in the old days.

Surely I'm not the only person to see the great similarity between the actions of Moscow before the iron curtain was finally demolished and the actions of Brussels now.

According to Mary Ellen Synon, in her blog in the Daily Mail, Brussels believes that it is perfectly in order for them to demand "Governments of National Unity" in countries taking the bailouts. Governments of National Unity, are, of course where they have a coalition, regardless of the wishes of the people, and where there is no effective opposition in their Parliaments.

She says (slightly edited) that
According to both Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of  Luxembourg, and head of the eurogroup, and Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner in charge of the bail-outs, it is not at least out of order. Rehn claims that, all the eurozone member states in the 'programmes' -- that is, taking the bail-outs and submitting to control by EU/ECB/IMF bureaucrats, and those are Ireland, Portugal and Greece so far (stand by for the big one, Italy) -- have governments of national unity.
She also notes that
Juncker and Rehn insisted last night that the new government of national unity, the moment it is formed, must sign a letter promising to accept the entire rescue (some rescue) deal agreed last month at the summit, otherwise no money will be paid over, not even the amounts already agreed under the earlier, second bailout.

Well doesn't this seem to be exactly the same as the old Soviet bloc?
Romania had a "government of national unity" under Nicolae Ceausescu and East Germany had one under Erich Honecker., who only held their posts courtesy of Moscow.

Now it seems that Greece is going to have a similar type of government where, to put it in perspective,  we just need to substitute the word "Brussels" for "Moscow".  Prospective Greek dictators should perhaps just bear in mind that Ceausescu was executed when the people decided that they'd had enough of him, and that the Greek people have never been slow to get out onto the streets and show their feelings!

Clearly the only difference is that Moscow used tanks to enforce its will, whilst Brussels uses money, much of it coming from unwilling British taxpayers

Nicolas Sarkozy calls Benjamin Netanyahu a 'liar'

This of course has been reported in all media, I merely take my headline from the Telegraph.

So What?  -   I thought all politicians without exception were liars!
I'd much rather read "Politician tells the Truth"!
But if this ever happens, it will only be a backbencher, never a Minister.

I also see Sarkozy's remark as illustrating the on-going French anti-Semitism  Unlike the German nation which has admitted what happened during WW2 and which has done its best to try to make amends ever since, the French have never recognised the extent of their involvement or made any amends.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Immigration Controls

I've been reading the various reports on the "easing" of immigration controls, and my instinct is to suggest that the critics are aiming at the wrong target.

When I have returned home through Heathrow or Gatwick during the past five years or so, I cannot recall one occasion when my passport was inspected by someone whom I would describe of ethnic British descent. I recall the first occasion very clearly, many years ago, when it was examined by a woman wearing  sari, who in spite of my British Passport asked me if I was normally resident in the UK. Frankly, I was quite shocked at the time.

Now I don't doubt the loyalty of 99% or more of our immigration and passport control officers, but it only needs one individual whose loyalties lie elsewhere, to let in an unknown number of unwanted undesirables. At Heathrow this would be particularly easy, an officer could advise an immigrant when he was on duty, it would be quite easy for someone to hang around in the transit lounge until the appropriate time, and then choose the queue where the contact is inspecting passports.
We have already had cases of visas being wrongfully issued, I believe someone of Nigerian descent was involved in a recent case, and before that, an employee at our Embassy in Delhi.
Some countries (amongst them Switzerland, so I am informed) require all border control personnel to have been born in  the country of parents who were also born there.

Some unwanted immigrants may have got into the country whilst controls were relaxed (but they would have needed to know that this was happening), but I am far more concerned about those being let in by corrupt or disloyal officers in the Border Control Agency and other immigration services.

The Builders - Part 5

The on-going conservatory building has been hit by the weather, but they are here in force this morning, although it is still drizzling outside. The parapet of our flat roofed single story lounge has to be modified and raised to accommodate the pitched roof of the conservatory, which requires work on the roofing felt. The remains of the old patio is being cleared ready for  the new block paving to match that at the side and front of the house and the brickie is continuing with the dwarf wall for the new structure.
I'm videoing the work as it proceeds, I'm going to try my hand at a mini-documentary!

I'm not to happy with my newly acquired iPod. I wanted it mainly as a personal organiser, but so far I can't manage to import my address book and appointments. Seems that Windows and Apple don't talk to each other!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Today's News - Instant thoughts

1. Major Road Accident on the M3
All those who are opposing the increase in the motorway speed limit are out in force filling the newspaper comments space with "See, we told you so" before it has even been changed. So far evidence suggests that it was probably caused by a heavy mist and vehicles suddenly braking on a wet road causing jack-knifed lorries. Speed may have been excessive for the conditions, but was unlikely to be more than the speed limit. But then facts don't matter if you are opposed to something.

2. Head of the UK Borders Agency suspended along with two senior staff for unauthorised reductions in the level of passport control.
According to the Mail he has "Previous" both with UKBA and when Governor of Whitemoor maximum security prison when some IRA men obtained guns and escaped.
Likely outcome? Rather than face investigation and embarrassing enquiries, he will probably be allowed to retire "voluntarily" with a lump sum, probably three times his annual salary of £135,000. Within three months he will be working elsewhere, probably for an NHS Trust. Ditto the other two senior staff.

3. Greek Prime Minister wins confidence vote and will try to form a government of National Unity.
What changes? No referendum and a government that is unlikely to be able to push through any austerity measures without riots. Market uncertainty continues.

4. George Osborne says Britain 'will not contribute disproportionately' to bolstered IMF fighting fund.
That means that we WILL contribute proportionately.  And proportionately to what? Last time we paid more than our fair share "to maintain our status and influence" This failed and we certainly have no influence and our status is probably that of "Mugs".
Somewhat different from what Cameron said the previous day; it now seems that there is unlikely to be a parliamentary vote on the increased contribution as Cameron is claiming that it was covered by the previous one. Not surprising as Labour would vote against, as, one might assume, would the 81 Tory euro-rebels.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Vince Cable and Confidential Information

The Telegraph reports that Vince Cable has left confidential information in bins outside his constituency office.
Seems that he just doesn't live in the real world. For years the public have been told to shred any confidential documents because of the problems of identity theft and most people that I know are doing so. Shredders are available quite cheaply now, but in any case he would probably be able to charge the cost of one to expenses.
One can only conclude that he is just plain stupid. and I hope that the Information Commissioner's Office finds that he has breached data protection laws and fines him appropriately as he will hardly be able to charge that to expenses!

The Builders, Part 4

Good progress was made yesterday, The full height end wall was built, and the dwarf wall for the rest was built to damp course level. They were hoping to finish the brickwork today, but the rain is simply tipping down, and the forecast is not encouraging. I can't blame the builders for this delay!
Next week doesn't look much better.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Builders, Part 3

They have been and gone for today.
Yesterday they demolished the remains of the dwarf wall, broke up the old concrete floor with Kango hammers (hence the noise), and started digging. Today, they finished the foundation trench and had filled it with cement by lunchtime, so no more can be done until it is firm enough to start bricklaying, tomorrow, hopefully, if the weather is OK.
It's nice and peaceful now. Mrs EP has decided to go shopping at M&S, using her pensioner's bus pass (she won't park the car in a multi-story park, I'm not needed, hence the bus).
So I've ordered myself an iPod Touch from Amazon to replace my ancient HP iPaq organiser, it'll probably cost less than the shopping expedition!


So Greece is to have a referendum early next year to find out whether the country should accept the EU austerity measures. Whoops, that's really upset the apple cart! The EU doesn't "do" referenda, that's for democratic countries, not those under the Brussels dictatorship.
To an outsider it would seem virtually certain that the people will vote against the EU proposals, the more so because they are German inspired, I've never been to mainland Greece, but have visited the islands for a couple of holidays, and even there, where they rely on tourists, the anti-German sentiment still appeared quite strong, in spite of it now being some 65 years since the end of the war. Yesterday, posters, in German, parodying the Nazi slogan "Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer" were displayed in some towns. Meanwhile, top Military leaders in Greece have been replaced by the government, but we are assured that this is NOT because of a potential Military coup.

The Daily Mail lists what will be expected of the Greeks as a result of the deal
  • Income tax threshold would be lowered from €12,000 (£10,300) to €5,000 (£4,300)
  • Retirement age would be raised from 61 to 65
  • VAT would rise from 19 to 23 per cent
  • Higher property taxes
  • Monthly pensions above €1,000 (£860) would be cut by 20 per cent
  • Excise on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol would rise by a third
  • To qualify for a full pension people would be required to complete 40 years work
  • Retirees aged under 55 would lose 40 per cent of their pensions over €1,000 (£860)
  • Public sector wages would be cut by 20 per cent
  • Employees of state-owned enterprises would have their wages cut by 30 per cent
  • A cap would be introduced on wages and bonuses
  • 30,000 civil servants would be suspended on partial pay
  • All temporary contracts for public sector workers would be terminated.
  • Just one in 10 civil servants retiring this year would be replaced
  • New levies on household incomes of between one and five per cent

The observant readers will note that there is nothing in the list about Greeks actually paying their income tax! Apparently there are few people who declare having an income of greater that 30,000 euros,and yet there are more Porches per capita in Greece than in  Germany!

Meanwhile, back in  Germany their Foreign Minister says "[What] we just agreed last week cannot be placed back on the table,", which in itself says a lot about the EU's concept of Democracy. I always believed that when heads of Government met and reached agreements, these were always, in a democracy, subject to Parliamentary approval in each country concerned. Apparently not in German style democracy, once your Fuhrer has decided, you will do what he says whether you like it or not !

I wouldn't pretend to understand international high finance, but it seems that the Eurozone governments have two choices
Firstly, to give Greece billions more money and write off their debts in order to fund their profligacy. What would be the likely costs? Germany suggests that the agreements reached last week will solve the problem albeit at a cost of billions to the Eurozone and to the IMF, an organisation to which the UK contributes.
Secondly, to allow Greece to default and drop out of the Euro. There are those who say that Greece could default and stay in the Euro, but I haven't seen anyone explain how this might be achieved. The cost here will be that the governments concerned will have to write of all the loans given so far, as will a large number of banks.
I favour the second solution; Greece is blackmailing the Eurozone. Of the Daily Mail list, only the increase in VAT will actually bring in more money in the short term, all the others are potential savings in expenditure if they actually take place. Anyway blackmailers always come back for more!
Allowing or forcing Greece to leave the Euro with Greece presumably bringing in the "New Drachma"  will cause enormous losses to governments and banks, but at least it would be a one time event which will be quantifiable and not recurring, unless, of course one of the other southern European countries follows the same course.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Builders, Part 2

On schedule so far. the old conservatory was down in  half a day. The foundation squad arrived today at 7.30! The dwarf brick wall has been knocked down and we now know it had no real foundations! The floor now being dug up, and there was no proper damp course.
It's a good job I didn't accept the quotation which merely proposed to extend the existing dwarf wall and then level up the floor by flooding cement over the whole area. No doubt the cost of putting in proper foundations would have been "extra".

The noise makes it hard to think! It's even hard to read and comprehend the news so any serious blogging is out of the question!