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Niall Ferguson on the economic crisis

By Tom Papworth
January 29th, 2010 at 6:30 pm | 10 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

“Though superficially this crisis seems like a defeat for Smith, Hayek, and Friedman, and a victory for Marx, Keynes, and Polanyi, that might well turn out to be wrong. Far from having been caused by unregulated free markets, this crisis may have been caused by distortions of the market from ill-advised government actions: explicit and implicit guarantees to supersized banks, inappropriate empowerment of rating agencies, disastrously loose monetary policy, bad regulation of big insurers, systematic encouragement of reckless mortgage lending — not to mention distortions of currency markets by central bank intervention.”

- Niall Ferguson,  ”Dead Men Walking“, Foreign Policy. 

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B-Day ! Blair at the Iraq inquiry

By Angela Harbutt
January 29th, 2010 at 9:30 am | 3 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

blair-proestors-chilcott-2Ok its go go go….

I for one am fixed to my desk. TV on BBC, PC on Sky with windows open for Guardian /Politics Home and Times blogs.

More police than protestors outside – and probably more media than police. Constant buzz of the overhead helicopter adding interesting sound effect to TV and radio news reports.

I am not going to blog minute by minute updates – more gifted people than I are doing that.  For info I have found the following that all look like good options:  Guardian live blog, The Times’ live blog, Channel 4′s Iraq Inquiry blogger on Twitter, The Daily Telegraph’s live blog, Iraq Inquiry Digest’s live blog, Sky News Twitter feedFT’s Westminster Blog,Politics Home live blog. Doubtless there are others.

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Lib Dem Measurement Fascist strikes again….

By Angela Harbutt
January 28th, 2010 at 3:24 pm | 22 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Greg Mulholland clearly has “Measurement Mania”.  Having sought to ban the word “regular” from our coffee shops last week, he has now gone on record welcoming the law requiring pubs to serve small (125ml) glasses of wine alongside larger measures.

EDM 737  27/01/10

“That this House welcomes the introduction of the law, within the Mandatory Code of Practice, requiring pubs, bars and other similar establishments to offer the choice of a 125ml measure of wine alongside larger measures; notes that this follows campaigning since the introduction of the Sale of Wine (Measures) Bill in 2008 and a campaign by the Good Pub Guide also supported by a number of other organisations; believes that obliging venues to offer 125ml size measures gives consumers greater choice by allowing them to order smaller as well as larger size glasses of wine; further believes that this will help standardise wine measures so that it would be better understood that 125ml is a small measure of wine, 175ml medium and 250ml large; further notes that this will mean people will have a better idea of how much they are drinking at any venue; further believes that this is a simple and effective method of increasing alcohol awareness amongst wine drinkers; further notes that this measure need not mean using 125ml sized glasses of wine but that this measure can be dispensed in a 175ml glass with a measure; and looks forward to the implementation of this policy so that consumers everywhere have real choice of wine glass measures everywhere they go”.

This statement refers to the Home Office Mandatory Code Of Practice for alcohol retailers which will, subject to Parliamentary timetable, introduce the following mandatory licensing conditions for pubs, clubs etc: Banning irresponsible promotions;Banning pouring drinks directly into the mouths of customers;Ensuring free tap water for customers; and Ensuring that all on trade premises offer small measures of beers, wine and spirits to customers.

The last of these measures – the one that Greg Mulholland commends to the House - will have no meaningful effect on drinking levels in this country nor on the takings or profits of the pubs. 

Even so it’s annoying and pretty absurd that yet again this Government is telling people its not their fault if they get rat-faced, but somehow the retailers. And I cant see for the life of me why the Home Office thinks that the minority of people hell-bent on going out on a Friday night with the sole aim of getting legless will somehow now desist because there is a mandated option of a small glass of wine on the menu. As for stopping drinks promotions in pubs, that will simply result in people drinking copious amounts away from the scrutiny of responsible landlords. Then go to the pub! The world has gone barking mad. 

Speaking of which, the bit that intrigues me in Greg Mulholland’s EDM is the bit  I highlighted in blue (above).Arrgh!!!  Does anyone know where,when and why an otherwise bright, sane Lib Dem MP turned into the Measurement Facist of old London Town?

Chris Huhne was talking last week about the swathes of needless legislation that has been introduced by this Government over the last decade when current laws exist already to deal with the issues raised? So. If it is true as the Home Office says “The majority of alcohol retailers behave responsibly, but a minorityconduct irresponsible promotions or practices – the mandatory code will stop these where they take place.“, then Councils already have the power they need to stop the irresponsible few – withdraw their licences. End of.. Why the need for MORE legislation? And why is Greg Mulholland praising something that Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary must surely condemn?

Methinks someone should take Greg to a quiet corner and give him a chill pill.

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Obama – it’s the economy stupid

By Angela Harbutt
January 28th, 2010 at 1:53 pm | No Comments | Posted in US Politics

obama-state-of-the-unionI stayed up late last night to watch the President’s State of the Union address. A year in and Barack Obama has seen his approval ratings plummet. Then again this was a man who a year ago people thought was god. It seemed that just by voting for Obama, Americans believed all their woes would be over.

When they woke up and found it took a bit more than that,  the nation was shocked and appauled. Superman had been hit with a large chunk of kryptonite and things were not all mother and apple pie at the ranch. So this was a speech designed to appeal to the middle classes of America who have shown through poll ratings – and that Massachusettes Massacre – that they expected better. They care more about jobs than healthcare reform (or more accurately “insurance reform”). Surprise surprise.

Overall it was a sound if unthrilling speech -a bit of an acknowledgement that he and his administration could do better, and quite a bit of finger wagging at the Republicans, the pundits and the media for not pulling together more. It was probably too long – and probably tried to cover too many things. It wasnt a bad speech, I dont think Obama can do a bad speech, but it wasnt a great speech.

If  Obama is capable of such a thing as a u-turn this was it. Obama has at last realised that what matter is jobs. Yes folks, it’s the economy stupid. Healthcare was indeed in yesterdays speech - but it was jobs, wealth creation, and tax incentives for business that featured prominently in the opening of his address. Obama has definitely got the message. “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that’s why I’m calling for a new jobs bill tonight” received the most rapturous applause of the speech as far as I could tell. He proposed small business tax credits on creating jobs and raising salaries; abolishing all capital gains tax on investment for small businesses and tax incentives for all businesses. (This comes after the “big spend”  jobs bill passed with the smallest of majorities in December, including some big infrastructure spending, ran into problems in the Senate. Even Democrats are running out of enthusiasm for more spending). Ok we might have heard the tax breaks for businesses line before in his campaign promises – and not acted on for a 12 months – but by jove I think he’s finally got it.

You will doubtless have read much more thorough analysis elsewhere that cover in detail the other speech highlights; cutting the defecit from 2011( the fact that it wont start for another year brought audible giggles from the floor); education; lots of green energy investment;  another predicatable swipe at Wall Street; another (equally predictable) call for bipartisanship ( have the Republicans not already made it clear that they dont want to play?) and an attack on the Supreme Court ruling last week that gutted Campaign Finance restrictions etc.

What I was looking for as much as anything was his style of delivery – his tone. Serious and repentent, acknowledging he was wrong to spend so much effort on healthcare reform and bail outs and not enough on jobs and the economy? Or the unflappable Obama of old, cool and confident.

His tone was probably about right. Relaxed (no sign of nerves here) but sombre for large swathes of the speech. Its a marginal call but I think a tad too cocky and a shade light on humility – though it, and some self-deprecation, were there to be seen – but quite definitely defiant in his attitude towards the Republicans ( a kind of “play with me or else” approach). He may have taken a few blows in the last 12 months, but he certainly looks like a man still up for the fight. One thing that struck me in particular - his advisors would have been wise to school Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi not to sit there looking quite so smug – grinning like cheshire cats. Not good given their end of year report was definitely a D/E . It is perhaps odd that having spent so much time on his speech, as has been reported, he didn’t take more time to sort out that back line - especially as they were in shot for the vast proportion of his speech.  

So, America is moving, it would seem, towards more business friendly times – and the sobering realisation that it must now turn its attention to the trillion of dollars of debt it has amassed.

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“That credit crunch ain’t a liquidity trap, just a broke banking system, I’m done – that’s a rap.”

By Julian Harris
January 26th, 2010 at 12:34 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in Economics

Back on my now-virtually-dormant blog, I posted a rap video from across the pond to mark the start of the US stimulus package, kicked off by the legendary George W. Bush.

Now that we’re further in these stimulus attempts, I’m delighted to bring you a follow-up, to aid your understanding of the ideological Keynes v Hayek battle.

Enjoy…

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