Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How America is taxing the world

Towards the end of the second world war, major powers came together to to agree on a new international standard for international trade. It was decided that all international trade would be done in US dollars.

As a result of this countries of the world have to hold a large proportion of their international currency reserves in dollars to protect themselves and ensure they can continue to buy oil even if their own currency devalues.

Recently The United States started printing money in quantities before now unknown. The key thing to understand here is that printing more dollars does not create more wealth it dilutes the value of the existing dollars. If originally there were 100 dollars in circulation and you print 100 more your new dollars are worth half what the old ones were.

This means that in effect the recent printing of over a trillion dollars was a huge tax on the rest of the world. China is the largest holder of dollars outside the US and I cannot imagine them being very happy about this at all. However, the two countries have so intricately tied together their two economies there is not much that can be done about it. America needs China and China needs America.

A proposed solution to this problem is the SDR. A currency whose value is pegged not to the dollar but a basket of major world currencies - preventing any single nation from taxing the world. China has suggested this is its preferred solution. Surprisingly the US is not so keen to see this become the new standard. I wonder why?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

US bans UK student from travelling to America for life for abusive email

A 17-year-old British boy has reportedly been banned from the United States after firing off an email to the White House in which he referred to President Barack Obama as a "prick," according to news reports.

Luke Angel, 17, of Silsoe, Bedfordshire was investigated after he expressed his dislike of President Barack Obama and the US Government.

The FBI got in touch with Bedfordshire police, who then visited Luke. The police said the e-mail was full of abusive and threatening language.

Angel reportedly did not seem too vexed about the ban. "I don't really care," he said according to the Daily Mail. "My parents aren't very happy about it."

Doesn't this seem like a gross over-reaction? Isn't America supposed to be the land of the free? Isn't the right to free speech one of the founding principles of the USA?

It strikes me that American's simply do not understand the reasons behind anti-American sentiment. We love and cherish you as individuals however, when it comes to your style of world governance - you leave a lot to be desired. Maybe watching this video may help our American cousins understand?

I wonder if this recent action will lead to a stream of British nationals writing to President Obama telling him what they think about him in an effort to get a visit from the police or FBI - A worldwide movement would amuse me greatly- they would never have the resources to read every email / trace the senders and encourage foreign police forces to respond to every email. I hope to see a facebook movement in the near future.

I've been to the US many times and think it is a wonderful country full up with very interesting and sometimes strange people. I personally do not think that President Obama is a prick, I think that he is an imperialist (US foreign policy sucks), a liar (why isn't Guantamo Bay closed?), who has more concern over winning votes than the sanctity of human life, who panders to the corporations whilst individual citizens needs go unheeded. Oh and did I mention I believe he is a war criminal guilty of many counts of extra judicial murder? (just look through the recently leaked docs at Wikileaks.) I wonder if I'll be able to visit my cousin in Florida next summer after my rant?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nothing Ever Happens

This morning I awoke to a song from my youth, Del Amitri's Nothing Ever Happens. I was inspired to write this blog article by some of the lyrics in this song, particularly this verse:

Bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs 
While angry from Manchester writes to complain about 
All the repeats on T.V. 
And computer terminals report some gains 
On the values of copper and tin 
While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs 
For the price of a hospital wing 

It got me thinking. Why is a Van Gogh worth the price of a hospital wing? The simple answer is something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. However, then you must ask yourself why someone is willing to pay that amount for it - could it be scarcity? after all there will be very few new Van Goghs being made anytime soon. I'm sure this is a factor in determining the final price, However, there are thousands of dead artists - some exceptional and pretty well known who will never achieve anywhere near 1% of these prices.

Could it be the paintings aesthetics? Its beauty? I find it hard to believe that it is a million times more beautiful than a £100 painting from my local art dealer. I am aware however it is a million times more expensive.

Something else is affecting this paintings value - something other than it's scarcity and its aesthetic qualities. I thought about what other things seem grossly overvalued in modern society. Football transfer fees have reached astronomical proportions in recent years with fees nearing and sometimes exceeding the cost of a Van Gogh.

What do footballers and fine art have in common? They are both traded commodities. Unlike a hospital wing which is rarely if ever traded footballers and fine art all get bounced around with their prices seemingly ever increasing. Bankers and investors trade them trying to make a profit. It is these forces that skew the prices of a Van Gogh to that of the price of a hospital wing. It is no longer and maybe never was a mater of art for arts sake.

This seems like a great social injustice. A deep scar on a society  - it in itself shows how we as a society collectively value things. What is the solution? It's not an easy one - I'm not even sure if there is one. The abolition of money is the only way I ever see this stopping - with the world moving to a resource based economy. That is not going to happen any time soon. 84% of the world consider us religious although the world thankfully is heading in a secular direction. 99.99% of us belief in the power of money and its grip grows ever tighter - who doesn't want to be a millionaire, own a Ferarri, and Iphone 4, a yatch and a private jet in this day and age. It is this misplaced faith in the banking system alone that values a footballer more than a doctor and a painting more than a hospital.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

UK tax payer to foot bill for Pope visit.

In just a few days the head of the catholic church lands in the UK. The first visit from the Pope since 1982.

There are some similarities and some differences to this visit. Back in 1982 the UK was in the grips of recession and we were fighting a war in a far away country (Argentina.) However, the previous papal visit was welcomed by the British public and surveys suggest that this current visit is opposed by most. At the time of the 1982 visit the cost was estimated between £14,000,000 and £16,000,000 pounds according to Monsignor Andrew Summersgill the organiser of the planned event. Using the Bank of England's inflation calculator, an event costing £16,000,000 in 1982 would cost about £42,000,000 today. Now I'm not sure who paid for that one back then, but the cost to the UK for the current visit is estimated to be £15,000,000 + the security costs.

Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS (National Secular Society), said the benefits of the state visit did not justify its cost. Mr Sanderson is quoting as saying: "State visits are to do with improving trade relations or having some sort of diplomatic contact that will be useful in the future for improving trade - there's nothing like this in this visit.

The Catholic church has raised around £7,000,000 to cover the cost of staging the actual events. They also plan to charge up to £25 each for tickets to see the Pope. Tens of thousands of tickets for events during the visit have not been taken up because of a lack of demand from British Catholics, many of whom have been upset by the charges introduced. Senior Vatican officials have expressed dismay at the decision to charge pilgrims up to £25 to attend the major events.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in England and Wales said: “There have been misunderstandings about the pilgrims’ pass charges. This is not a charge to attend a Papal Mass. It is to cover the cost of transport and security at the events.”

REALLY??? In that case what was the £7,000,000 donated for? Aren't the UK government covering the security costs? I hope that VAT was charged on those ticket sales as a religious organisation it is exempt from most forms of tax in the UK. It strikes me that selling a single relic from their vast stock in the Vatican none of this money raising would be an issue - in fact, I'm sure the bible claims Jesus said :

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

On this basis - maybe the Catholic church should start selling off all it's assets? What need is there for a church to hold onto valuable art work when people starve? The Pope recognises many of the issues in modern society - by liquidising some assets he might be able to do something about them. I might actually be impressed with them then. Anyway, I digress, that is a story for another article.

It strikes me that the negativity around his visit comes from a number of factors:

  • Catholics are a minority and the vast majority have no interest in his visit
  • The Catholic Church runs at a profit - the UK government does not yet we are expected to foot the majority of the bill.
  • The Catholic Church has in the past covered up acts of child cruelty and paedophilia.
  • The Catholic Church is inherently sexist
  • The Catholic Church is inherently homophobic
  • The Catholic church has recently and historically alienated Jewish and Islamic communities.
  • Preserving The Catholic Churches assets and reputation is more important than doing what is right or the teachings  of the bible.
  • The Catholic Churches approach to HIV and condoms in Africa has been less than impressive. 
  • Alleged involvement in the cover up of a priest involved with the I.R.A.

Would you want to pay for someone who heads a group that covers up paedophilia,  allows millions of Africans to die through their refusal to distribute condoms in sub-Saharan Africa despite the fact they have a large established aid network and at the same time considers homosexuality a sin and women to be inferior to men. Oh and they also used to burn people to death for not agreeing with them - I think they used to call it heresy.

In my opinion the Catholic Church is an organisation that spreads falsehoods. Not only should we not be funding it we should be actively protesting it. The Catholic Church purports to be an organisation for good. I personally believe that it is more interested in self preservation and expanding its influence politically, religiously and economically - after all it was born out of the Roman Empire and those empirical desires have never disappeared - at its height the Roman Empire had an estimated 120,000,000 members, today the Roman Catholic Church has 1,000,000,000 not bad for an empire that apparently disappeared nearly 2 millenia ago. 

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Gospel of Matthew, 7:15 - King James Version).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Al-Megrahi has two more years to live.

1 year ago Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds as he was terminally ill with cancer and had been given only three more months to live. Today, he is still alive, living in Libya and is miraculously expected to live a further 2 years with the help of cancer fighting drugs from the US.

Is this a miracle? I doubt it. Is the government to blame? Is BP to blame? I'm not sure, they are being blamed for everything at the moment. One thing I am sure of though is that this stinks. I started thinking back to our previous dealings with Libya.

Less than a year ago our previous prime minister Tony Blair was in Libya being treated like a king by Colonel Gadaffi and a few overseas contracts have been thrown this countries way, probably to companies with affiliations to ex MPs and PMs, maybe MPs who are yet to be employed by the companies who won contracts, do I need to say any more than that?

A visual representation of the worlds priorities financially.

Click on the diagram to enlarge it.