Quantitative Easing: Explained

Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 in Blog

Castro recently came out and condemned “QE2″.

Not the boat. But the sinking ship that some are calling the Fed’s recent policy of Quantitative Easing AKA Printing Money. (I do wish that Economists/Accountants/Lawyers would call things by their proper names – they think they justify their existence by making us feel inadequate when they start speaking in their “special” codes).

Perhaps I have always misjudged Castro. Up to this point I had him in the “crackpot dictator” category. Which of course he is, but underestimate such men at your peril and I feel suitably chastened. His views (if they indeed were penned by him) were eruditely put.

Not, however, as well put as this piece of genius. Have a little watch of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTUY16CkS-k

It may be a cartoon. But it is no joke.

TSA: Screen Me

Posted by on Nov 16, 2010 in Blog

Whilst at airline security a man from California, enroute to South Dakota for a hunting trip, had what we call in the UK a “strop” (it’s what toddlers do when they’re having a hissy fit and when applied to an adult implies they are somewhat juvenile and pathetic).

It being 2010, the guy taped the whole incident and it’s now gone viral. The Transportation Security Administration, in its defence, has said it tries to be sensitive to individuals, but everyone getting on a flight must be screened.

YES, EVERYONE GETTING ON A FLIGHT MUST BE SCREENED. Is this man trying to win Muppet Of The Year? Quite frankly strip search us all to high heaven if it means we’re not knocking on heaven’s door because a terrorist has blown up the plane we’re on.

The man’s first objection, before the whole “pat down” drama, was about basically an X-Ray machine. The machines will cut down queues (a good thing at airports) and are so not a big deal. They can’t save or print the images. They blur your face.

I cannot even believe this is a topic for complaint. The TSA, which has access to intelligence information that we don’t, is there doing its job to deter terrorists. LET THEM GET ON WITH IT.

Bush : I’ve Got A Better Title For Your Autobiography

Posted by on Nov 15, 2010 in Blog

George W. Bush is out and about promoting his autobiography, “Decision Points”.

I’ve got a better title for it: “Je Ne Regrette Rien”. Two points of many stand out.

1. Whichever way you look at it, waterboarding is torture. Throughout history, tyrannies have practised the form of torture that is repeatedly bringing someone to the verge of drowning. This is not just a breach of the UN convention against torture, but a breach of the American constitution. An American President doing anything other than condemning torture does nothing for America’s moral authority worldwide.

2. I note that although Bush admitted that he “wasn’t a very good economic prognosticator” (you can say that again), he wasn’t regretting his actions in regards to the economy. This is the man who as well as financial Armageddon happening on his watch, appointed Dick Cheney Vice President. The “deficits don’t matter” Dick Cheney. OH YES THEY DO.

Next time Bush appears on my television set I’m putting him on mute and playing Edith Piaf warbling very loudly over him instead. They’re both saying precisely the same thing.

The Mid-terms – Where Do We Go From Here?

Posted by on Nov 3, 2010 in Blog

It was a privilege to be right in the thick of it at Fox last night – on so many levels I’m an outsider and it was fascinating to watch and commentate on how the Mid-term process unfolded.

It is far too soon to be writing obituaries on Obama’s administration – anyone who did that to Reagan in 1982 and Clinton in 1994 was proven very wrong. History will be kinder to the first two years of Obama’s Presidency than the Electorate. History loves lists and Obama’s legislative achievements have not been seen since the Johnson era.

Last night made me recollect my first American History supervision at Cambridge University. Mid-terms, my eminent Professor proclaimed, were a kind of a ritual thrashing for Presidents, who invariably lost Congress to an extent. Most Presidents, he went on, also arrived in office with some sweeping talk about changing the Domestic agenda – but then switched their focus to foreign policy when facing gridlock back home. (Remember Reagan and the Russians etc.).

In textbook style, Obama is off to India on Saturday for a ten day tour of Asia. Make no mistake, Obama’s standing in the world is still impressive. He is more popular in Europe than most of the continent’s own leaders. Under Obama, internationally the US has reclaimed much of its moral authority, which was gravely weakened under Bush with “shock and awe” and the global financial crisis.

Two things have really stood out for me this week. The first is the Stewart/Colbert rally last weekend – 215,000 people turned up to be moderate. And in a recent poll, 80% of voters wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together and compromise in the event of the GOP taking control of one or both chambers.

The Republicans did well at galavanising their support base to get out and vote last night, but they should be wary. I believe that Congress has now swung further to the right than the US as a whole. The Politician and the Party who reclaims the middle ground will be the winners in 2012. If the GOP gets too belligerent, if Obama can look reasonable and blame gridlock on them a la Truman, he will come out ahead and win his second term.

Can Obama compromise? I think he’s already making noises – we saw it in the New York Times interview he gave a few weeks ago. And ask yourself this: who will be more willing to compromise and have a solution even if it’s non-purist – a Palin or Obama? The problem for the Republicans is they don’t have a moderate leader to emerge from the centre. Until they get one, Obama remains in control and victory in 2012 will be his…

… Unless a credible independent such as Bloomberg runs. Then it all gets very interesting.

A debate for another day!

Vote: That’s All That Matters Today

Posted by on Nov 2, 2010 in Blog

I’ll be talking the mid-term elections tonight on FBN with Cavuto. There’ll be discussion of Republicans, Democrats, gains, losses, international perspectives… But it comes down – for me at any rate – to this.

I do not care who you vote for. However if you are lucky enough to have the vote, you must vote. It is quite simply a moral crime for you not to. In America, universal enfranchisement is still less than a hundred years old. I truly believe that countries such as Australia, where it is compulsory to vote, absolutely have it right. If you dislike the choices, spoil your ballot paper, register your disgust.

In my view, unless you get yourself to a polling station today, you have no right to have an opinion. You think you won’t be making a difference so there’s no point in voting? Well you certainly won’t be if you don’t exercise your right at the ballot box. What you do today will impact not just your hometown and state, not just the rest of the country, but the world.

The world needs America to lead. It is still the world’s only superpower. It still represents freedom in a way that is impressive to all.

So exercise that freedom for those who still don’t have it around the world. Vote.

Cuts: Not In My Back Yard

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010 in Blog

I was on Cavuto last night and he had a very interesting first segment about some recently released opinion polls: Americans wanted spending cuts but were coming over all NIMBY about them. Cuts were fine as long as they happened to someone else.

Of course this was their response. That is human nature. We’re seeing this very reaction in the UK at the moment now George Osbourne has actually announced how GBP81 billion in spending cuts will occur over the next 5 years. However, these cuts are absolutely necessary for Britain’s long term financial stability and I do believe that the British know that they are. Cameron and Clegg are dealing with a generation of Thatcher’s children – they know tough times are sometimes required for good.

But what of the US? Do American politicians have the stomach – or the mandate – for the level of spending cuts – and tax raises – that the Deficit Reduction Commission will inevitable recommend on December 1st? Because make no bones about it, there is no chance of reducing the US deficit without tax increases and spending cuts together.

I’m not so sure the politicians in the US do. At the moment, it’s all about the election and winning votes, so it’s unsurprising that neither Republicans nor Democrats are talking about specifics. But after, what are we going to have? A gridlocked Congress? Politicians and lobbyists looking out for their own agendas?

Tough decisions need to be made for the good of America. But will they? It’s a worry, and the American people deserve better.

Democrats: A Change In Rhetoric

Posted by on Oct 22, 2010 in Blog

Various Democrats are now campaigning on the tweaks they’re going to make to Obamacare.

From what I understand, it is perfectly normal for any large piece of legislation to be tweaked along the way – and the scale of the law has not really been seen since the Lyndon Johnson era.

But it’s the change in the Democrats’ rhetoric that is fascinating me. They are reclaiming the middle ground. We saw it in the New York Times profile of Obama last weekend. As Congress lurches towards the right, it is the Democrats who are claiming that THEY are the reasonable, balanced ones.

In many of its specifics, health reform is quite popular: for instance the pre-existing condition provision and the 26 year olds on their parents insurance.

The Republicans need to be wary. Yes, they are going to be more effective at galvanising their supporters to vote in the mid-terms. But a result of that will be a Congress further to the right than the American people as a whole. Act too belligerent, get over zealous in their Conservatism in the next 2 years, and the very people who opt out of this election will come out in force and hand Obama a landslide in 2012.

The Next Bubble?

Posted by on Oct 21, 2010 in Blog

Apple and IBM’s figures have done very nicely this week, thank you very much. What’s going on?

There’s a bit of a bubble going on. And, as with railways, cars and the Internet, it’s about picking your product – as some are going to go horribly wrong.

My friend Cody Willard is obsessed with Apps. He has a point – check out his blogs on them. The cleverest people I know are inventing and investing in Apps. This year around 250 million people will buy a smartphone, up from 150 million last year. Projections are for a billion sold in less than a decade.

We’re in a down economy, money can be made in technology, but it’s about picking the right type so you’re not caught in a bubble. Now where’s the new Google/Facebook…?!

The Miners Rescue: Randoms – GET OFF THE BANDWAGON

Posted by on Oct 15, 2010 in Blog

I shed a tear or two over the Chilean miners I saw being rescued this week. A billion people were transfixed by an amazing story of hope.

However, it being the modern world, people immediately started trying to attach their agendas to the bandwagon. Michael Moore on Larry King was cringe worthy. And although I’m anything but a tea party fan, Chris Matthews was utterly inappropriate.

And that’s before you get to the companies seemingly having a great time exploiting the crisis for their commercial ends. Oakley sunglasses. UPS. The list goes on.

It feels tawdry, tainting something that is pure. I know it was inevitable. But I’m going to try and keep cynicism at bay and hang on to the emotions that hit me on those first few shots of the happy ending of this humbling, incredible, story.

Breast Foot Forward

Posted by on Oct 14, 2010 in Blog

It’s Breast Cancer awareness month and it’s a cause that is very close to my heart – as it is to so many families touched by the disease. I write about it for MSN here: http://bit.ly/dB3TSd