The Meaning of “Bank Robbery”

Over time phrases and words change their meanings as they adapt to circumstances. Take the phrase “bank robbery”, which has changed its meaning.   Continue reading

Air Unfit for Purpose

London has the worst air quality of any European capital, to our shame. It air is contaminated by diesel particulates, nitrous oxide, in some places heavy concentrations of carbon dioxide and all sorts of other pollution caused by burning. Londoners burn fuel to power their vehicles, gas to provide heat and hot water, and coal and gas to provide the electricity that the city uses. Considering that there are no power stations in London, no heavy industry in London and very little light industry in London it is astonishing just how much the air quality is made bad by what is basically a city where most of the working inhabitants are providing services of one kind or another, rather than being manufacturing workers.

There seems to be a strange reluctance by the national or local government to do anything to improve London’s air quality. The United Kingdom is bound by European legislation to keep air quality within certain limits and the regulations that have created these limits have been in force for many years. It is not just London that suffers from poor air quality; the UK government has applied for exemptions from complying with the air quality regulations for Aberdeen and north-east Scotland, Belfast, Birkenhead, Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, Preston, Sheffield, South-West England; South Wales, Swansea and Tyneside and the exemptions have all been refused by the European Commission.

The refusal to do anything substantive about air quality except apply for exemptions will mean that in addition to bearing the £20 billion a year additional health costs caused or contributed to by poor air quality, the UK taxpayer will have to cough up substantial fines for the Government’s failures on air quality. It is a lose-lose situation. Everyone loses except the European Commission which will gain some fines and no doubt use the fines as purposefully as it uses its other income.

The health care costs are significant. Some years ago I was asked to umpire a cricket match played by twelve year olds in South Wales. I was astonished when four of the children came up to me before the start of the match and ask me to look after their inhaler devices for asthma. I had not understood that air quality was affecting the very young so badly.

There are three main government measures about London’s air quality and the air quality of the nation:-

1. The Clean Air Acts, brought into being in the early 1950s which prohibit the burning of coal and smoke type fuels

2. The Low Emission Zones, under which polluting vehicles are charged because they pollute, but not prohibited from being on the road because they pollute beyond levels that are acceptable.

3. Subsidies for electric cars, which simply displace the emissions and pollution from the city to the power stations.

To improve air quality we have to change people’s behaviour. My suggestions are:-

1. Free public transport, which will take many cars off the road

2. Improved public transport which will take even more cars off the road

3. More solar water heating which will reduce particulates from burning natural gas

4. Tighter smoke washing controls on fuel burning power stations.

These measures will be costly, but we can pay for the costs out of the savings of health expenditure and out of taxation. After all the air is free, but there is a cost to keeping it clean. The air we breathe must be rendered fit for its purpose.


Our Crooked Banks

Banks Cheating? My goodness me. Surely not? Who would have thought that British Banks, established for centuries and servants of the economy their executives honoured and feted and given extreme wealth, would ever resort to rigging markets?

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The Energy Bill

In the United Kingdom legislation about energy has tended to be a mish-mash of silly subsidies and wishful thinking. The present proposed Energy Bill is no different. Continue reading

Another Fine Mess the Banks have got us into

By foolish speculation with the money of their customers banks have caused many problems for most people in most economies. It seems that the bankers cannot resist a free gamble with other people’s money. Also, whilst insisting and monitoring prudence in their customers who borrow, the banks manage to borrow recklessly, leveraging their deposits into realms of what should be fantasy but is unfortunately reality. As though this damage was not enough we find that banks are not paying sufficient attention to their core business, of getting and looking after the money of the poor mugs who have to use banks. For the past week NatWest, the Royal Bank of Scotland and other banks in that group have managed to mess up what should be a simple business of recording money going in and going out of the accounts of their customers. Continue reading

I’ll Never Forget Lord Whathisname

It is almost inevitable that when people think about the climate they think about the weather. I have been thinking a great deal about the climate recently, with the farce at Rio and all the other failed initiatives and grand plans pushed into small odd corners where they are ignored. Can anyone remember the grand climate change report written by Whatshisname who became Lord Whatshisname as a result of writing that report and whose report now hides in odd corners of Whitehall and takes up disc space on some servers which are never accessed? Continue reading

Cry Your Tears For Freedom While you Count Your Money

The Dalai Lama is a Tibetan religious leader. A Buddhist, the Dalai Lama was one of the few religious leaders to be a ruler of a nation. He was enthroned on 1951 as the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet but a year later the communist Chinese toppled his government and China consumed the nation of Tibet and the Dalai Lama fled into exile where he has remained ever since, drawing attention to the oppression of Tibet. His exile has been longer that Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment or Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s house arrest. Continue reading

Self Sustaining at Rio +20

Rather as I expected the Rio +20 summit on sustainable development has closed without advancing the practice of sustainable development by one jot, one title or one iota. The forests will shrink as they are plundered in developing countries, the seas will become deserts as they are shorn of life and filled with what billions of humans no longer need, and the greed of every interest group attending the summit set the scene: talk was cheap, the begging bowl was held out and commitment to anything was somewhere else. The only sustainable thing that has emerged from this Rio+ 20 summit is that there will be another summit in Rio again. That at least is self sustaining.

A Tale of Taxes – Laughing all the Way to the Tax Haven

Jimmy Carr is a successful comedian. He makes people laugh. His success enables him to earn a great deal of money, and people who earn a great deal of money are supposed to pay tax on what they earn as are people that earn modest amounts of money. In order to postpone or reduce the tax he paid Mr Carr entered into a tax scheme or device, under which he transferred his right to receive his salary to an offshore entity. However, Mr Carr still wanted to receive his salary and so as part of the deal, it seems, he borrowed money back from the entity. There would be no tax to pay on the loan, so he was in effect avoiding tax on a large income while still being able to spend it. Continue reading

Why Banks are Unsafe.

Markets now feel that banks are much less safe. Suddenly, the credit rating agencies have decided what we knew a couple of years ago. Fifteen major banks have had their ratings downgraded so that the relatively position of each to each is more or less unchanged but putting your money in a bank is deemed to be much more risky that it was before.

There are four reasons why bank are unsafe, regardless of their ratings by credit agencies.

1. Banks which need to get support from governments can never be safe becasue governments do not have endless supplies of money to bail out those banks.

2.Banks are unsafe becasue they leverage their customer deposits too much.

3. Banks are unsafe becasue they enter into transactions involing derivatives which no one really understands, gambling hugely on them and for every winner there is a loser.

4. Banks are unsafe because they put our money where their mouth is.