Monday, 30 April 2007

Question on Climate Change?

I am passable at geographic knowledge, but no expert. Today something occurred to me know which I thought someone in the interweb might be able to answer?

How much land will become unusable with climate change, versus how much will become usable as the temperature increases?

My guess is that with Canada and Northern Asia, the balance maybe in favour of more land becoming habitable on balance....does anyone know or understand how to work this out?

UPDATE - Thanks for all the comments and insights. A good friend of mine who is an eminent geographer kindly pointed out that rising sea levels will put paid to any land gains as a whole and that the Southern Oceans are of little consolation to people in the southern hemisphere. So that is me put straight. His eminent blog is here.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Sunday Business Paper Review

Ten interesting stories and comment from the days business pages:

Banking Ego Madness - RBS is so desperate to stop Barclays it will make an expensive hostile bid.

More consolidation - this time it is Grant Thornton in the accounting sector.

MP's slam decision on BAE probe - will this messy political scandal affect the UK's reputation internationally? (err. ..yes)

Troubles still at Sports Direct
- the lesson in how not to float and impress the City continues.

ITV's independence - compromised by Sky deal. this will have some long-term repercussions.

Spoiling for Money - on the day the Sunday Times posts the Rich List, the Guardian has a spoiler article which is quite funny, apparently there are lots of jealous people!

Postal Union and Labour square off
- expect strikes by the summer...

More Billionaires to buy into football - but they are not interested in mighty Leeds United?!?

Trade war over Biofuels - When will this madness stop, biofuels are more polluting than oil!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

In defence of Corporate Pedantism

I have seen several articles in the MSM recently bemoaning the state of our customer service culture. A good example of this is Andrew O'Hagan in the Telegraph this week.

Then yesterday Gwyneth Dunwoody and the Parliamentary Select Committee had a huge dig at Ryaniar for refusing to come and sit before them. Admittedly, not appearing before Parliament when requested is not really an adequate response, but I was pleased with Ryanair's answer, excerpt below:

Ryanair was unrepentant about missing the hearing, saying in a statement that it 'had far better things to do than waste time at a House of Commons Committee'.

"(The committee) is itself wasting time talking about passengers attitudes to air travel at a time when Gordon Brown is busy stealing an additional £1 billion from UK passengers and visitors this year."

Not only is Ryanair right to criticise the Government for its 'non' Green Stealth tax, it also refers to a wider malaise.

People hate the poor service they get from alot of suppliers these days. Companies like Ryanair and British Midland are driven by the market to offer amazingly low prices. In fact much lower than even the public can believe; flights for a £1!

To do this, they have to find other ways of making money, so they impose stealth duties and onerous conditions on you if you make mistakes or do not fully co-operate. But they do this because people want low prices. If you want to pay more and get better service, fly with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic.

This applies equally to many other areas of our economy. Bank charges are all the rage and yes they appear to be too much and not linked to cost; however we also have free banking for current accounts, almost uniquely in the world. Cracking down on bank charges will just end the era of free banking.

In summary, articles like Andrew O'Hagan's are just plain ignorant. If you want first class service pay for it, if you want cheap then accept the conditions that it come with that.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

"We are all chavs now"

This is my prediction for what the CEO of Primark will say when he announces the next set of results, after their new Oxford Street raked in the customers this past quarter.

Brown poor at maths, shock

You could not make it up; but it is not very funny really is it?!

At least it goes some way to explaining his love of Keynesian economics over monetarist economics. Keynes is political and you can read his books without any understanding of maths; monetarists less so.

Monday, 23 April 2007

'The' Places to be seen

struggling for blog time at the moment, trying my best to avoid foreign postings again. In the meantime, these are my 4 favourite recent reads:

Raedwald on 419 success (must push these up my to do list).

The Reactionary Snob on quality telly.

A surreal take on the blogosphere with Electro-Kevin at Mutley's pound.

..and a very grown up and thoughtful piece about radical Islam from Westminster Wisdom.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Sunday Business Paper Review 22/4

The ten most newsworthy stories in the Sunday business pages today:

The $2 Pound is here to stay - a useful analysis of what are inherently unpredictable currency markets.

La Défense is scared of Segolene Royal in the French Election - we find out later today their influence.

No recession after all - According to the Item club corporate profits will save us (no I don't get the logic either!)

Ex-Lastminute director want so to make moving home easier - perhaps he will lend us all the deposits?

Business searches for recruits in second life - now this story is just bizarre, people clearly don't look at the real second life stats for users!

Arsenal next on the block for US investors - something for Newmania to wring his hands about.

Tesco's to go upmarket - could be a big threat to John Lewis.

Google cleaning up the Internet - The company certainly seems to be making all the right moves; so was yahoo 2 years ago though...

Green Aeroplanes - some sane thinking on climate change action.

some good sharetips...

Friday, 20 April 2007

Yates to the rescue?

So at last Yates has handed in his report. I am sure there will be much comment elsewhere, but this could be just what the Tories need.

Blair can't resign now with this hanging over him. So he is here for a little while yet. I don't think this is very good news for the country as a whole which has suffered badly with a lame duck Prime Minister.

However it is good news for the Tories. Sleaze will stick this time and this is a very serious accusation. It won't do Brown any good and will prove a real hindrance to the Labour chances in the the crucial elections this year.

As I have said before however, it won't be good news in the long-run; the Westminster set will use this as an excuse to end private fund-raising and to vote themselves luxury lives at taxpayer's expense.

We live in interesting times though, politically speaking.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

$2 = £1 - so why is this?

I saw the post at Iain Dale's earlier and the comments , many of which suggested he does not know what he is talking about. All Iain said was that it seemed odd to have such a high exchange rate. He is right to say this. There are many factors which influence a floating currency.

Now that we do have a floating currency, although it cannot be 'controlled' as the Left would like, it becomes instead a good bell weather. Our currency is strong because the Dollar is so weak and our interest rates are relatively high. Our high interest rates are caused in part by government over-expenditure.

Also as the graph above shows, we would do well to remember that the Pound is a petro-currency. In fact it is at the peak of this cycle as the graph shows. Having a petro- currency will always be bad for inflation and. This will force high interest rates and so 'humble' manufacturing.

People who accuse Thatcher of destroying our manufacturing base would do well to examine the chart above and see how closely it matches the de-industrialisation.

I think overall that this is no bad thing, it is just part of our economic development. Perhaps as our Petro-Pound fades in the next 2 decades our manufacturing base will grow again?

P.S. On the other big story of the day, I have said rates will hit 6% this year, can't see anything that makes me change my mind.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Who is David Miliband?

I ask this as there does seem to be alot about him in the news. I know about as much about him though as I do about Kate Middleton.

There is his Miliblog and his No10 official history. Also I have read a few articles of the will-he-won't-he style in the Guardian opinion section and in the Speccie, for examples.

On policies such as economic there are his published Environmental views. These are an even madder set of ideas than Cameron has come up with!

I know nothing about him other than he is young, never had a real job, has only been in his job for 6 years and not all of them at senior level. I don't know what he would do in a war crisis, economic downturn, how he will sort the PFI mess and Pensions mess.

Maybe that is the point of a political leadership bid. However, I find it bewildering that we could possibly end up with him with him as PM in a few weeks. Give me even Gordon Brown over that (saying this only as I know he will be trounced in his first election) . Even as a Tory, look what happened last time this type of choise was made, John Major and his sorry excuse for a Government.

Maybe I am wrong, does anyone know who David Miliband is?

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Sunday Business Paper Review - 15/4

Slow news weekend:

Barclay's may not get hold of ABN after all
- doubt it, seemed like a done deal. The new buyer would have to really overpay.

But RBS may be that company - Fred Goodwin always like a nice game.

Clothes for Dogs - Primark has a rival...

Buy-to-Let will be the first to suffer in housing crash - but when will it start?

£7 flights to US won't happen - yup, can't see the business plan here MO'L.

Poker firms to sue UK Government over new laws - more suffering for blessed Jowell.

EU votes to cap Mobile charges
- pure madness, shows total lack of market understanding by the EU. Phone companies will just charge more for other services.

We live in an economic golden age - yes, but we are financially screwing our kids, so nothing to feel happy about.

..but not if you have a small business
- wait till the tax bills come in too!

Civil service to have a more diverse recruitment policy - sigh...

Back with next week's news.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Spring = Summer Meme

With an nice early spring today and a great tip for the Grand National via text (Hedgehunter, clearly sent by a rocket scientist), I am in a good mood. Summer is a nice time and thanks to global warming will get even better in Blighty for the rest of my life.

So here are the 3 things I look most forward to in Summer:

4 - People - I love the way the summer improves everybody in our country, they dress down, have a happier mood and overall it is a more relaxed place than the cold, defensive winter months.

2 - Pimms & Lemonade in the garden - How relaxing is this, little slicker can play with the dog whilst I relax for a change. Just need to get the wireless set-up for the laptop outside and all will be perfect.

3 - Schools out - yup, sad old me, 20 mins off my commute with no school runs and empty (albeit hot trains). A real treat for 2 months.

So, Raedwald, Welshcakes and Ian, what are your favourite summer?

(PS Mrs Slicker I am very aware that this summer we are looking forward to have another baby most of all.)

Friday, 13 April 2007

Stumbling and Mumbling

Chris Dillow has an excellent post today on the 'news' that house prices are expensive for 'key workers'.

I can't find much to add to it, except to point out that it assumes that key workers marry each other too. They multiply up the numbers for couples as double the single figure.

Do Doctors, nurses and teachers all have to marry one another? IS this what real socialism is all about?

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Indian Bureaucrats vs UK Bureaucrats

The Beeb writes with rage today about this story in India. To summarize, Indian female civil servants are to be asked about when they were last pregnant and details of their menstrual cycles.

Notwithstanding that to question a woman on this is to incite hate and revenge on all men, I am at a loss as to why this information is needed.

But then we know that Governments know no bounds when it comes to seeking out information for their own nefarious purposes. Perhaps India aspires to our own high standards, where we don't even need to ask such questions anymore; we just collect DNA samples straight from source.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007


I had a nice Easter break and work was a real drag to go back to today; but so be it for the servants of mammon.

Meanwhile, you may remember 7 or 8 years ago the dot com boom. I was thinking about this over the weekend in relation to the Climate Change Agenda that is growing now; there are many similarities between the phenomena. Overall perhaps now is the right point in the cycle to go green and start-up a company or enterprise involved in this area. More thinking required on my part here.

Anyway, back in the Dot Com era there were all sorts of over-used phrases that were used to hide the simple and ill-thought out economics behind the start-ups. 2 of my favourites were ' business to business (b2b) for service companies and Business to Consumer for retail companies.

These were parodied in 2001 when the bubble burst, into 'back to banking' and 'back to consulting.' For all those bright young things who had 'lived the dream.' Or not.

In my musings I thought up a new version for the modern age of today, that is after the Easter Weekend.

Back to Blogging.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Easter Business Round up

Happy Easter all. Hope that you are enjoying the day and not just devising to many different ways of killing the in-laws.

Anyway, for those who just have to escape, here is a round up of the top business headlines from the media for this weekend:

An excellent start here from the Telegraph - this story about the insanity of the £20 billion rail subsidies is a cracker.

The irrational exuberance of the market is driven by Merger and Acquisition rumours alone - according to the Telegraph. I have some sympathy with this as underlying macroeconomic trends are so weak.

Private Equity bid for Sainsbury's on hold
- not so surprising, where is the quick return in a well run business?

Ethnic workers earn more in the public sector
- A fine combination of political correctness at its best.

Pensions - a nice summary of future issues by The Observer.

Revealed: How Gordon Brown has cost you £100,000 - great headline in the Indy.

More M&A activity - get your share portfolio's out, more possible activity in the airline sector.

The Indy explains why rates were held at 5.5% this month - not a bad summary.

Private Healthcare in crisis?
- Bupa to sell its hospitals...

ITV complains at BBC mobile offering - Yet again, the public subsidy broadcaster is try to control a nascent market.

That's all folks.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Election Manifesto's; what is really important?

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have launched their English Election Manifesto's this past week for the local elections. Labour and Lib Dem both have crime and ways to tackle it as the central policy.

But I wonder is this right? Is crime really the top focus of what people vote for in these local elections. I guess we will find out in a month, but I have my doubts and think that this is a very negative campaign strategy.

The LD's see being tough on crime as a way to harden their wishy washy image; but will that wash with voters?

Labour see crime as one of the few areas where they have had success, albeit limited, at a local level.

The Tories come out with their policies later this week, but have already made the environment and crime top priorities.

Yet to me, the key issues, outside of Scotland, are local finance, education, waste removal, planning and transport. Crime come sway down and i don't even live in that nice an area!

What do you think? What would positive campaigns have been based upon?

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Post Office update - part Grrr...

In my long running campaign to get this noticed, I have neglected to read the output form Government Ministers' for a couple of weeks.

However, now as we expected the Government has delayed the publication of its own consultation (here).

The Post Office consultation was commenced in December and was due to finish in March. In fact it did, on 8 March 2007.

What is so predictable is that the outcome of this consultation has magically been delayed until mid-May 2007. Nicely timed to be after the local elections.

The government is determined not to make the closure of local services a local election issue. What a nice honest bunch of people they are!

I am not in principle against closing loss making Post Offices the way, however the Government have interfered in this market for so long that it has become completely destabilised and has lost its core business model. Government withdrawal of benefits paid through post offices is a typical example of this.

However, what makes me angry is that this mes is a key political issue and the problems are politically caused; so of course the Government wants to avoid them becoming an election issue.


Monday, 2 April 2007

Psychometric testing

When of the key changes to the City job market in recent years is the advent of psychometric testing. Many companies use it as part of the assessment of any new candidate.

Thanks to the wonders of the interweb you can even do some of your own for free, should you be so inclined; here are some links to these kinds of tests.

In the distant past I had to do one of these things and insisted to the agent that I receive the same results as the company (you should always do this, as they have to release this info).

What I like though about the whole process is the double-think that is employed in the analysis. In fact it is a first cousin of the kind of double-think employed in politics and the media village. positives are spun as negatives and exaggerations. I have seen this in the results I have had shown to me in the recent past. Here are some of my favourite examples:

Entrepreneurial and focused = A ego-centric loose cannon

Task-oriented team player = Does as told and won't make trouble

Lateral thinker = Lazy and tries to get other to do their work

Creative = Always late and takes ages to complete any assignment

Assertive leader = Difficult to manage as a deputy

So what do you think; there must be plenty more ways of describing personalities this way...any more ideas?

Sunday, 1 April 2007

April 1st Sunday Business Round-Up

Quite a quiet week this week, the markets have recovered from what could/should have been the beginning of a recession. Instead the credit binge looks set to continue a while yet. Here are 10 interesting stories:

French House price crash to follow USA - Spain vulnerable too, Britain will be someday too, we just have no idea when..

Whitbread finally up for the chop? - A low share price and lots of Private Equity money may mean that Alan Parker (and the shareholders) get a good offer soon.

Interest rates to rise - According to The Times, I can see this and another 2 rises yet. the government needs to slow borrowing urgently; so go on holiday abroad this year, the £ is at a 20-year high!

There's money in Green - Even capitalists and see the money in going green these days; it must be here to stay.

Blogs worth millions - yes, your blog could be turned into a cash fortune by new US advertising software.

New runway for Heathrow
- I want this, but how can any 'green' government approve this in today's environment?

BA bidding for Iberia? - With open Skies now signed there will be lots of change in the Airline sector in the UK. Investors often make good returns when there is lots of M&A activity in a sector...

Gambling on the buffers - A thoughtful piece from The Observer on what the impacts are on the complete failure of the Government's proposed gambling policy. My two pennies, better for the UK firms but denies us valuable foreign investment.

How far can Outsourcing go? - A typically lefty view, with a scared journalist writing the end is nigh, but some detail is worth noting. Particularly the slowing of the outsourcing trend in some areas.

Battle for Bridgewell - One of the worst examples of UK City broking is currently up for sale after a truly monumental failure. This is an overview, but really, I am at a loss as to why anyone would be interested in these people.

See you at the same time next week.