Monday, September 01, 2008

Richard Schiff on the US election

Wonderful article from Richard Schiff of West Wing fame.

I think that the same can be said of many western nations. There is a fear of change. A fear of the unknown. This is why the idealists always fail, because the media prefers the status quo and the politicians spin their same old bullshit as different.

Look at Blair in 1997... what he sold to the British people wasn't new, it was just the same as what we had before but in nicer, friendlier packaging... and with a cool theme tune. Ditto, Cameron is just re-packaging Tory values so that more people buy into it.

So sad, but so true.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Economic scare mongering


Now I accept that the current economic crisis is incredibly dangerous for all of us. I accept that it is right we need to be warned and the dangers pressed upon us, even if I do find it ironic that the same "experts" were saying it would just be a blip a year ago, while much less knowledgeable people were sensing things were going tits up and fast!

But am I the only one who thinks that this government (and others around the world) is just making a bad situation worse by scare mongering?

From dithering over Northern Rock, the 10p tax break and stamp duty... to now warning us that this is the gravest economic situation we have faced in 60 years, I can't help but think that none of this actually... well... helps!

How are the markets going to respond to a chancellor saying this crisis is arguably worse than the recession of the early 1990s or the year on year disaster of the 1970s, when inflation reached 27%, 3 day working weeks were introduced to cut energy consumption and the unions held successive governments to ransom?

It may be unintentional, but this type of "candid" interview does nothing but scare people. Admitting you are responsible for some of the problems is one thing, but then saying the crisis is worse than any economic crisis we have faced since the War is incredibly unprofessional and downright stupid.

We need strong leadership and a clear idea that everything that can be done is being done. Instead we get a moron whose every major action seems to be to undermine the economy further.

Anyway... that's my rant for the evening. Thankyou and goodnight!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Iranian Oil

for those who aren't aware, Iran is the second largest oil exporter in Opec and have the third largest proven reserves in the World.

For a long time oil, like all other commodities has been traded in dollars - the defacto World reserve currency.

On April 30th Iran announced that it would be no longer trading it's oil in dollars and would instead switch to Euros and Yen. Now what I find interesting about this story is that it has virtually ignored by the western media. CBS news was the only source I was able to find for it in the US and I have yet to find any major UK media outlet covering the story.

Why is this important? Because this is a BIG story. Iran has been slowly reducing it's reliance on the dollar for a few years, mainly due to the sanctions imposed by Washington. However, ignoring the nations status as a 'bad guy' in the eyes of the west, their move is a sound one.

The dollar value has collapsed in the last couple of years and what happens when the World reserve currency collapses? Prices go up dramatically. It's no coincidence that the dollar is currently at it's lower level in history while commodity prices are hitting record highs. The two are interlinked as all commodities are priced in dollars. Granted oil and gas price rises are also related to global production plateauing and increased consumption but hopefully you get my drift.

Oil prices go up... so everything else goes up because transport costs go up. If oil was priced in Euros the recent increases would be much lower. Sure Irans move is also political, but it makes sense. Stabilise the price of oil and you go some way to stabilising rampant inflation.

So I ask again, why this story has been buried by the World media? Well one advantage to having the reserve currency is that as a nation you are able to borrow far more money than anyone else. The US national debt is currently just below $10 Trillion! Need more money to pay for more Cruise Missiles? No problem, just go into more debt as dollars are the reserve currency and everyone uses them. So what happens if everyone follows Irans lead? Let's just say that $10 Trillion is not something you want hanging around your neck.

Friday, February 29, 2008

$6 Trillion - The True Cost of the Iraq War...

This is a truly startling article which details the work of Nobel Prize winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz efforts to evaluate the real cost of the war in Iraq.

Call me niaive, but I was always astounded that the cost of just sending troops and equipment was in the region of $16bn per month! However, these figures don't take into account the cost of paying for wounded soldiers, death in service benefits, support troops and contractual obligations.

$6 Trillion!!

And what are the great "benefits" this expenditure has brought us? Are we safer? Are there less terrorists out there? Have we "won the hearts and minds"? Are our oil prices reaching all new lows thanks to the increase in oil availability due to "liberating" Iraq?


Afghanistan is virtually a lost cause now. Possibly lost for a generation. Iraq is still on the brink of civil war and is now teaming with foreign terrorists. Saddam may have been an evil dictator, but he never allowed Al Qaeda into that country. Oil meanwhile is now at it's highest level since the fuel crisis of the 1970s.

How many schools, hospitals and research centres could have been built around the world for this money? How many children could have been educated and given a future in countries throughout Africa?

The effects of this crime will exist for generations.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Top Things You Must Read, Watch and Do to Save the World!

Quite a nice little poll over on SciFi asking people to submit their top 5 books, films, TV shows and things to do in order to save the World.

When making your selections, you may keep three factors in mind...

  1. Adrenaline (the title's power to enthrall and excite)
  2. Vision (how well it presents a scenario for the future)
  3. Precision (whether the science behind the fiction holds up)
Check it out at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger

I'm genuinely shocked and saddened at the news of Heath Ledgers death.

He always came across as one of the more sensitive and relaxed Hollywood actors, who channeled everything he had into some stunning performances. People will talk about his role in Brokeback Mountain (and rightly so), but he had a fun side too, as seen in A Knights Tale. He stole every scene from Matt Damon in The Brothers Grimm and had just started shooting for a second film with Terry Gilliam.

I first came across him in 1999s 10 Things I Hate About You and while contemporary Shakespearean teen romcoms may not be everyones cup of tea, two people really stood out, Ledger and Julia Stiles.

I could write more, but instead I'd recommend reading this very poignant blog from the Guardians film critic, Peter Bradshaw. It pretty much sums up my feelings now that this news has started to sink in.

Of all the young actors who appear in teen romcoms very few actually amount to anything. Ledger was different. He took on risky, unpopular roles and actively avoided the spotlight. He had the ability to become a legend, sadly he may now achieve it for the wrong reason - dying tragically young.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Movies, politics and Star Trek

Wow… it’s been a busy few months, so I apologise. Here’s a summary of things on my mind over recent times.

The US electionBarak Obama is “the man”, but something tells me his lack of experience (*coughskincolourcough*) will prevent him this time round. I do quite like John Edwards, but he’s far too liberal and anti-corporation to ever be allowed to be President. Hillary is probably the still favourite, but there’s a long way to go. The least said about the Republicans the better, but if you fancy a laugh, check out the Republican nominees on Wiki, it’s very scary.

The hijacking of “Liberalism” – from liberal interventionism being used as an excuse to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq to right wingers describing themselves as “social liberals”, the politicians have stolen all that is good about democracy and freedom and used it to wage war, introduce draconian laws and take control of every aspect of our lives. We have sleep-walked into one of those dystopian futures that Philip K Dick, George Orwell and Alan Moore wrote about, and I am at a loss to explain how to wake up.

The WGA strike – The studios stand to make over $1.5B this year alone through airing shows on the internet and via download. Currently the writers aren’t entitled to a penny of this. Add in the fact that a writer gets only $0.04 for every DVD sold, in an industry that makes over $20B a year in DVD rentals and sales, you can see why the writers are slightly peeved. So come on Murdoch and co… give the writers the money! The more this goes on, the more I see the SAG and DGA being dragged in. Their contracts are up in the summer and if the writers negotiations aren’t done with then we face the possibility of an industry wide strike in 2008 that would cripple TV and movie making. If you are a fan of great writers like Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, JJ Abrams et al, then show your support.

The Economy – Northern Rock should be nationalised. Simple as. Another massive guarantee by the government now means that each taxpayer has personally guaranteed a private firm to the tune of £2000 each. As for the economy in general, we have had one of the longest period of sustained growth in history, but it’s all built on easy credit. We’ve been here before, but I fear for the future (see dystopian futures mentioned above!).

Review of the Movie Year 2007 – I do try to write a review of the movie year around Dec/Jan, but this year I just can’t come up with 10 films that deserve to classified as “great”. There were some very good films – Curse of the Golden Flower, Sunshine, Death Proof, Planet Terror and Stardust, but when compared to 06’s Prestige, Pans Labyrinth, Children of Men, Inconvenient Truth and Syriana they pale away.

The blockbusters were woeful, while the Oscar hits were sub-standard. 2007 lacked any real soul and quite frankly was the worst year for movies I can recollect. The fact that we are now in the grip of a writers strike doesn’t bode well for the future. But yey, we have 60 year old Indiana Jones (plus sidekick son) to look forward to in 2008. Whoopty frickin do!

Star Trek – My geeky love for Trek is long-standing and quite well known. So you’d think I’d be over the moon that JJ Abrams is making a new movie chronicling the early days of Kirk, Spock et al. In fact, the opposite is true. The studio is throwing big money at a movie written by the people who brought us Transformers and The Island and it seems clear that this will be aimed at making the movie accessible to the mainstream. For me, this is sacrilege. Star Trek was always supposed to be hard-core science fiction. Instead, this obsession with meeting mainstream needs can only lead to a dumbed down Trek movie that will have little in common with the ideals of the original. This movie is going to be a Star Wars clone. It will probably make more money than any Trek movie has before it, but it won’t really be Star Trek; just a sci-fi action film with a familiar name. Take the name off it and it could be any other sci-fi action movie.

You want proof? Take a look at MI:3; a fun action thriller, but with no soul. Take the title away and it’s just any other action thriller. Oh and that was also directed by JJ Abrams.

However, if you want to have a laugh at geeky Trek fans… check out the following IMDB board (note, you’ll need an account).

9/11 verses 2/27 (or 27/02 for those of us outside the USA) – Marinus van der Lubbe – the man who torched the Reichstag building on Feb 27th 1933 – was officially pardoned recently. As he was tried under Nazi justice it was deemed unfair to allow his trial and subsequent execution to stand. The Reichstag fire remains one of the most pivotal moments in the rise of Nazi Germany. The terrorist act happened shortly after Hitler had been brought to power and was subsequently used by The Fuhrer to limit human rights, outlaw political opposition and begin a reign of terror that led to millions of deaths across Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.

This news brought the tragedy of 9/11 (or 11/09 for those outside the USA) back into my thoughts. Two massive acts of terrorism separated by nearly 70 years. One was used as an excuse to introduce legislation that limited the movements of people, isolate minorities, threaten political opposition and intimidate the media… the other led to the growth of the Third Reich. My question is, will we ever get our freedoms back?

Anyway… I’ll try to blog more this year. I need to if only to vent. Happy New Year!