The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
The headlines screaming from London tell the story: Murdoch “unfit” to run News Corp. The Commons committee that summoned the 81-year-old media magnate to explain how his newspapers came to hack the phones of everyone from Prince William to Paul McCartney has given its damning verdict.
Rupert Murdoch “turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies” and his instinct “was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators.” The bottom line? “Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” So much for Murdoch’s attempt to pose as an affable old codger with too much on his mind to notice the lawbreaking done in his name. So much for, “This is the most humble day of my life.”
The meticulous politeness of the legislators who called him to account belied their more serious intent, to express in vivid and purposeful language the horror and disgust the British now have for the Murdoch family. The old man’s hideous talent for serving up salacious scandal and bare breasts in abundance in his “family” newspapers disguised his more sinister aim. Under the guise of providing bread and circuses for the masses, Murdoch allowed journalists and, when they proved incapable of thievery, private eyes to dig the dirt on Britain’s good and great, the better to compromise them when he needed a business favor.
When Tom Watson, a member of the Commons committee, expressed surprise that James Murdoch was unaware of the lawbreaking going on under his nose – “You must be the first mafia boss in history who didn’t know he was running a criminal enterprise” – Murdoch Jr. gave a petulant sigh, “Oh, Mr. Watson!” like a matron whose bottom had been tweaked. But to Watson it was elementary. The Murdochs have been running a protection racket in Britain for the last 30 years, and those who have stood in the way of Rupert’s business ambitions, or failed to pay enough obeisance to him, or merely dared hold a different view from him, have been roundly trashed with his wholehearted consent.
–Rt Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, is President of Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) and former UK Secretary of State for the Environment, and Rt Hon John Prescott, Lord Prescott, is a Member of GLOBE, and former UK Deputy Prime Minister and Europe’s Lead Negotiator at Kyoto. The opinions expressed are their own.–
Below the global radar-screen, the Mexican Parliament gave final passage on April 19 to the General Law on Climate Change, a landmark piece of national environmental legislation. This is a truly significant move and comes at a time when the country has also just approved a far-reaching REDD+ law that will set a benchmark for international best practice on tacking deforestation and forest degradation.
Never make forecasts, especially about the future – wise advice, which I’m reluctant to ignore. But I will say I think the risk of a panic in the financial markets at some point in the next three or four weeks is extremely high. Wherever you look, there are icebergs on the horizon – small ones, like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and giants, like Spain and Italy, and now most menacing of all, France.
If the opinion polls turn out to be correct, the French election will mark a turning point in the euro zone crisis. It is not just because the new president will be committed to leading the nation in the opposite direction to every other developed country, increasing government spending, reducing the pension age and the working week, raising the minimum wage by more than inflation and introducing a 75 percent tax rate, all of which are bound to threaten France’s creditworthiness which is already so low that it is paying nearly 3 percent to borrow compared to Germany’s 1.75 percent rate. More important in my view is what a Socialist victory will mean for the balance of power inside the euro zone.
The words ‘tech bubble’ have been bandied about since the Apple share price really started to climb at the end of 2011. Earlier this month, its market capitalisation hit $600 billion dollars, only the second company to see its market cap get that high. So it appears like everyone wants a bite out of the proverbial apple.
There is a dangerous precedent for markets’ believing that tech stocks can only go in one direction. The dotcom bubble back in 2000 caused havoc in the equity markets and also contributed to the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates incredibly low, one of the contributing factors to the housing crisis in 2007.
It was bound to happen. You could see it waddling into view from a long way off. We are now being told by the medics that we should seriously consider a tax on fatty foods, in order to combat the scourge of obesity. How appropriate that, according to The Independent, the Deputy PM is planning to recruit 65,000 “State Nannies”!
One wonders how the new tax will be computed. Will it be a higher rate of tax on higher fat-content foods? Will chicken breast be taxed at a lower rate than chicken legs? Will omega-3 fats be taxed at a lower rate than omega-6? Either way, we can look forward to a tabloid feeding frenzy which will make pastygate look like a Cornish picnic.
from The Great Debate:
Bogota, Colombia – Although the phone rings incessantly, Carlos Moreno is not distracted. He continues to talk, not just about his life as a slightly graying 78-year-old pastor but also about how he became what some consider to be the world’s first microfinance recipient. It wasn’t as an entrepreneur.
“My life is dedicated to the Lord,” he says. Although Carlos had launched a tea and spice business in the early 1970s, he hadn’t aspired to be an entrepreneur. That is the case with most microfinance recipients. Yet the movement that extends small, uncollateralized loans to the poor to start businesses has marketed itself as being about entrepreneurship. That is a mistake. While microfinance may have helped Carlos start a business, it did not make him an entrepreneur.
The Law of Diminishing Returns states that a continuing push towards a given goal tends to decline in effectiveness after a certain amount of effort has been expended. If this weren't the case, Usain Bolt would be able to run the mile in less than 2-1/2 minutes.
From an economic standpoint, this law now seems to be fully in force in Greece. The latest jobs figures from the twice-bailed out euro zone country paint a bleak numerical picture of the impact of unrelenting austerity in ordinary Greeks, regardless of whether it was self-inflicted or not. To wit:
from The Great Debate:
The United Nations estimates that since Syria’s uprising began over a year ago, more than 9,000 Syrians have been killed. A recent assessment from Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Elliot Abrams puts the total number of Syrian refugees at almost half a million. Worse, it appears that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are continuing to torture, imprison and kill Syrian civilians. It also seems that the recent peace plan promulgated by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, which Assad’s government agreed to, is dead. According to Turkey’s prime minister, Assad “is not withdrawing troops, but he is duping the international community.”
The conventional wisdom holds that the international community is out of alternatives, short of another potentially dangerous military intervention or the risky prospect of arming Syria’s rebels. Syria’s government has already thumbed its nose at sanctions and condemnations from the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, European Union and various U.N. organs and individual countries. The Security Council, thanks to the vetoes of Russia and China, is also constrained to issuing awkward joint statements rather than passing binding resolutions.
There’s a 250,000 pound prize for the best idea on how to break up the euro zone, but how much would you pay to see the euro zone saved?
There is no denying that the euro zone is in a mess right now, but there are some steps that could help ease the crisis. Essentially the markets hate to be 1) misled and 2) confused. The European authorities have consistently sent mixed messages and reneged on their promises. For example, they said there would be no haircut on Greek debt then when it became obvious Greece had to re-negotiate its massive debt pile the authorities said Greece would be the exception. Now the markets believe there is a good chance that Portugal will have to follow suit.
Like many of the current government’s proposals, the announcement that the Education Secretary is planning to hand over control of ‘A’ Levels to the universities leaves me mystified. The only thing to be said with any confidence is that he is doing the same as each of his predecessors over the last half century: only fix the parts that ain’t broke. Be sure not to touch the worst bits.
The ‘A’ level system has two awful features which explain why our youngsters today are so poorly educated, whether judged in terms of their ability to compete in the global jobs market – it is global, wherever you actually go to work – or whether judged simply in terms of their levels of literacy, numeracy and culture in the broadest sense.