Sunday, January 31, 2010

Welcome the iPad

Apple's new device may not be a surprise but on the basis of technical innovation it is very welcome. From what I've seen we're looking at a luxury good with entertainment at its heart and business use on the back-burner. 3rd parties may come in to fill the gaps. That said, Apple is renowned for vendor lock-in despite have one of the most evangelistic customer bases.

Its objectives:
Browsing
Email
Photos
Video
Music
Games
eBooks

In its infancy I see this as a toy for the well off. This first version is a little repressed, most likely in an attempt to avoid cannibalising the iPhone. For example it doesn't have out of the box call making functionality, despite being equipped with microphone and speakers. I haven't found anyone with a good reason as to why it doesn't have a camera, apart from the obvious unwieldy size of the device. The back lit LCD screen puts a question mark over whether it will be a Kindle killer.

The first impression when I looked at it was "where's that going to go?" Laptops are delicate enough. I'm precious over the screen on my G1 phone. How do I keep this in use, yet out of harms way? Try keeping the kid's filthy mitts off something as cool, flashy and responsive as that. Rules out the coffee table.

I guess I'm more excited by its Star Trekkie nature. I can see it as the stepping stone to changing the way computer devices are moving. Not enough in it for me to cough up the dough but great progress none the less.

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Interest Rates: Lower for Longer

This is the line being peddled by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and largely agreed with by the Bank of England and the treasury. As such there appears to be no opposition to the idea, certainly in the mainstream media. The nearest I've heard is referring to the current base rates as artificially low.

If the line was on inflation I'd understand. I can only presume the consensus is to keep quiet on inflation to allow it to eat away the absolute debt while paying little for it with a populist approach to the "home-owning" democracy how are now seeing £100's of pounds each month stay in their pocket that would normally be going to the mortgage lender.

Basic economics dictates that interest rates must not be lower than inflation. If it is then there is no incentive to lend. Criticising institutions for their poor lending record in such conditions is an untenable position.

The ambition has to be to return interest rates to a normal 3-5%. That's when the economy will start being able to take care of itself.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exciting Week

Picking up the paper for the train ride this morning I felt bizarrely excited about the items showing up for this week's news. Big headline was the expectation that the UK would exit recession. The headline for Wednesday morning is the UK "limps" out of recession. 0.1% growth was all we could muster for the initial figure. "Springs" would be better but we'll take what we can get.

Next up is the new Apple iThingamajig. I like the fact that Apple exists as a company bringing bright new shiny gadgets that their customers eagerly anticipate. I've never been one of its customers but I look forward to being wowed tomorrow by what they come up with. Chances are it will be a touch screen tablet. Who knows, it might be the one that turns me.

Lastly, Tony Blair shows up at the Chilcot inquiry. At the moment the evidence is being forced to speak for itself as the questioners aren't exactly nano-probing. However, I do welcome the opportunity for Blair to be scrutinised by a force more reckoning than Fern Britton.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Balls, Brown and Darling - 3 into 2 won't go

Without a mandate, Gordon Brown was incapable of sacking Alistair Darling as Chancellor of the Exchequer. With a mandate from the British electorate, Ed Balls is going to be calling on his master's door demanding his reward for years of loyal service.

The wrong question is being asked when the pollsters come out with
Who do you trust most to run the economy?
  • Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling
  • David Cameron and George Osborne
  • Nick Clegg and Vince Cable
Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling would be lucky to see out 2010 as a combination. Balls will be Brown's number two at the soonest possible opportunity.

What that means is that arguably Labour's post asset is not worth listening to because he will not get the chance to implement any plan he devises (if he ever gets around to making one).

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Election Coming Up - Where to Begin?

Liberal Democrats -
PRO: Great policy (income tax to start at £10k)
CON: Very poor at selling it

Labour -
PRO: ...thinking... well given enough time they could come up with something like the minimum wage and freedom of information
CON: 13 years of failed promises leaving them now completely reactionary with no strategy and an unelectable leader. Oh and bankrupting the country in the process.

Conservatives -
PRO: Not Labour
CON: Subject to mild fits of stupidity like Shadow Chancellors on yachts, air brushing photos and forgetting to tell Chris Grayling which side the General picked

I can't help but think that the media outlets want mediocrity with their coverage of the Lib Dems. At this late juncture a grass root uprising of a new, seriously supported party emerging before the election is improbable. Which means ridiculing of the "they can't possibly win" kind means we're stuck with either Labour or Tories. How they can claim a love of democracy and yet favour a two party system I do not know.

Labour should have imploded by now. You have to give them credit for keeping the polls as tight as they have. As I've said before, it's nothing personal, but this party needs to pushed into 3rd place for the good of the nation. If the Conservatives and Lib Dems fail to make that happen then we've still got trouble 5 years down the line.

Anyone expecting the Tories to do radical good in power from 2010 to 2015 is going to be disappointed. The Labour Party will have managed to shake off most of the New Labour shackles and the dead weight associated with it. Another Labour or Conservative choice in 2015 is not something I'd look forward to.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Airport Security Steps Up - Who Looks Guilty?

The BBC See Also blog is using an image from Associated Press for its post on increased security measures to come into effect as soon as the equipment can get in position.

"Hands up!", "Reach for the sky, punk!", "Put your hands in the air, now!"

That's what the image conveys. "Can you please look guilty so we can get about proving you innocent, please sir?.

You don't find me talking up civil liberties often. Being a Land Value Tax advocate I have to explain why I'm in favour of a new tax. The explanation is that it is a replacement tax, to offset income tax in particular. I always make a point of stating that income tax didn't always exist. When it did start it was small, incurred by a small number of citizens.

I couldn't help but notice the similarity; the creep in income tax to affect more and more workers and the creep that is going on in with ever more stringent airport security. Without eliminating the cause we are looking at welcoming in blood scans and brain scans in order to board a plane.

Sounds crazy doesn't it? Ordinarily I'd agree. But all we're getting in the mainstream media as a response is "It won't work. It's a waste of money." There was one item highlighted; the creation of a indecent image of a child. That's what we have to save us from this mockery of defence, it may violate child protection laws.

Along with CCTV, it'll become increasingly more pervasive under the guise that it's for our own protection like it is inevitable.

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Good Old Snow

It is of course entirely coincidental that, as Copenhagen 2009 in condemned to the history books as a pitiful failure where national interest supersedes the want to preserve the planet, we are in for some nasty winter weather.

Some of the more glamorous forecasts are saying we're in for 10 inches of snow. Rather like penis sizes, these estimates are subject to gross exaggeration. I'd welcome being proven wrong but 10cm is far more likely.

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