A few news items caught my eye. All doom and disaster stories of one sort or other. The USA is about to walk off a fiscal cliff, it seems:
Markets fall amid fading hopes of last-minute fiscal cliff deal
Stock markets fell on both sides of the Atlantic as hopes faded that President Barack Obama can cut a last-ditch deal to prevent the US being hit by a blitz of tax rises and spending cuts next week.
With just three days left to prevent the world’s largest economy sliding over the so-called fiscal cliff, President Obama and Congressional leaders met in the White House in a bid to find an agreement. However, with no sign of the divisions between Democrats and Republicans on tax rates and government spending softening, optimism an accord will be reached was evaporating on Wall Street and in the City of London.
The FTSE 100 fell 0.5pc to 5,924.13, while on Wall Street the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.7pc to 13,000.20.
Until this week, most investors remained confident that Congress and the White House would reach an agreement to avoid most of the $600bn of tax rises and spending cuts that has become known as the fiscal cliff.
It seems to be a stand-off between the White House and Congress, to see who blinks first. And nobody has blinked yet. But it seems that the real crunch is a couple of months away.
The real deadline is, once again, the debt ceiling which legally prevents the Administration from borrowing beyond a certain amount in cash terms. After some last-minute fiddles from the Treasury, the US will be due to exceed its debt ceiling sometime in late February or early March. That’s the real crunch moment – when the Federal government might have to face shut-down.
Harley has a helpful comment on this.
In other news, there seem to be a lot of politicians contradicting each other about Britain’s role in the EU.
The man who chairs EU summits, Herman Van Rompuy, has warned that UK attempts to repatriate powers from the EU could seriously fracture the 27-nation bloc.
Mr Van Rompuy told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that if every state were able to “cherry pick” EU policies “the union in general, and the single market in particular, would soon unravel”.
But Jacques Delors thinks differently.
The former European Commission president, who is credited as the architect of the modern EU and the euro, has broken ranks with other European leaders to offer Britain an exit from the Union.
“The British are solely concerned about their economic interests, nothing else. They could be offered a different form of partnership,” he told Handelsblatt, a German financial newspaper.
“If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free-trade agreement.”
Richard North thinks the EU is bound to fail anyway.
It inevitably involves political unification but it can never attract the “dedication” of the people. It can never demand and nor will it ever get the unlimited sacrifice of its “citizens.”
Thus, the idea that the EU can replace the sovereign state is indeed a “master fallacy of political thought” and those who believe it has a stable future are deluded. The European Union must fail – because of its very nature. The sovereign state is the only political entity which can provide stability.
Well, the EU will never get any “dedication” out of a smoker like me. But then, for that matter, neither will a Britain which has made me an exile in my own country.
The next bit of news was about a comet due in late 2013, that promises to be fifteen times brighter than the Full Moon.
The comet, named Ison, is expected to be so “spectacularly bright” that it will be visible to the naked eye in daylight next year.
It is predicted to end a year of “celestial treats” for 2013, with other comets also coming within visible range of the Earth.
I wonder when the Ison Doom cult will start up? (It already has, actually.)
It might be fun to get hold of some orbital data for Ison, and plug it into my model of the solar system. Ison is going to pass so close to the Sun that it may disintegrate, and create a shotgun blast of icy boulders that will spray out across the Solar System, killing or maiming every living thing in its path on Christmas Day, 2013. I think that would make quite a good Ison Doom cult.
The sheer absurdity of this image, with its implicit message that cigarettes themselves can develop cancer and grow tumours, would almost be humorous if it wasn’t so utterly sick and twisted and mendacious. Isn’t this image likely to make quite a few people realise, perhaps for the very first time, that they’re being lied to?
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame (Silly) Sally Davies said smokers play Russian roulette with every cigarette.
“It’s the hidden dangers we’re getting at.”
So of course you show them something that’s a complete fake, don’t you?
Actually, I’d quite like to have a few cigarettes like that. It’d be great fun to light one up somewhere, and watch people scurry away. Perhaps you could make your own with salami and black pudding and glue.