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Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Watching PMQ and George Soros

"...if we do the wrong things, it will be more painful; if we do the right things, it will be less painful."
Government and the crisis - a sober American discussion between Bill Moyers and George Soros (transcript extract):

BILL MOYERS:So let's think about those people down at Neely's Barbecue going home tonight having heard you. What they've heard you say is the system is really disfunctioning right now. It's out of control. Nobody's in charge. They've heard you express your own worry that in the next three months it could get much, much worse. And they've heard you say that you don't see much good news immediately on the horizon. So let's leave them something to think about as they go home. Let them go home and say, "Mr. Soros said here are three things we can do, simply." One?

GEORGE SOROS:Well, deal with the mortgage problem. Reduce foreclosures. Recapitalize the banks. And then work on a better world order where we work together to resolve problems that confront humanity like global warming. And I think that dealing with global warming will require a lot of investment. You see, for the last 25 years the world economy, the motor of the world economy that has been driving it was consumption by the American consumer who has been spending more than he has been saving, all right? Than he's been producing. So that motor is now switched off. It's finished. It's run out of — can't continue. You need a new motor. And we have a big problem. Global warming. It requires big investment. And that could be the motor of the world economy in the years to come.

BILL MOYERS:Putting more money in, building infrastructure, converting to green technology.

GEORGE SOROS:Instead of consuming, building an electricity grid, saving on energy, rewiring the houses, adjusting your lifestyle where energy has got to cost more until it you introduce those new things. So it will be painful. But at least we will survive and not cook.

* * * [Back to the future - Obama's 'rescue plan' 13 Oct '08] * * * We've switched - from lecture and discussion at Hornton Grange at the University Conference Park with my Japanese students and friend and colleague Chris Game - to watching the BBC live feed from the House of Commons - a wide screen image, with good sound, of PMQ - Prime Minister's Questions. (YouTube extract) It's an especially useful example of being able to watching significant political moments, as the House considers the government's decision to spend even more money than was approved by Congress on Friday, in the form of a 'rescue package' - £250 billion in the hope of improving the 'general liquidity' - about £4000 per person across the UK - to give a feel for scale. In the States it was $70 billion (£394 billion) for a population of 301 million. Technology having become more versatile in the last year, we watched the Diet of Japan and other political forums - as three years ago I sat at the kitchen table in Birmingham watching Katrina - in repetitive stills - hitting the coast of New Orleans, ravaging the city and the lives of those unable to drive to safety, marking the start of European familiarity with the phrase 'sub-prime lending'. [Back to the future 2/11/08: on this matter of using WiFi in the classroom I know it's only the start of something quite different whose form is still unclear 'where the teacher can respond quickly and flexibly to students by tapping into a rich repository of learning gadgets relevant to the class and the syllabus to build a classroom experience that changes as fast as the students inquisitive minds.'] * * * Last night I had supper at Henry's in St.Pauls Square with my old friends, Kim and Tanya. It was so good to be together again after so long a break in our 8 or 9 month reunions. This time it was over a year so we had lots of chat about families, friends and the state of the world as it seemed from our homes and our different institutions, Birmingham University, Cranfield University Business School and private consultancy. "This is such a mess. It's so depressing. People are getting hurt or expecting to be. I cheered myself" said K " by thinking this may at least kick us into saving the globe" "And it may stop banks forcing loans down my kids' eager throats and then short-selling their debt to your eager kids as real money" I said. Didn't someone say "We're leaving Planet Finance: returning to Planet Earth; Wall Street becoming like Venice from the 19th century on - primarily for tourists...." * * * A rather astonishing and quite pleasing thing has happened. Out of the blue someone I've not met for half a century has e-mailed me suggesting a visit next month to the grounds of Ashfold School - where I was between 1949 and 1954, from age 7 to 12. Shortly after I left, the school moved to a place near Aylesbury. The old school was demolished. I've not been much interested in school reunions, but I know I'm not gold glazing my childhood in affirming that Ashfold was a happy place - liberal without ideology. I'm sneezing from dust raised sifting through unvisited files, digging out black and white images long unseen. The astonishing thing about the part of my brain that stores my past is that so much has lain there, as untapped as my old school photos. Unlike ones of me as a baby or toddler - in the secret garden of infancy - these photos record a time when I was poised between haloed clouds and common day. While the photos are faded, memories surface with astounding freshness, in colour with echoes; faces, words including school slang, (a sacred stubby - a pencil sharpened, at both ends, to the last syllable of available lead, respecting habits of scarcity from the war) events, personalities and now, in a trickle, stories of long ago - as others begin to chat via e-mail with images shared on the web about our forthcoming get-together. In the school photo from 1953 I'm eighth from the right, third row up. * * * Pushbikes arranged a public meeting with Birmingham City Council on 9th October at the Birmingham and Midland Institute to discuss cycling issues. I couldn't go. The photo shows the start of what became a standing room only event. Centre foreground is Howard Boyd, who's quietly done more for cycling in this city than anyone, and whose research - 12 years ago - into the health benefits of cycling got me taking up cycle commuting, and - last October - to divorcing my car. * * * The court case over the deaths in October 2006 of two children at the Louis Corcyra Hotel is due in November on the island. There's another worrying piece of news from the 'freelance one man band' Brabant on local concern about the EU subsidised landfill at Lefkimi - in this case a film on YouTube about its effect on the local water table.
From Corfu Malcolm Brabant reports: Environmental campaigners -Spiros Pantis, taverna owner, Dimitris Fanariotis, Eco Corfu and Stephanos Kouris, Environmentalist - on Corfu accuse the EU of wasting subsidies on a new rubbish dump that, they allege, fails to meet waste disposal standards laid down by Brussels. The campaigners claim the landfill site, near one of Corfu's most popular tourist beaches, is going to cause serious pollution because Brussels does not monitor how its money is spent.


  1. Simon, great school leading to imaginative blog and cunning use of technology? Chris Holtom

  2. Thank you Chris. It's a delight to hear from you and to look forward to meeting soon.


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