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White Elephant News
As BOM readers will be painfully aware, British taxpayers are currently spending many billions on building a set of white elephants out East. And to give us a fix on just how white these elephants will be, consider this news from Beijing:
"The Chinese government spent $43 billion for the Olympics... But many of the venues proved too big, too expensive and more photogenic than practical. The National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, has only one event scheduled for this year... China's leading soccer club backed out of a deal to play there, saying it would be an embarrassment to use a 91,000-seat stadium for games that ordinarily attract only 10,000 spectators. The venue, which costs $9 million a year to maintain, is expected to be turned into a shopping mall...OMG.
A baseball stadium that opened last spring... is being demolished. Its owner says it also will use the land for a shopping mall. The National Aquatics Center, nicknamed the Water Cube, is used for sound-and-light shows, with dancing fountains in the swimming lanes where Michael Phelps won his gold medals.
All around the Olympic complex, there are cavernous empty buildings, such as the main press center for the Games, that still await tenants. A shopping arcade that stretches for a quarter of a mile across the street from the complex is empty, the storefronts papered over with signs reading "famous stores corridor."
Wonder if there's still time to give it to the French.
(HTP Joan W)
Salami Slicer News
Nick L highlights the latest housing wheeze. Urged on by the housing lobby to chuck more of our money into the construction industry, the government said:
"... it was already working to get an extra 12,500 affordable homes ready in two years. It said it was investing £160m to buy almost 5,000 unsold homes, and spending a further £550m on building 7,500 new properties."
So Nick did the sums. £160m divided by 5000 equals £32,000.
£32 grand? Even with today's mega-discounts, 5000 unsold homes for £32 grand each is somewhat less than believable.
Nick's quivering nostrils detect the delicate whiff of salami: "They will get the 160 million, buy a handful, and then ask for more".
Sounds about right.
Stinking Trough News
Steve wants to make sure we all clock the latest disgusting snufflings from the trough:
"Michael Martin, the Speaker of the House of Commons, took his wife to some of the world’s most exotic destinations on trips funded by the taxpayer... Over the past six years Mr Martin and his wife Mary have enjoyed a total of 16 trips to destinations including Hawaii, the Bahamas, New York and Rome...
No details of the itineraries or costs of each visit were given, however it is likely to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. It emerged last year that Mrs Martin spent £24,485 of taxpayers’ money on flights accompanying Mr Martin in the three and a half years between April 2004 and the end of 2007."
I'd write more, but the whole thing is so revolting it would turn my stomach.
The fact that Martin wasn't booted out long ago really does tell us all we need to know about the so-called Mofo of Parliaments.
Disaster Pensions News
We've blogged the public sector pensions disaster many times - the unfunded public pensions that constitute a £1 trillion+ debt burden on taxpayers.
But even where public pensions are funded, they can still be a disaster. The Post Office scheme is a case in point - despite its funding, we've recently heard its deficit has ballooned out of control and is now approaching £10bn.
Which of course explains why Mandy is pushing on with privatisation - by flogging it off to the Dutch, he's presumably hoping to raise enough to cover a good chunk of the deficit. Plus, a private sector owner would close the final salary scheme pdq.
Fat chance. Apart from the fact this is a really dumb time to sell off more of our assets, there is no way union-funded Labour will actually pull the trigger. And somehow, we don't think Cam will have the stomach for it either.
Via HMG guarantees or some other work-around, that £10bn will end up lumped with the £1 trillion we already owe our millions of public sector pensioners.
(HTP Barry Manilow - we presume not that one).
Ten billion here, a trillion there - the debt dials are now spinning so fast that trillions are starting to go the same way as billions - mere chump change. So to prepare you for the future, here's BOM's complete run down on those upscale numbers we'll be needing to settle our bills within the next couple of years:
million = 106
billion = 109
trillion = 1012
quadrillion = 1015
quintillion = 1018
hexillion = 1021
heptillion = 1024
octillion = 1027
nonillion = 1030
decillion = 1033
unodecillion = 1036
duodecillion = 1039
If you can't follow it, don't worry: we'll have regressed back to subsidence agriculture long before HMG's debt hits duodecillions.
Our advice is to lay in some seedcorn. Real seedcorn, that is.
While I was off on my week's admin leave, several correspondents emailed to say that nice Mr Dale included BOM on his list of the ten best written political blogs.
So A Big Thank You to him - again. Ever since we started BOM, he has been a constant source of encouragement and support.
Of course, Iain really is the Godfather of UK political blogging, so I'm kinda wondering if some day - and that day may never come - he will call upon me to do a service for him. I'll maybe have to leave a horse's head in someone's bed.