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So I shall finally add a bit to this blog. Been making numerous trips around the city lately, including one the other day just to go to Fortnum & Mason to stock up on tea and biscuits. Aislinn, Laila, Mary & I went in one day for some shopping and decided to grab a coffee at the cafe in the Mammas & Pappas store in the city (like an uber-upscale Babies 'r Us), only to find it was not just a cafe but one of the yummiest Italian restaurants in London!

Went to the O2 for brunch a couple weeks ago and discovered an indoor carnival, complete with a merry-go-round, games that can't be won, and wild gyrating rocket rides. I think it's safe to say Mary is now scared of carnies. But who isn't. The carnival has since been taken down, to be replaced with a ski slope (yes that's correct) at the end of November. The O2 is amazing. We went there a few weeks ago to see Finding Nemo on Ice. Mary was absolutely transfixed throughout the show & we had a blast.

We recently bought an In the Night Garden play tent which is currently taking up half the living room. But Mary and her little friends absolutely love it.

The weather is total rubbish. We had hoped to take a trip to Brighton this weekend (which is the shore, and yes I realize we're the only people planning to go to the British seaside in the fall, but we hate tourists) but it was too rainy. Bonfire Night was Saturday (in honor of Guy Fawkes Day 5th Nov) and the big fireworks are in Blackheath. Nobody wanted to brave the rain with us so we stayed in, only to be pleasantly surprised to realize we could watch them from our living room window anyway. It was a massive show that lasted about 45 minutes.

On Saturday we took the streetcar and drove around for some errands and decided to check out Bluewater, Europe's largest mall, which is just a 20 minute drive away. We got there and it was certainly a sight to behold. It was basically a giant chalk pit that had been dug out, and there, surrounded by white cliffs, was a massive white mall, almost looking like a chalk cliff itself. We never did go in as traffic was a madhouse and parking was impossible. Too many nutters at the mall that day.

Aaron left for Jordan for work today (yes the crappy country Jordan), and is back on Thursday. Saturday we leave for Florida. Our Mary Travel Kit is packed with everything from books to fuzzy felts to In the Night Garden figurines and magnet scenes to a shape sorter. Should be fun. I must try not to argue with the security screeners this time.
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London had snowfall in October last night for the first time in more than 70 years. All that global warming! I missed it as it was in the middle of the night. Oh well, hopefully more will come soon.
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Stephen Fry is one of the most respected celebrity types in Britain. He's something of a star, journalist, writer game show host rolled into one. (He was the co-star of the huge hit A Bit of Fry and Laurie, which he starred in with Hugh Laurie from House.) He has a new BBC series on now where he's doing a road trip to all 50 states. It's a good show, even if each state is reduced to its stereotype (i.e. Maine=lobster, New Jersey=Atlantic City.)

On tomorrow's episode he's down south. And in the promos he's at an Alabama football game and has this to say:
'But the highlight of this leg of the journey is the full-on razzmatazz of a college football game in Alabama, where thousands of fans are entertained by legions of cheerleaders, marching bands and US Air Force jets buzzing overhead. “I really don’t know,” Fry says, “if anything sums up America better. It’s simultaneously preposterous, incredibly laughable, impressive, charming, ridiculous and expensive. Wonderful America!”'
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What we had of summer is decidedly over. It's getting colder and rainier every day. And it's darker earlier and earlier every night. It won't be long now before it's pitch black at 3:30.

Must find new wellies.

Went autumn/winter clothes shopping at H&M this weekend. Mary got a new hat, gloves, and scarf set. It was really funny because I tried the mittens on her in the store and she started waving her hands and saying 'hot, hot, hot', like she does when she tries on my oven mitts. She's very good with the stove and knows when you tell her you're opening it up that she needs to get back and stand still against the wall and say 'hot'.
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As my london blog has evolved into a political blog, i've created a purely political blog. The expats blog from now on will be purely london-related.

Here's the new blog though:

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these are the sorts of ridiculous things you get when the government intervenes in every facet of your life:

Brits urged to leave sheds open for thieves!

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From Matt Mayer's article "Three Fundamental Economic Questions for Senator Obama":

Question Three: How do higher unionization rates make America more competitive and, therefore, stronger economically? [short answer, they don't]

For the sake of cutting through the noise of union propaganda, I will concede that unions drive up wages and benefits for their members. Because liberals always tell us that corporations are greedy, I will assume Senator Obama will concede that unionized corporations won’t pay for those increased wages and benefits by reducing their profits. That means, of course, that union wages and benefits will be paid for by increasing the price of the good or service that the corporation provides, which means higher prices for consumers.

The world, unlike in 1932, consists of a global economy. While unions and liberals like to pretend that they can unilaterally stop the globalization of work and force foreign countries to reduce their competitive advantage of lower wages and manufacturing costs, they can’t. The reality is that countries with strong trade unions and socialist-leaning economic policies like France and Germany are weakening the power of the unions because, no matter how hard they try, they have been unable to force China, India, Malaysia, or even Eastern Europe to adopt their labor standards. As a result, their unemployment rates remain higher than other developed nations and their economies weaker.

Does Senator Obama plan to use tariffs and other trade barriers to try and obtain concessions from lower cost countries? As we learned from the Great Depression, placing tariffs on imports from countries that won’t unilaterally disarm will lead to greater economic damage. So, how will he persuade these countries to adopt America’s more costly labor structure?

Even within the United States, in industries where unions have had their strongest presence, those corporations are withering on the vine of unionization while their non-unionized brethren remain viable. The American carmakers beg bureaucrats in Washington to give them billions in aid because they make cars that simply cost too much due to the higher wages and benefits the unions extracted over the last forty years.

Just down the road in places like Ohio, Honda plants operate at full capacity to meet the ever increasing demand for their lower priced and better (American) built cars. The short-term gain for some union members now retired has come at the long-term expense of those union members who came to the table later, to the communities left to deal with empty plants, and to the jobs that likely would have remained had employees ditched their unions.

The airlines with unionized employees teeter on the verge of bankruptcy while Southwest produces profits, high customer satisfaction rates, and loyal employees. The heavily unionized steel and manufacturing industries long ago lost the battle to the global economy, except in those states with right to work laws that protect workers who don’t want to join the union.

In Washington state, Boeing is losing $100 million a day in deferred revenue because the machinists union rejected an offer worth roughly $38,000 per member over three years. When many Americans are losing their jobs or seeing their wages decline, a $12,500 yearly increase seems pretty generous. Is it any wonder that Boeing wants to move as much of its manufacturing as possible outside of America? Sure, that very outsourcing has resulted in temporary supply chain delays for its revolutionary Dreamliner airplane, but supply chains can be fixed. Union power in a non-right to work state renders Boeing largely powerless. We have seen this story before. It rarely ends well for the consumer or the economy.

In non-right to work states, the unionization rate is nearly twice that of right to work states. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate in those states is also higher. So is the amount of federal government transfer payments. The average Gross Domestic Product of non-right to work states from 1997 to 2006 is over 14% lower than in right to work states.

The only industry where unions thrive is in government. With their monopolies and lack of profit and loss drivers, government and their union allies grow and cost more every year. Public sector employees now make more than their private sector neighbors who actually pay for their costs. Even in government, unions need affirmative action laws (i.e., prevailing wage) in order to compete, which further drives the cost up for taxpayers. Looming not too far in the distance is the moment when grossly underfunded (and grossly generous) public sector pension plans will require some sort of taxpayer bailout.

Most of America’s public schools are 100% unionized and 100% uncompetitive. They cost too much and accomplish too little. With all of these facts, why does Senator Obama think that increasing unionization rates will be good for America? Does he really think that unionizing 10%, 20%, or 30% of the U.S. economy will make America more competitive globally?

These are very simple questions that Senator Obama should answer. The American economy is in a very rough patch. The last thing it needs is a president who thinks that the road to prosperity is paved by punishing producers, increasing dependency, over-regulating, and driving up labor costs.

“Yes, we can” do that, but we shouldn’t.
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The Congressional Democrats like to say that it was the "failed Bush economic policies" that caused the disaster. Ask what policies those were, and most have no answer.

A few will espouse what the New York Times has said recently: that it is because of the Federal Reserve's failure to "curb unfair, deceptive and predatory lending." Yet the NYT praised the easing of credit controls by Fannie Mae in 1999, because the loosening of controls would enable more affordable housing. 1999 incidentally, was under Bill Clinton's watch, not Bush's. The Clinton administration put a lot of pressure onto Fannie/Freddie and private institutions to grant mortgage's to people with no credit/low credit and no or minimal down payments (sounds like a used car commercial).

They also refer to the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 that ended the prohibition of banks and investment firms merging. (Just a reminder once again that 1999 was under Clinton). Presumably they blame Bush for that because they think he should have repealed it. Whatever. Bill Clinton himself has said deregulation, and that Act in particular, are not to blame for the current crisis, and have in fact kept the crisis from being even worse, because it enabled Bank of America to purchase Merrill Lynch. “I don’t see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis. Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current situation…is the purchase of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America.”

The NYT has also oddly blamed Republicans for the failure of the Fannie/Freddie reform bill in 2005. It was Republicans that put forward that bill. It was John McCain calling for tighter lending requirements to keep high-risk borrowers from getting loans. The Democrats, including Obama, voted against the bill.

W did in fact also push for affordable housing (which is a ridiculous phrase incidentally. housing is by default affordable, it wouldn't be built if someone couldn't afford to buy it.) But it was not his economic policies that facilitated bad lending.
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Obama says he'll only raise taxes for the top 5%. That same top 5% currently shoulders over 60% of the national tax burden (yet earn 35% of gross income).

The top 25% of tax payers pays 85% of the taxes (and earn 68% of gross income). That means the bottom 75% pay only 15% of the taxes.

The bottom 50% pay only 3% of the taxes (and earn 13% of the gross income).

Still with me?

The bottom 20% of taxpayers, who currently share only a 0.8% of the tax burden, would, under Obama's plan, pay a -0.12% of taxes. Which means the government pays them not to pay taxes. Just last year, 44 MILLION Americans who paid no income taxes received "rebate checks".

Of course, Obama now also says that in light of the bailout, he'd have to hold off on the tax cuts and hikes for a while and see how things go. Why is that? Because he knows raising the taxes of the top 5% would only damage the economy further. Interesting runaround from someone who has said raising taxes is good for the economy.

Such tax policies, pushing even more of the tax burden onto the "wealthy", are harmful to everyone. First it sparks class warfare; but then as a socialist, that's exactly what Obama wants. Second, it discourages people from working harder and earning more money because then even more of their money would go flying out in taxes. Third, it strengthens the welfare state and discourages lower-income earners from working harder, or at all, because they'll just get a bigger "rebate" check from the government.
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