Monday 14 May 2012

30 years of failure to undo: part two.

It is already apparent that the steely determination of dogmatic and myopic Europhiles to try and make the Euro defy the laws or economics and gravity, has and will continue to inflict more misery on more Europeans than anything since World War 2. There appears to have been  no "plan B" with the Eu high command, just a scramble in the afflicted nations to prepare themselves to revert to national currencies.
Is this any less contentious as symbols go, than
 the one from an earlier attempt at European "unity"..?
It seems equally apparent that language unity was/is probably more important as a first step than fiscal unity. The US learnt that back in the 18th century - and the current economic powerhouses of Asia have no trouble grasping the concept. But pause for a moment to consider who actually benefits from heterogeneous politics in pursuit of the amortisation of all money, markets, attitudes?

Thus far, and I am sorry to keep reminding you, the West has rushed through (and largely wasted) the abundant resources that new exploration and drilling technology made accessible - but the average citizen/subject is now facing tougher times than since at least 1950. Yet the people of Greece and now France are only just starting to question the judgement of those driving the Brussels and Berlin gravy trains, and suggesting that perhaps largely the same people and systems that got us where we are today, should not still be calling the shots.  

The de facto unifying world language is of course English. Apparently, more people now speak English in China than in England. Meanwhile the BBC is still obsessed with spending money it does not deserve to have on Welsh and Gaelic language support for TV and radio.
The mismanagement of society's interface to minority and special interest groups has been enshrined in inaccurately named "human rights" legislation, which, like so much else at core of the sinister social engineering agendas of the political and educational establishments, has been hi-jacked and abused by a string of dubious minority interest manipulators that seriously inconvenience and impede the majority.

All attempts to question this state of affairs are batted away by the controlling elites of global politics and media with accusations of varying degrees of the oppression of minority rights - including strident accusations ranging from racism to fascism that are designed to drive most normal people right out of the argument before it can gain a foothold. Yet the international hypocrisy agenda is still one of the West delivering democracy (ie the will of the majority) to the Middle East and other countries where Google, Amazon, Cisco, HP, IBM, eBay, McDonalds etc. would like to be able to do tax-avoiding business on their terms.

If at first you don't succeed...

The past 30 years have seen breathtaking technical advances in all forms of communication technologies, but these have delivered almost nothing to most European citizens other than a financial crisis to rival the 30s, and variety of political and social problems that when summed up mean you cannot now take a bottle of water on a plane, and old ladies of 70 have to take their shoes off in order that politically correct security procedures are followed.

The dark side of "progress" is that personal liberties and freedoms are an illusion. Any number of American megacorporations have been allowed (encouraged, even) to learn more about you than your family does. In fact, they probably know about as much about you as the Gestapo did in 1930s Germany.

And this is progress?

Wednesday 9 May 2012

30 years of failure to undo: part one.

As the people of Europe shuffle through the wreckage of the Great Bust of 2007, compounded by the fairyland economics of the Euro, has anyone yet properly worked out what went wrong, and apportioned the blame. After all, the costs of trying fix it are very real and being paid, so what are we paying for? Where has the "missing" five trillion dollars gone? Who managed to trouser it all?

...or do they?
As QI might have it, the reality is that even now, "Nobody Knows".

Just as money can be created from nothing by "quantitative easing", so it seems the opposite applies.

One generally plausible theory is that the money was initially "created" in the form of mortgages on over-valued property that were handed out to blue collar voters by order of Bill Clinton - without any realistic hope of ever paying them off.

Here's an explanation from Investopedia:

If John Doe buys a house and takes out a $400,000 mortgage loan with a 5% interest rate through Bank A, the bank now holds an asset - a mortgage-backed security. Bank A is now entitled to sell the asset to another party (Bank B). Bank B, now the owner of an income-producing asset, is entitled to the 5% mortgage interest paid by John. As long as house prices go up and John continues to pay his mortgage, the asset is a good one.

If, however, John defaults on his mortgage, the owner of the mortgage (whether Bank A or Bank B) will no longer receive the payments to which it is entitled. Normally, the house would then be sold, but if the house price has declined in value, only a portion of the money can be regained. As a result, the securities based on this mortgage become unsellable, as no other party would pay for an asset that is guaranteed to lose money.

So the short answer to the question to "what happened?" is that mortgaged property values in the US fell by $5 trillion. Meaning that those who got paid the originally inflated values for land and buildings are the net beneficiaries. Caveat emptor applies, so there has been no effort to track back to the source and ask for it back.

Since large chunks of the risk exposure had been laid off to gullible banks around the world, attracted by the unsustainable rates of interests on offer, the default problems were spread far and wide outside the US.

Cash: remember what that looked like back in the day?
This point to note here is that interest on capital is money that is created by the sort of fiscal magic that bankers have loved over the ages: there is no product or service involved. It just magically "becomes due".  No wonder bankers love the idea of being left alone to get on with "fractional reserve" banking where banks are able to lend using "money" that they don't actually have in the vaults: and so interest is payable to them on "assets" that doesn't actually exist.

Arguably all forms of "rent" simply conjure cash from thin air in this manner, but rent is more traditionally paid against the "loan" of very tangible asset owned by another. In the case of a mortgage, the tangible asset is taken over by the lender as security/collateral.  So a mortgage amounts to paying rent on money rather than bricks and mortar. Rental is simpler and more versatile as it is easier to change lease agreements than any process involving transferring freeholds.

Taxes and "duties" are taken by governments in the form of extant cash assets and any default will result in your assets being seized and turned into cash at auction. But "distress sales" are far from optimal for the distressed - generally realising no more than 10p in the £.

And all that collected tax cash is then paid in various way to shore up failed banks, and thus save the businesses of bankers whose bad judgement and propensity to take absurd risks and pay themselves huge salaries, started it all.

Got it?

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Realistic rewards for top execs?

Mark Thompson and assistant
The general mood of the nation continues to change, and question many of the conventional beliefs that arose over the past 15 years as the government somehow managed to change the way common sense was replaced by process and procedures. For some reasons that no one seems to be able to rationalise, this period saw barely talented types like Mark Thompson get the gig as DG of the BBC on a near as dammit £1m salary.

The idea seemed to be that if your organisation has a vast budget, then your salary should also be vast. Should the BBC boss be paid roughly 5x what the PM gets? Of course not, it's pure bonkers.  But the culture of overpaying is self-propelling - but those "remuneration committees" that amount to mini cartels of fat cats that kid themselves they are worth it, are going to find the cream has turned sour at last.

Shareholders are revolting at last, and bosses of companies that take the piss from their shareholders by getting paid huge salaries when the company value goes down, are not likely to be left alone for much longer.

Sir Michael Darrington 
Some old fashioned private investors (ie persons who themselves not being paid dubious silly money to run an investment fund, and are thus part of this rude rewards culture) who have have had enough are starting to organise, and they might as well simply vote down every salary of over £500k without further thought, and get those who feel they can justify themselves to perform a song and dance for the benefit of the shareholders at the AGM.

Sir Michael Darrington is the epitome of an old-style company leader who earned his keep the progressive but hard way over 25 years - he was not parachuted in on a fat salary by a VC to strip and flip. He has plenty of awkward questions to ask, but the opening line of questioning to adopt is really, really simple. Make these cats meow for their supper: "Please explain to us all why and how this job is twice as import as that of the Prime Minister..."

The notion that by not paying "the market rate" an organisation would be unable to attract the right candidates is risible. Maybe if London bankers had been paid 10% of what they got in the past 15 years, the rest of us might not now be paying off the national debt for the next thousand years, thanks to Labour's panic bale-outs of 2007.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Le vote dindes pour Noël

Of course, as good Europeans, you don't need me to tell you that the headline means "Turkeys vote for Christmas".

Yesterday's man, and yesterday's
man for the day after tomorrow
Once again, let's remember that there are no cuts in most of Europe's wildly out of control public spending yet - the runaway train continues to career along the EU budget track, spewing cash and largesse for the faithful in all directions.

But just the anticipation of cuts and their effect that this has had of private industry has been paralysing. Especially in the UK where the woefully over-hyped and under-performing financial sector has wielded far too much power and influence for the past 30 years, banks are not lending money; they pay savers no interest, and they charge borrowers usury.

Terms like "Omnishambles" and the rather less decorous "Clusterf*ck" abound.

The French never have shown much discernible concern for anyone but themselves, so the prospect of the French telling the Germans that they are not going to play their austerity game is fascinating. The stockpile of Deutchmarks that the German central bank has been quietly printing and accumulating since last November is about to see the light of day.

Saturday 5 May 2012

UK defence news

In light of the fact that HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy's largest ship is now on Thames pleasure boat duty, news leaks about the new-look - fully sponsored - RAF.

Master and/or Commander?

A quizzical Cameron ponder what Boris has got that he hasn't
Maybe a tad closer than he would have liked, but a victory is still a victory. And all the more impressive in the face of the national trend to punish the posh boys.

The opportunity to raise Labour's hopes only to finally dash them might have added an extra piquancy to the process; but it's actually quite worrying that such an objectionable old dinosaur without an ounce of charm or competence like Ken, could have come so close.

The bloke with all the worries for now is David Cameron, as the electors of London have suggested that there really is an opportunity to step away from relentless tedious tribal politics when there is a big personality able to punt a simple agenda.

As Boris is not planning on standing for a 3rd term (although never say never) , it's already time to consider how to parlay this "non-aligned" opportunity and put up a candidate for the next Mayor elections. 4 years is not such a long time.

Surely a prime contender has to be Tim Campbell MBE..?

Come along Lord Sugar, the sooner Tim sets out a positive and progressive stall as Boris' apprentice, the better - and his pre-Apprentice career as a manager at London Transport means that fate is already beckoning.

As a potentially non-tribally-aligned candidate, Tim has an opportunity to work very creatively with Boris' administration and keep the crucial role of mayor constructively "of the people" and apolitical.

Friday 4 May 2012

Boris and London buck the trend

So then, the people of London dutifully followed the stern advice of one of Clapton's most famous lordly sons, and duly fired Ken; again.

It was a closer run thing than Boris would have liked, but he nevertheless pulled it off, and now Cameron and his coterie of woefully witless advisers who have steered the national Conservative Party onto the rocks of a sobering national defeat has a much bigger problem to address.

Boris proved that a free thinking conservative toff with a big enough personality to override personal peccadilloes ranging from riding his bike the wrong way in a one way system to other more "traditional peripatetic bike-related misdemeanours" - who makes no apologies for his roots and instincts - can carry an electorate as diverse as London.

Ken Livingstone Limited, VAT free
Boris also proved that the electorate is not tribally incapable of supporting a Conservative (or conservative?)  -  although it must be said that Livingstone's demeanour and personal baggage load is his worst enemy. Whoever in the Labour Party believed in the monkey and rosette theory, and thought it was a good idea to allow him to stand as candidate, must surely be ready for the high jump. In his speech, Ken admitted he has probably never had a proper job, instead, he has spent the past 41 years raising the red flag over council offices, being confrontationally controversial and fancying newts. That's about it.

Nick Clegg has a bit of a problem, too. Brian Paddick - who is such a complete and emblematic personification of committed modern liberal politics that he can't help being his own pastiche, was thrashed into an irrelevant fourth place by the delightfully daffy and irrelevant Green candidate. Brian thanked his Norwegian husband for his support, and couldn't stop himself make a valedictory swipe in the process . I don't think there is a lot to add, other than that he can now carry on enjoying a substantial police retirement pension, in obscurity and peace.

Another fine Eton Mess you got us in to

Luckiest bloke alive - handed votes on a plate
Well, even before this result, the Coalition couldn't get local councils to behave after 13 intoxicating years of free-spending Labour wastage and jobs for the boys and girls, that has created a nation of "client councils" staffed by over-paid administrations who have largely ignored efforts to implement what the elected government wanted done, as they ploughed on with their own spending, snooping, spying and social engineering agendas.

Clearly Cameron lost the plot very early on with his volte face on the Euro referendum and specious LD inspired distractions like Lords reform, PR and and foreign aid plans; even worse is the revelation that George Osborne is actually a clumsy politician with absolutely no "common touch", so feel free to Vote Monster Raving Loony by all means. But please do not give any encouragement to 100% proven disasters like Balls, Cooper, Harman and Millibrain and thereby suggest that the UK electorate simply does not deserve to be saved from its own crass stupidity. Remember, the cuts have barely begun, and government spending and waste is still waaay out of control. The inertial mass of Gordon Brown's legacy financial catastrophe has not even begun to come under control. 

That anyone could have forgotten just why we are presently economically destitute and imagine that voting for the halfwits that presided over the triple whammy of fairy money, client state and unregulated banking crisis for 13 years suggests that "the people" really are not fit to be allowed to vote.

A preferable Eton Mess
Wake up Dave. Replace your present circle of pals and politically naive "advisers" with people that have got a clue, and if you cannot do that, accept you will lose the next election and step aside now to allow the sort of leader the "real" party wants. This means one that will tell the now irrelevant LibDems to go home to backbench obscurity, and then replace (most of) them  by conservative ministers while the economy is rescued - and all irrelevance such as House or Lords reform, cash for EU failure  and aid to India is tossed in the bin. 

Here's another thought. If the 70 or so marginalised old-school Conservative MPs looked at the Boris factor and decided to set up shop with their own party to face down the "Eton Mess", they would outnumber the LidDems and be entitled to demand considerable representation in a "new coalition" of 3 parties. After all, the only real "conclusion" of the last general election was that the people did not want Labour again. And after just 2 years Cameron helped them forget! Maybe there are some honest Labour MPs who are ashamed of the way dinosaur trade unions put Ed Milliband in his job to guard their interests, who are also sufficiently independently minded to join a new coalition of common sense?

Wednesday 2 May 2012

A one man political tribe

Boris Johnson is doing something quite special in London - he's managed to stage a come back for the traditional Tory Patrician politician - and subtly reminded us that the pragmatic "right" (if we must assign labels) always manages to seem more versatile and human - avuncular, even - than the narrowly dogmatic and tiresomely tribal left. The resilience of Boris against the national Tory trend must also be putting the wind up Cameron and Osborne.

It does no harm that Boris is not perceived as part of any sort of "act" other than his eponymous one-man brand. I'll bet many Londoners don't know or care which political party he (notionally) belongs to. The fact that he probably doesn't "need" the salary or a clique of courtiers, but Livingstone does, is a further encouragement.

Boris is a once in a generation politician that only needs his first name on a ballot paper. All else is superfluous. He gets all the glory and all the blame - and thanks to his rakish charm, he is able to chase away detractors and problems with an affable ease that must have Cameron and Osborne in tears at times like these.

He is, in effect, his very own tribe. All the more so if you include his lookalike and manner-alike father, Stanley. Indeed, all the rest of Johnsons only manage to enhance the Boris brand.

Lock up your rodents!
Boris' top "trick" is as old as the human race.

He has managed to parlay his manifest human frailties into both a stage act and reminder that he is human like the rest of (most) of us. When set alongside a newt-fancier so sinister that he might have come straight off the set of "V" (remember that?) Ken is having to rely on the Old Labour "Monkey with a rosette factor" to drum up support from the lost tribe.

Boris surely cannot believe his luck - and whatever the boy thinks of being so thoroughly upstaged by Mr Whiff-Waff" himself, Cameron must be able to raise a smile that the ridiculous Harriet Harman is being forced to pretend she regards Livingstone is a great choice of Labour candidate.

"Listen up sonny Jim, there'll be no sweeties for you
if you call me "daddy" again..."
This blog kicked off by praising Lord Sugar for his honesty and ability to look beyond the moronic consistency of a morally bankrupt "party line"  that allowed a piece of work like Livingstone to have another go at one of the most crucial appointments in the land.

If you want to strike a blow for the possibility of some more (relatively) apolitical politics and a really big personality who brought passion and a smile back to a dour administration - as well as annoying so many of the terminally politically correct and sanctimonious - then Vote Boris!

And if your tribal roots start twitching, remember that you won't be giving David Cameron and the hapless Gideon much comfort either. They know very well that Brand Boris can't wait for a chance to take a stab at their job. And as Jeremy Clarkson would say, "who wants to see that?"

In fact, if your inclinations are for a Labour government, then you will probably want to keep Boris busily employed as London Mayor...

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Don't get me wrong...

Having received some comments that I appear to be backing some sort of "party line" and looking for excuses for Murdoch, I should like to set that record straight and say that I am perfectly happy to see an anachronistic old-style privateer chancer/bully/bruiser get a richly deserved comeuppance while he is still sufficiently sentient to feel the shame if not the contrition.

But equally I am not happy to see crudely subjective score settling (Tom Watson) and sanctimonious hypocrisy (Milliband-Guardian-BBC) spewing forth from those with "agendas" and that Murdoch foolishly "befriended" in expedient and cynical denial of his own political values and judgement. For all Rupert's pleas for clemency in light of "media plurality", a tomcat raking through bins in an alley would be embarrassed to have his moral compass compared to that of the "dirty digger".

The BBC reports plough on with the headline - and only mention that this is a split decision by the DCMS committee some time after telling their audience that "an influential committee of MPs has decided that Murdoch is not fit to run BSkyB".  6-4 is not exactly a "sound" verdict, but hey, we're the BBC and we're on a roll...  also keep in mind that nearly ALL of the naughty stuff happened during the time before the last election when Labour was desperate to retain Murdoch's endorsement, and all gazes were averted. Talk about tacky.

For the sake of short term smugness, a partisan committee split now hugely devalues the next step because of Brown's declaration of War. Murdoch dropped hints during Leveson, and would be unlikely not to immediately seize on the Brown War declaration, and trace from that the process by which a collection of "power at any price" Labour politicians had once sucked up to all things Murdoch, and turned blind eyes as required.

What Murdoch's Israeli-based black ops did in TV  - and that was exposed in Panorama a few weeks ago - is far more serious, since with this action they were not part of any great herd of others, all doing the same things on a nod and wink from the politicians. In many ways Murdoch (and the rest of the as yet untagged press) were beneficiaries - but are now victims - of the same  laissez faire approach to public probity and marginal legality that did for MP expenses.

So then, how do we all feel about hasbeen Prime Ministers declaring and then orchestrating "wars" - apparently because one morally bankrupt organisation stopped supporting another?

There are many scores to be settled, and now Murdoch has almost nothing to lose by letting off every one of the many concealed IEDs lurking around the world of press, media and politics. How long does it take to relocate a call centre from Glasgow to Moldova?

The wettest drought since records began

The drought warnings that are traditionally (and eagerly) issued in  the UK after 14 consecutive dry days, seem to be part of the  mechanism that ensures the (mostly foreign owned) water companies can edge up their prices without serious question.

However, we might find our collective intelligence would be less insulted if one of these climate johnnies from the Environment Agency could think of a rather more credible terminology to deploy in the middle of a drought when the news is covered in pictures like these.

If the aquifers are still empty, and you are standing up to your arse in flood water, then why not call it an "Aquifer Replenishment Requirement", not a "drought"?

As the sodden residents of Tewkesbury and other parts of the drowned West Country are frequently heard to say at times like these

"Ooo - ARR... it be raining..."

Meantime, in case we have all forgotten, this is what a proper drought looks like this... .

Overall, would it not behove the (ker-ching!) water companies to dig bigger holes near places like Tewkesbury, in which to trap the water when it does arrive? If the governments and their climate doomsayers really believed their predictions that we will lurch between torrential rain and parched earth until all fossil fuels are burned off, then a project of massive earth moving to create new reservoirs - possibly combined with hydro electricity projects - might be a nice way to plan for the sort of "depression--busting" public works from the 1930s that saw the US build the Hoover Dam and Nazi Germany create the autobahns..?