Saturday, September 27, 2008
Schools secretary Ed Balls sick Nazi past revealed ! (and he looks as if he's wearing makeup).
See the Mail On Sunday (where else ?) for the whole sordid tale and even more disgusting - nay, perverted - photographs. Not child-friendly. As readers may remember, Laban's views on this topic are generally rather liberal. I'll make an exception in this case.
(Can't understand why Lancaster Unity haven't picked this up ...)
Walthamstow, Ilford, Forest Gate.
Four people have been arrested in London over an alleged terror attack which may be linked to the publishing of a controversial book. The arrests are thought to be linked to a fire at a property in Islington, north London, which is used as the home and office of publisher Martin Rynja.
His company, Gibson Square, recently agreed to publish a controversial novel about the prophet Muhammad and his child bride, entitled The Jewel of Medina. The blaze, which led to people being evacuated from the house, may have been started by a petrol bomb pushed through the letter box.
Initially, three men, aged 22, 30 and 40, were detained at around 2.25 am this morning in the Islington area of north London after a fire at a property in Lonsdale Square. Two were stopped by armed officers in Lonsdale Square, and the third was seized following an armed vehicle stop near Angel underground station. Police are searching four addresses around north-east London - two in Walthamstow, one in Ilford and one in Forest Gate.
The men, who were arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, are being questioned at a central London police station. Later a fourth person, a woman, was arrested at a property in Ilford for allegedly obstructing the police, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said.
That's one chunk. There are others. How long can we continue importing much and exporting little ? The difference, as I understand it, is made up by foreigners buying government and other bonds - sterling and the dollar being seen as 'safe' currencies.
But for how long will this last ? Sterling and the dollar rose to greatness on the back of their countries' industrial greatness (and IMHO a key component of that was cultural greatness). When that's gone, why hold dollars ? And when the foreign money goes, our economy stands in all its skeletal nakedness - compared with the well-covered economies of the BRICs (I don't mean that there isn't - or won't be - an economy. There's an economy, and people working hard, in Peru - or Burma).
There's a comment by dearieme on my Westinghouse post :
Admittedly Cambridge is the service sector capital of the UK.
My wife made a new friend this year, the wife of a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge, a Chinese. After a few weeks here she had a good question. "I don't understand how this country is so rich", said she, "where are all your factories?"
And the culture ... I worked alongside some young guys from Bangalore last year. They couldn't believe the behaviour they saw in the streets of an evening - and this is Wiltshire they're talking about - not exactly Moss Side. The were afraid of - and tried hard to avoid - some of the gangs of young people walking around - especially the drunk ones.
What happens if and when the countries of the Middle and Far East decide that they no longer wish to use their massive surpluses to fund the massive deficits of the West ?
"Why don't people stop it ?"
"Has it always been like this ?"
Another chunk is accounting practice. Lehman Bros apparently made a profit of $800m in 2007, and a record $4bn in 2006. How come, if it was bust in 2008 ? How were their assets priced ? What was the Head of Risk Management doing ? I must say while I'd fancy his bank balance, I'm not sure I'd fancy his next job interview.
"Now tell us a little about your career, Mr O'Meara. What was your previous position ?"
"Global head of risk management for Lehman Brothers, sir"
"I see. That will be all. Next please !"
The Mises Institute, an organisation devoted to the Austrian School of economic thought, has a handy Bailout Reader, with links to the various issues surrounding the economic unpleasantnesses we seem to be vicariously experiencing at present. The real experiencing will doubtless arrive soon enough.
Here's a link to the first of a series of videos on our banking system ('fractional reserve banking') and how it works.
All of the above are from people who presumably have a view on the way things ought to be arranged. While you've got to be aware of that, no matter, if one can learn.
And more links from Ross at Unenlightened Commentary, including the story of how a combination of "community activism" and well-meant Democratic legislation encouraged lending which looks pretty irresponsible to me.
Looking into the future gives further cause for concern: "The bulk of these loans," notes a Federal Reserve economist, "have been made during a period in which we have not experienced an economic downturn." The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America's own success stories make you wonder how much CRA-related carnage will result when the economy cools. The group likes to promote, for instance, the story of Renea Swain-Price, grateful for NACA's negotiating on her behalf with Fleet Bank to prevent foreclosure when she fell behind on a $1,400 monthly mortgage payment on her three-family house in Dorchester. Yet NACA had no qualms about arranging the $137,500 mortgage in the first place, notwithstanding the fact that Swain-Price's husband was in prison, that she'd had previous credit problems, and that the monthly mortgage payment constituted more than half her monthly salary. The fact that NACA has arranged an agreement to forestall foreclosure does not inspire confidence that she will have the resources required to maintain her aging frame house: her new monthly payment, in recognition of previously missed payments, is $1,879.That piece was dated 2000. Can't say no warning was given.
Friday, September 26, 2008
From: Minister of the Treasury Paulson
Subject: Request for urgent confidential business relationship
Dear Sir: I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude. I am minister of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of US$700bn. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you. We would in exchange for assistance be prepared to pay you a fee of 1% of funds transferred - $7bn.
This transaction is 100 per cent safe. This is a matter of great urgency. We need the funds as quickly as possible. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as intermediary so the funds can be transferred safely to my country. Please reply with the following details and also re-confirm to me the followings
1) Your full name.
2) Phone, fax and mobile #.
3) company name, position and address.
4) profession, age and marital status.
5) Bank name and address, sort code and account number
As soon as this informations are received, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds and the methods of transmission to be used. Your payment will be made to you in a certified bank draft so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction.
Yours faithfully, Minister of Treasury Paulson, Nigeria, Washington DC
I suppose I can see their point. Christian, four kids - what's not to hate ? What's someone like that doing in the Labour Party ?
UPDATE - Peter Briffa feels the pain - or should that be payne ?
The professionals in the world of money seem to make so much of that money themselves. How do they justify the size of the paychecks ?
"I don't," said the $2 billion money manager.
"I can't defend it," said David the floor broker.
"They shouldn't be making it," said the specialist.
We ordinary toilers at the cubicle farm. Why don't we rise up ?Why don't we get rid of the capitalist system and replace it with something that's nicer and more predictable, and gives everybody an even break ?
"What," I asked all the Wall Street people I interviewed, "does the investment industry give to society ?"
But this time they had an answer.
"Liquidity," said the $2 billion money manager.
"Liquidity," said the investment banker.
"Liquidity," said the other investment banker who'd told me things could move stupidly.
"Liquidity," said the Irish specialist broker.
"It provides liquidity," said David.
Liquidity is the Wall Street word for having things you can do with your money and being able to do them. Liquidity is the essence of the free market. Men with more time to explain themselves might have said something like "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these re Life, Liberty and Ka-ching ! Ka-ching ! Ka-ching !"
Now of course liquidity hasn't vanished. You can still use money to buy things. But some things that were liquid a while back don't seem to be any more. And a good thing too.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
This MessageSpace ad at Guido's (sign up for Tory Conference text updates) shows the Tories reaching out to the all-important young swinger demographic.
Vaguely related to Allison Pearson's lament for what's happened to the 'saucy' card. And the readers - or a hefty percentage of them - I'd say more than half - tell her to 'lighten up'. This is the Mail, remember - supposed repository of Middle British virtues. We're doomed.
Well waddya know ? Via blogger NotASheep in the B-BBC comments, the news that the director of communications for the UK arm of EDF (they also own elctricity company E On, who recently raised prices to UK consumers by 22% - and to French consumers by 5%), one Andrew Brown, turns out to be a former BBC journalist and Newsnight editor.
Andrew Brown ? That's right. Gordon Brown's brother.
(Dizzy wondered back in January why the Tories didn't make more play of this fact, concluding it was because EDF made a substantial donation to the Tories. I'm not sure at all about the ethics of accepting cash from a company controlled by the French state. On second thoughts, I am - they shouldn't do it. What a dirty bunch. It's the Treaty of Dover all over again.)
The sale surprised many industry experts who questioned the wisdom of BNFL selling one of the world's largest producers of nuclear reactors shortly before the market for nuclear power is expected to grow substantially; China, the United States and the United Kingdom are all expected to invest heavily in nuclear power.
It's Gordon Brown's Midas touch all over again.
The Westinghouse sale will provide a windfall for the UK Treasury. But industry experts have expressed concern that such an asset is being sold off when the demand for new nuclear power stations is set to surge.
The Westinghouse money's probably already disappeared into Brown's Black Hole. I wonder how long his share of the British Energy dosh will last. He probably got rid of it in his last conference speech.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Of course the BBC could have used a headline like "French Government Takes Control of Britain's Nuclear Industry", but that, while true, would have overtones of xenophobia, wouldn't it ? Isn't the French state just as valid as the British one ? And besides, as current BE boss Adrian Montague said in a Today interview (Ed Stourton well out of his depth - Montague often ignored his questions and answered ones he hadn't asked), "historically the UK has been extremely open to foreign investment".
"Historically" as in "crime is historically low" - i.e the last twenty-odd years. Prior to that, UK energy generation was UK-controlled and for 50-odd years it was a state utility. No matter.
Besides, as the Beeb's expert (whose name escapes me) pointed out when asked "does it matter that the French government (EDF's largest shareholder) is in effective control of UK nuclear generation ?", all the other, non-nuclear generators are already foreign-owned. Again, not quite answering the question, and again, not being picked up on it.
"Are you concerned that your son has done x ?"
"Well, my daughters have already done y and z"
The idea that, say, any French administration would sell their nuclear industry to the British government is unimaginable.
I wonder how long it'll be before cheap energy is being sent to France via the channel electricity link while UK customers pay through the nose. Currently (a/c/t Wikipedia) no less than 5% of UK electricity comes from France via the link. And I wonder what the implications of this deal - and the other generator sales - would be if Britain wanted to withdraw from the EU ? Energy blackmail seems to be working pretty well for Russia.
UPDATE - Robert Peston, whose BBC blog has some of the best and most insightful credit-crunch coverage, toes the party line.
"EDF's acquisition of our nuclear power industry can be seen as a powerful message of hope."
"Hey, guess what ? I'm not a friendless nerd ! That big kid who ignored me before wants to sit down and share my sweets ! "aka
"It's a spectacular vote of confidence from La Republique no less that the United Kingdom is anything but bust."
One could despair. Has it come to this, that Britain handing over a vital strategic asset to a foreign government - a French one, at that - is presented to us as a favour - a boon gratefully received ? Someone in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises must be chuckling.
Ideas have consequences. A combination of Tory privatisation and the decision, back in the early days of the Blair administration (and driven by Guardianista sentiment), to stop further development of nuclear power, resulted in the necessary engineering skills being in short supply. Now they've changed their minds about it - and golly gosh, who's got the skills now ? Not us. Our rulers should be ashamed, but they're shameless.