Friday, September 19, 2008

Don't Push Me ...

Someone left a comment on the "North To Alaska" post to the effect that while my politics were sound, my taste in music was dire.

Let me tell you, Mr Anonymous Commenter, that was nothing compared to what I could post. For example, I've kept quiet till now about a musical fetish I've had ever since a m├Ądchen I met on a Tyrolean holiday taught me how to yodel down the beautiful Liebestal valley.

Cop this. And think yourself lucky I don't post this. Or even this.

UPDATE - a yodel blog ! Mademoiselle Montana's Yodel Heaven. (She like cumbia too ... another thing I've kept quiet about).

I know the Laban readership aren't too big on political correctness. Nonetheless the combination of the music and the lyrics may prove too much for some. Just call this a product of its time.

(A while ago, btw, I posted about the late Hank Thompson, and lamented that his classic "The Wild Side of Life" wasn't on Youtube. It is now.

Neither was the original version of Merle Haggard's "I'm A Lonesome Fugitive". It is now.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's It All About ?

Global central banks are pumping $180bn (£99bn) of extra money into the markets in a co-ordinated move to lift the amount of funds available.

The $180bn has been released by the US Federal Reserve to five other main central banks, who in turn are issuing the funds in their own countries.

The Bank of England is making $40bn available, while the European Central Bank is to provide $55bn.

Central banks in Switzerland, Canada and Japan are also taking part.

The Swiss National Bank is releasing up to $15bn extra, while the Bank of Japan is offering $60bn, and the Bank of Canada $10bn.

Commercial banks in each country will be able to access the funds in the form of loans to boost their short-term funding requirements.

What exactly does all this mean ? No-one's pumping any money in my direction. And if the central banks are making loans to the commercial banks, where's that central bank cash coming from ? Reserves ? Are they just inventing the stuff ? And what are central bank reserves anyway - where did they come from ? In the days of Prudence, when the Government ran a budget surplus, was the unspent tax handed over to the Bank of England with a note saying "whack this lot in the reserves, my son" ?

I don't know. And in all the blogosphere, I've not seen anyone explaining it either. I've just about got my head round the concept of fractional reserve banking, that cunning wheeze that turns a £100 deposit into £500 of cash, £400 of which is lent out and which functions perfectly well until the day all the bank's depositors decide they want their cash back at the same time (a la Northern Rock) - but I'm generally as a babe unborn with these things.

Try this - the Mystery of Banking (19M pdf), by Murray Rothbard. He may bring bits of ideological baggage to the party - an anarcho-capitalist, what'e'er that may be - but he writes well. I'm still wading through it.

It's Arrived !

And it's Shameless Milne !

Actually it's a bit of a disappointment - even the Mad Dog isn't that mad.

Key sentence is "What is certain is that the dominance of the free-market model of capitalism, which has held sway across the world for more than two decades, is rapidly coming to an end."

If by 'free market' he means 'liberalised credit' I can't find much to argue with. If he means 'free market in goods and services' he's talking through his nether regions.

The other key point is that no-one on the Left seems to have much in the way of answers. The Graun trawled assorted lefties asking if they thought capitalism was on the skids. No one thought the revolution was just around the corner.

Laban's naive solution is that we try living within our means - as a nation and as individuals. It'll never catch on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Way Up North ...

They don't write them like this any more ... Johnny Horton's tribute to the land of moose-shootin' mommas.

That Crisis Of Capitalism

Me no understand, doctor.

Alright. So the credit crunch was caused by people being a bit too clever, and not asking 'what if' ? But the reason governments are stepping in all over the place is because of the size of the exposures. If Northern Rock had been the Puddletown and Kingsbere, a small building society who foolishly demutualised then ran out of credit, they'd either have gone bust or another bank would have picked them up.

This applies in spades to Freddie, Fannie, Merril Lynch, AIG and now HBOS. They were so big, with so much business out there, that going bosoms up would threaten the survival of other major institutions.

"You owe the bank £50,000 and can't pay. You're in trouble"

"You owe the bank £5 billion and can't pay. The bank's in trouble"

So what's the solution of the great and the good ? In the case of Fannie, Freddie and AIG, hand over pots of taxpayer cash. In the case of Merrill and HBoS, merge them (with BoA and Lloyds respectively) to form even bigger financial entities.

Is it just me ? You've got something so big that its collapse threatens the system - and the solution is to make it bigger ?

I suppose if you want the Lloyds deal to go ahead it's probably not a good idea to start muttering about breaking it up, but surely post-kerfuffle any institution big enough - Fannie, Freddy, BoA, AIG, Lloyds/HBoS (I'm presuming NR wouldn't have been rescued without all those retail customers) - to cause major structural damage in the event of its death - surely anything that size needs to be split up - by legislative fiat if necessary - until the biggest companies are of a size where they can't take the whole economy down with them if they go.

It's not as if the Yanks lack practice at busting companies up. They just (I think) haven't done it for a while - not since Ma Bell. I'm not sure if antitrust law would cover such cases - so here's an opportunity for some legislation. OK, you lose some economy of scale and add some small amounts onto transaction costs, but think of all the taxpayer dosh you'll save.

Commenters are welcome to tell me

a) if this is nonsense - and if it is,
b) why

A Few Clippings From The Curate's Lawn

Stuff I've noted but not had time to post on :

Everybody knows that one of the things which destroyed the Major government was 'Tory sleaze', exemplified by the 'Cash for questions' affair, when money was handed in brown envelopes to MPs in exchange for questions in the house - questions on behalf of the people putting up the cash.

Journalist and regular Biased BBC commentator Jonathan Boyd Hunt doesn't see it that way. He and a colleague, Malcolm Keith-Hill, reported on a different story - that the thing was basically a fabrication knocked together by the Guardian (who wanted to attack the government for obvious reasons) and an embittered Mohammed Al-Fayed, who'd just been denied British citizenship.

The story is on this website, it's a long and copiously documented one. It certainly looks as if there's a case to answer. Tory MP Neil Hamilton, usually known as "the disgraced former Tory MP" sued al-Fayed for libel, but Al-Fayed's staff impressed the judge under cross-examination and the case failed. What wasn't known at the time was that Hamilton's case, including draft transcripts of the cross-examination questions, were in the hands of the defence - having been retrieved from the lawyers dustbins by Benjie "the binman" Pell. The whole thing is well worth a look.

Elsewhere :

Radical Muslims Warn of another 9/11 - the usual British suspects.

"Lord Carey warns that immigration could lead to violence" - what does he mean, could ?

Yasmin Rehman, like pretty much every other minority officer in the Met, is suing them for discrimination. It is amusing to see Ian Blair being bitten in the hand that feeds.

Andrew Anthony on immigration : "The Time Has Come To Say Britain Is Full". Well England certainly is.

Immigration levels have pushed population density in England to a higher level than any other major country in Europe. The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, indicate there is an average of 395 people in every square kilometre in England. This is an increase of five per sq km in the past two years. The increase has pushed England's population density above the previous highest figure set by the Netherlands.

More stats. According to the EU :

The European Union's statistics office has projected a British population on the rise, growing from the current level of 61 million people to 77 million over the next 50 years. As incoming migrants and rising birth rates multiply the number of Britons, Germany, currently Europe's most populous nation, is projected to decline from 82 million to 71 million people by 2060.

Frank Field's cross-party immigration committee is set up :

Field claims in the pamphlet, entitled Balanced Migration, that the government's solution of an Australian-style points system for non-EU migrants based on skills amounts to an open door for tens of thousands to migrate, since any work permit holder staying on for more than five years will be qualified to apply for permanent residence in Britain or probationary citizenship. He claims the rate of inflow is higher than any other previous period of immigration since the Norman Conquest in 1066, making Britain the most crowded land in Europe.

Genetics is something I don't know enough about. Stephen Oppenheimer writes in Prospect that, far from being either a 'nation of immigrants' or descendants of the Saxon hordes, pretty much all Brits are descended from the same stock. He answers questions on the article here.

"BBC banned me because I'm Christian"
. He certainly wouldn't be the first.

The Rev G P Taylor, who has sold millions of books worldwide, claims that a producer at the corporation told him they couldn't be "seen to be promoting Jesus". The author of Shadowmancer, which spent 15 weeks at the top of the British book sales charts in 2003, says that he has been the victim of political correctness that favours minority religions at the expense of Christianity, a claim the BBC denies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A wee Postette

At Biased BBC.

(Still awaiting the "Death of Capitalism" post at CiF)

Monday, September 15, 2008

And the next one please ....

Turns out the clever-clogs who've developed so many innovative and ingenious financial instruments over the last thirty years aren't so clever after all. Our old friend moral hazard could have pointed out the long-term conseqences of your bonus size being dependent on the risks you take with other people's money. Only a few years ago bank share prices and profits were at record levels.

Ten of the world's biggest banks have established a $70bn (£38.74bn) emergency bail-out fund intended to avert further failures following a dramatic weekend in which Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch succumbed to a takeover.

As top financial regulators burned the midnight oil on Sunday night to get a grip on a rapidly widening banking crisis, the US treasury secretary Henry Paulson issued a statement acknowledging an "extraordinary environment" in the financial markets. The Federal Reserve weakened its guidelines to make it easier for troubled institutions to access urgent funds.

Ten international banks including Barclays, Credit Suisse, Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs announced that they were each contributing $7bn to a hastily arranged fund. If any of them find themselves in danger of collapse, they will be able to access the pool of money with any single troubled bank able to draw up to a third of the $70bn total.

The banks said they were acting together to "enhance liquidity and mitigate the unprecedented volatility and other challenges affecting global equity and debt markets".

It's 8.30 and there's only one (quite readable) CiF post on the subject. The inevitable "this spells the doom of global capitalism" piece is yet to appear. My money's on Shameless Milne.

Of course it doesn't spell any such thing. Maybe it spells the doom of one variety - and good riddance if it does. Perhaps we'll even be back to the pre-Thatcher, pre "credit liberalisation" days - when if you wanted a mortgage, you had to have been saving, usually for several years, with the institution you were borrowing from.

The government banking guarantee limits compo to £35,000 per bank. Those readers fortunate enough to have liquid assets in excess of that should perhaps consider spreading the risk between several banks. Or moving, ironically, to Northern Rock !

PS - Jackie Ashley :

The inner core of Gordon loyalists differ from the rest in one respect only. They cling to the hope that this is all really about the economy and that, if it improves quickly, so will his and Labour's ratings.
Oh dear.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I like the sound of it.

Government whips have launched a witch-hunt to track down the Labour politician blamed for sending copies of a vicious attack on Gordon Brown to all 350 of the party’s MPs.

The investigation follows a ferocious verbal assault on the Prime Minister last week in the Guardian newspaper written by former Brownite cheerleader and Left-wing pundit Polly Toynbee.

Within 48 hours of its publication, every single Labour MP received an anonymous letter containing a copy of Ms Toynbee’s near-hysterical tirade via the Commons internal mail.

You can read the near-hysterical tirade here. I must say this is all most amusing.

What They Say And What They Do ... Sharia Arrives

Liam Byrne lies through his teeth :

We’re fine with diversity. We like it. We think it makes life more interesting. But we do want people to sign up to basic rules of the road.

That’s why we’re going to change the law so that newcomers have to show they have signed up to some basic things – speaking English, paying tax, obeying the law and making an effort to integrate – before they can access the privileges of citizenship, including benefits.

To quote Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman, pretty much every word in Byrne's article is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'.

Here's something else from the same paper.

Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996.

Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.

Family Grave Poetry

I'm very fond of these messages from the dead to the living. In Halesowen churchyard there's a similar grave adorned with skull and crossbones above. As the family research continues, from 1707, Pembrokeshire ('Little England beyond Wales', hence the English language) :

Draw neare my friend and cast an eye
Then goe thy way - prepare to dye
Read heare thy doome for know thou must
One day like me be turnd to dust

And 1708

Remember wel you standers by
Appointed tis for al to dye
And after death to judgement fair
For soe the Scripture doth declare

Millie Tant Goes All Soft'n'Fluffy

Is she mellowing with age, or have the Labour image advisers been gently pointing out that the style was a bit butch ?

Wealthy socialist Fiona McTaggart, the MP who thinks that the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards (who were Trooping the Colour the day she complained) are too hideously white, seems to have undergone a makeover :

This used to adorn the Home Office website when she was a minister. Now the hair is longer, the whole style softer - in this BBC news video she looks as fluffy as she's ever gonna be. Listen to the immaculate privately-educated (Cheltenham Ladies College, no less) diction as she pronounces :

"That is not the Labour way".

Fat lot she'd know about the Labour way.

She may be an upper-class entryist of the sort who have destroyed the English working class (in her case by campaigning for their replacement via mass immigration), but even she can see that Gordon Brown is doomed, and the only question is how many Labour MPs he'll take down with him. I must say the conference is going to be fun. With any luck it'll be like the good old days, with frequent interruptions from the floor, slow handclaps, rows in the bar, the works. It looks as if rank and file MPs are doing the job that a Cabinet ought to be doing. But the Blairite years of conformity have taken their toll, and no-one there has any spark of independence. It's down to the poor (excepting their monstrous tax-funded pensions) Parliamentary infantry. Onwards and downwards !

UPDATE - Labour do have the problem that all the potential replacements are duds as well. I personally think a Miliband-led party would bomb even more at a general election. Interestingly Jon Cruddas thinks it's all a waste of time - presumably characterising the whole thing as the Blairite's revenge. But there's some good news for him.

Housewife and hairdresser, lecturer and railway inspector — the group that gathered on a rainy night earlier this month had only one thing in common: all voted Labour at the last election. Around a third remained supporters, the same proportion had switched to the Conservatives and the remainder were undecided.
Blimey. Around a third. In a Labour heartland (Doncaster). They were shown clips of potential candidates and asked for comments.

Miliband : “It was as if he’d just read a book before he came on the television and couldn’t wait to spew it all out.

Alan Johnson : "I just lost the will to live during this one"

But Cruddas :
In the clip shown, Mr Cruddas — who once worked in No 10 as Tony Blair’s link with the unions — was interviewed about whether pupils are tested too much. Although the group appreciated his independence — registering strong agreement when he said that British students were the most tested in the world — they continued to warm to him even as he put the other side of the case. His graph shows a steady climb and ends with the most positive scores in the exercise.

“He spoke my language. I understood everything he said,” said one man. “Honest straight from the start,” agreed a woman. Another said that he was an “average person, middle of the road” but also “more interesting” than the others. “He was owning up to things. I actually listened to him,” said one elderly man. “It wasn’t, ‘this is how it is, this is how I want it’; he was open to discussion.”

Rick Nye, a co-director of Populus, said Mr Cruddas was the “surprise package”.

“People warmed to his straightforwardness and, above all, his willingness to criticise existing government policy in the area of testing children in schools, an issue that many respondents could readily identify with. If Labour were looking for an Identikit leader who could transform their political fortunes, he or she would have to be fresh enough to catch people’s eye, frank enough to admit Labour’s past failings, trusted enough to offer an uplifting vision of the future, and strong enough to deliver on their promises.”

I'm presuming that Cruddas wasn't talking about immigration.

St Wulstan - 1,000 years today

"Happy is the man who grows sick of the attractions of the world: pleasure of them passes in a moment of time: the tooth of conscience gnaws as long as a man lives."
Always supposing you have a conscience, of course. The one thousandth anniversary of the birth of St Wulstan (or Wulfstan) of Worcester, anti-slavery campaigner, rebuilder of Worcester Cathedral (the crypt and the dining hall of King's School survives) and last Saxon bishop to survive the purges of William the Bastard, is celebrated today. Archbishop Vincent Nicholls will be at a service at Wulstan's old stamping ground of Worcester Cathedral today at 4 pm. I wonder who'll lead ? Will it be an ecumenical affair?

(I see by the way that Vincent Nicholls is being tipped to take over when Cardinal Murphy O'Connor retires. I wouldn't be surprised. I attended Mass in the Diocese of Birmingham six or seven years back and we were asked to pray for "our Bishop, Vincent, and Philip his assistant". I attended Mass in the diocese again a few months back and it was "Philip, William and David his assistants". He either needs a lot of assistance or he has some clout. Alas he seems to be soft on crime if the criminals are his employees. Is he as soft as Cormac Murphy O'Connor ?)