Friday, January 23, 2009

"to gain votes by a despicable method"

Another politician is in the dock - not for fraud, incompetence, dishonesty or one of the many other possibilities, but for saying the wrong things about the wrong people :

Last Wednesday another European politician living under police protection following Muslim death threats, was convicted by a court in Austria to a suspended jail sentence of three months and a fine of 24,000 euros.

Susanna Winter, a member of the Austrian Parliament, came to the court room in Graz under heavy police protection to defend herself against allegations of “inciting racial hatred and degradation of religious symbols and religious agitation.” In January 2008, Mrs. Winter, a member of the Austrian Freedom Party FPÖ, said that the prophet Muhammad was “a child molester” because he married a six-year-old girl. She also said Muhammad was “a warlord” who had written the Koran during “epileptic fits.” The politician added that Islam is “a totalitarian system of domination that should be cast back to its birthplace on the other side of the Mediterranean.” She also warned for “a Muslim immigration tsunami,” saying that “in 20 or 30 years, half the population of Austria will be Muslim” if the present immigration policies continue.

Following these remarks, Muslim extremists threatened to kill Mrs. Winter, who was subsequently placed under police protection. “I do not feel guilty of racial incitement,” Mrs. Winter told the court. The judge, however, disagreed. He told the elected member of parliament: “You have only one goal: to gain votes by a despicable method, by appealing to xenophobic feelings.” The judge also argued that it is impossible to write during epileptic fits.

Now, as regular readers will be aware, I'm not totally in tune with Ms Winters. I'm not temperamentally averse to living under a theocracy where the head of state is, under God, also the head of the state religion. A light-touch theocracy, where divorce and adultery are frowned on (and career-wreckers), outraging public decency in the theatre, cinema, newspaper or television attracts severe and immediate sanction, the differences between the sexes are acknowleged, blasphemy or profaning the holy day are punished, where abortion and attempted suicide are illegal. After all, I lived under just such a theocracy until the late 60s. The Queen is still officially head of the Church of England, it's just that the Church seems to have dropped Christianity.

Trouble is I'm not sure the only theocracy currently on offer is a terribly light-touch one. And I think that's what Ms Winter's worried about, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


When whoever-it-is says "To give up plastic" I presume she's talking about surgery.

Have they no sense of shame - or at least of irony ? But these people apparently take themselves seriously. I hope they don't expect us to ...

(I don't see much 'cult-like service' here, though. I see a lot of posers. If I knew who any of them were I'd boycott their films that I don't watch anyway. I'll make a start by deleting the kids Chilli Peppers mp3s. Or maybe I should put them on a file-sharing website)

Andrew Breitbart wields the scalpel :

This video illustrates that the current celebrity class are not citizens but serfs. They need a leader to put their minds in the right place to do the right thing. They are not heroic individualists seeking to extend America’s promise but conformists who chose to sit out and complain during the tough years in order to ensure their guy got in the next go-around ...

They never spoke up against the movies that demonized our military.

They never made movies to counter the libel.

They took the easy route. And blamed Bush for everything.

Moore’s nauseating video — which, like Steven Soderbergh’s “Oceans” franchise, grants a pristine look into the modern celebrity’s sense of self-importance — is not a sign of desire to serve the country under Obama. Watch, by March this pledge like New Year’s resolutions will fall by the wayside. It is a sign that the Democrat is in the White House now. It is a sign that they get to sleep again in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Twenty years ago AIDS was the number one cause for the Hollywood left. Remember the trendy red ribbons at all the self-aggrandizing awards shows? Hollywood has moved on (dot org) to better blame-your-fellow-American causes. But President Bush didn’t. And aside from Bob Geldof and Bono, they ignore this president’s demonstrable goodness ...

Remember this video: It is a instructive relic of the era of celebrity decadence and boutique anti-Republican activism under President Bush. It is a sickening display that they want fast and easy absolution for having comported themselves like ill-behaved children for eight difficult and war-torn years.

Good luck, President Obama. The rest of you can go to hell.

And Iowahawk (who else ?) the rapier :

Totally-wasted-on-heroin guy from the Red Hot Chili Peppers: I... uhhh.... ihhh... ahhhh... monkey funky like da junky...

Jason Bateman: I plehhhhdge... to fondle this microphone in a whimsically provocative manner.

Mr. Haney from Green Acres: To never give anyone the finger when I'm driving again. I will instead moon them, with my frightening elderly haunches.

'Greg and Darma' chick with scary feral baby: To save water, by never bathing my child.

Underwear model: I pledge.

I think it's that Spunky Winkerbean chick, the one who had a boob reduction: I pledge.

Brain-fried Chili Peppers guy: To caaaare? For? America's elderly?

Pockmarked guy in Urban Outfitters T-shirt: To make sure America's senior citizens have access to free healthcare and iPods and ringtone downloads.

Spunky Winkerbean: So that our next generation's USB memories will not be forgotten.

Eva Longoria: Now I'm pledging here on the other side of the frame!

Absolutely no clue who this is, whatsoever: To bring awareness to mental disease, like I am doing right now.

Weirdly bloated lips chick: To advance research into stem cells, collagen, and Botox.

Huh? Maybe I'm just getting too old but this is another guy who simply isn't ringing a bell: To spread the awareness of autism -- by becoming autistic.

Quote Of The Day

"On the plus side, this does mean the week after the death of Princess Di is no longer the stupidest moment in modern pop culture"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers"

Dutch MP Geert Wilders (he of Fitna fame/notoriety) is to be prosecuted in Holland "for the incitement to hatred and discrimination based on his statements in various media about moslims and their belief".

I think this site is the Dutch equivalent of our very own MinJust. Here's the indictment in English.

Amsterdam Court of Appeal orders the criminal prosecution of the Member of Parliament of the Dutch Second Chamber Geert Wilders

Amsterdam, 21 january 2009 - On 21 January 2009 the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ordered the criminal prosecution of the member of parliament Geert Wilders for the incitement to hatred and discrimination based on his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. In addition, the Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers because of the comparisons made by Wilders of the islam with the nazism.

The Court of Appeal rendered judgment as a consequence of a number of complaints about the non-prosecution of Wilders for his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. The complainants did not agree with the decision of the public prosecution which decided not to give effect to their report against Wilders.

The public prosecution is of the view, amongst others, that part of the statements of Wilders do not relate to a group of worshippers, but consists of criticism as regards the Islamic belief, as a result of which neither the self-esteem of this group of worshippers is affected nor is this group brought into discredit. Some statements of Wilders can be regarded as offending, but since these were made (outside the Dutch Second Chamber) as a contribution to a social debate there is no longer a ground for punishableness of those statements according to the public prosecution.

The Court of Appeal does not agree with this view of the public prosecution and the considerations which form the basis of this view.

The Court of Appeal has considered that the contested views of Wilders (also as shown in his movie Fitna) constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law as seen in connection with each other, both because of their contents and the method of presentation. This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created. According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers. According to the Court of Appeal Wilders has indeed insulted the Islamic worshippers themselves by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether a possible criminal prosecution or conviction would be admissible according to the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court based thereon, which considers the freedom of expression of paramount importance. The Court of Appeal has concluded that the initiation of a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on as well, provided that it is proportionate, does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of expression of Wilders, since statements which create hate and grief made by politicians, taken their special responsibility into consideration, are not permitted according to European standards either.

Thirdly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether criminal prosecution of Wilders because of his statements would be opportune in the Dutch situation (the question of opportunity). According to the Court of Appeal the instigation of hatred in a democratic society constitutes such a serious matter that a general interest is at stake in order to draw a clear boundary in the public debate.

As regards the insult of a group the Court of Appeal makes a distinction. In general the Court determines that the traditional Dutch culture of debating is based on tolerance of each others views to a large extent while Islamic immigrants may be expected to have consideration for the existing sentiments in the Netherlands as regards their belief, which is partly at odds with Dutch and European values and norms. As regards insulting statements the Court of Appeal prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law, as a result of which an active participation to the public debate, by moslims as well, is promoted.

However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with “Mein Kampf”). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.

The Court of Appeal concludes that the way in which the public debate about controversial issues is held, such as the immigration and integration debate, does not fall within the ambit of the law in principle indeed, but the situation changes when fundamental boundaries are exceeded. Then criminal law does appear as well.

Otherwise, the Court of Appeal emphasizes that this is a provisional judgment in the sense that Wilders has not been convicted in this suit of complaint. The Court of Appeal has only judged whether there are sufficient indications – at the level of a reasonable suspicion – to start a criminal prosecution against Wilders. The penal judge who will ultimately render judgment in a public criminal trial will answer the question if there is ground for conviction, and if so, to which extent.

LJ Nummer

Bron: Gerechtshof Amsterdam
Datum actualiteit: 21 januari 2009

Hmm. There's enough material there for a whole conference.

Help Wanted ...

By Sam Tarran :

I've just been assigned a report on the economic performance of Germany based upon the indicators of unemployment, inflation, balance of payments, and GDP over the last thirty years, to be submitted in three weeks.

Any advice? Pointers? Little snippets of information?

Any ideas out there ? I've no idea if you can get OECD stuff going back 30 years.

UPDATE - and while we're talking economics, pro-immigration and anti-British zealot (but learned economist) Willem Buiter agrees with Laban that the high street banks should all be nationalised. Alas he's forgotten the bit about putting their directors on trial and confiscating their assets, before repeating the process with the accountancy firms who signed off the accounts since, say, 2002. He's nearly as pessimistic as Ambrose Evans Pritchard :

In the name of preventing a collapse of the UK banking system, we are witnessing the socialisation - at first gradual, but now quite rapid - of all balance sheet risk of the UK banks by the UK government. This is risky and, in my view, unwise. The manner in which it is done also seems designed to maximise moral hazard ...

But even if the UK is not the next European country to face a sovereign debt challenge, there is a non-negligible risk that before too long, the growing exposure of the British sovereign to the banking system (and especially to the foreign currency funding risk faced by the UK banking system), together with the 9 and 10 per cent of GDP general government fiscal deficits expected for the next couple of years, may prompt a loss of confidence by the global financial community in the British banks, currency and sovereign.

We may well witness the UK authorities going cap-in-hand to the IMF, the EU, the ECB and the fiscally super-solvent EU member states (if there are any left), prompted by a triple crisis (banking, sterling and sovereign debt), to request a bail out. I hope and trust that the UK authorities are in regular contact with the IMF, the US administration, Brussels, Frankfurt and the leading EU member countries to prepare for a possible internationally coordinated bail-out operation for the British banking system and sovereign.

He seems to think the Great British Pound may go the way of the Great Icelandic Krone. The Krone halved against most foreign currencies, I believe - whereas sterling's only halved against the Yen and lost a third against most other currencies.

Not actually that far to go then. Let us see what the dawn will bring !

Lloyds Another 20% Down

At 34p the price is lower than HBOS ever went (yes, market capitalisation and all that, but all the same).

HSBC and Standard Chartered holding up.

Barclays are currently valued at about 1.2 times their annual profits. Down nearly 20% in 15 minutes - does someone know something we don't ? Got to be worth a dabble, surely ?

RBS hanging on at 10.5.

Gosh, this is exciting. Or it would be if I didn't bank with Lloyds. Doubtless Gordon will ensure that I don't lose out.

"England has not defaulted since the Middle Ages"

While the eyes of the world were on Washington DC, the eyes of Laban and quite a few others were watching the pound lose nearly 5 cents in a day, and the bank shares continuing to slide.

Gordon Brown really is an economic genius. With hindsight his abandonment of the competition laws to save HBOS ("too big to fail"), by steering it into the grateful embrace of Lloyds, creating "much much too big to fail", seems more like the advice of a man who comes across someone sinking into a quagmire, and recommends to a naive passer-by that they should reach out and save him.

"There'll be a handsome reward for you, Sir Victor - he's a very rich man !"

Sir Victor thinks of the reward, steps up, stretches out his hand and pulls lustily. But the weight ! The man is too heavy ! He pulls his hardest but with horror he finds his feet slipping inch by inch towards the swamp ... he wants to let go, but the sinking man has his hand clasped in the iron grip of fear, and feels himself being dragged inexorably towards the quicksand ... it's giving way under his feet, and the man, still clinging, pulling, is sinking down ... down ... the Lloyds 'rescue' is going to be the death of the rescuer.

Some people are saying that we are nothing more than a big hedge fund, not entirely unlike Iceland, and that national bankruptcy is a real possibility,” noted the man from ITN. “Whatever else this represents, surely it is total failure of bank regulation?

Gordon, so angry that his eye-bags were packing up and leaving without a backwards glance, noted sharply that American sub-prime was to blame. “I utterly dispute what you are saying. I would urge you to be cautious in the remarks that you make."
Some interpreted this as a threat to the journalist - a foolish idea. Gordon is instead becoming distinctly aware that the markets are looking for the next falling domino. Spain and Ireland were the front-runners, but the UK is coming up on the rails in fine style.

“I would urge you to sell any sterling you might have,” Mr Rogers advised his army of investment followers. “It's finished. I hate to say it, but I would not put any money in the UK.”

The collapse of the RBS share price reveals another puzzle :

Taxpayers put £5bn into RBS in the form of preference shares in October. The bank now has a market capitalisation of £13.7bn (as of Friday night).

The government is tomorrow expected to swap the preference shares for equity. We - the public - will end up with another 10 per cent of the bank, ie up from 58 per cent to 68 per cent.

So we seem to be exchanging £5bn of pref shares for £1.4bn of equity.
That was £1.4 bn with a share price of around 36p - it's now a third of that. Is this fraud or incompetence ? Just Gordonomics I guess. He really does seem to be moving non-existent divisions around the map.

My new favourite hell-in-a-handcart merchant, Ambrose Evans Pritchard, thinks it looks bad. He thinks that in every article I read, mind - but he's been right so far.

What have our leaders wrought? The reckless conduct of City, the fiscal incontinence of Gordon Brown (3pc deficit at the top of the cycle), and the pitiful regulation of the UK housing boom have all combined to bring the country to the brink of disaster.

England has not defaulted since the Middle Ages. There is a real risk it may do so now ...

The Baby Boomers have had their moment in power. The most spoilt generation in history has handled affairs with its characteristic hedonism. The results are coming in.

Well ? Dollars ? Yen ? Euros ? Property ? Swiss Francs ? Tell me, someone - before exchange controls are reintroduced !

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Leak From Every Seam

Riots in Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria.

Putin's Russia gets more gangster-like every day. And his Chechen satrapy is even worse.

While UK banks collapse, things are looking even scarier across the water. Bank shares in the Free State dropped 48% yesterday. The Irish government took the lead in guaranteeing deposits, but the nightmare, Icelandic scenario is if the banks' liabilities are greater than the Irish treasury's purse. The UK is in the same boat, but we can always inflate (i.e. collapse) the currency.

Can anyone suggest a safe-ish currency for my savings ?

Spain's in the doo-doo. I wonder how Santander, only a few months back a safe haven for Alliance and Leicester, Abbey National and B&B, is faring, given the Spanish property slump ?

Spain also has demographic collapse plus mass immigration.

Alice Cook is a woman after my own pessimistic heart :

Today was an historic moment. The RBS and its barely comprehensible loss signaled the end of an era. The days when finance was the engine of the UK economy are definitively over. The UK banking sector has become the 21st century equivalent of coal mining; over-staffed, over-paid, and profoundly unproductive ...

So what happens next? The government will continue to prop the banking system with liquidity. Whatever Brown and Darling might say in public, they now have the minimalist objective of preventing total collapse. It is simply inconceivable that lending could return to the 2007 levels. The heady days of near limitless credit growth have gone. The government would be doing well if it simply avoids another financial sector meltdown ...

What about the real economy? This too will adjust, and it will be painful. The bulk of the adjustment will be in financial services, which has just begun to shake out all that value-reducing labour that created this appalling banking crisis. Currently, the sector employs about 6 million people. Don't be surprised if that number falls by half.

I said 2009 was going to be interesting !

Monday, January 19, 2009

It's The Economy

Things are moving with remarkable speed. By next week Barclays and HSBC may be in the Government's bail-out tent, while Lloyds TSB, which was meant to be coming to the rescue of HBOS, may be more than 50% state-owned. Given that most of the banks would be bust without taxpayer guarantees I don't know why they don't just wind them up in a controlled manner, transferring assets and liabilities to the state, before beginning the process of building a case against their boards, freezing their assets and attempting to claw back their bonuses, property and pension funds - on the basis of the effectively fraudulent accounts, based on flawed asset evaluations, which have showed such huge profits over the last ten years. What would happen to a small or medium sized quoted business which inflated its assets in the accounts year on year, distributing huge dividends and bonuses until the day the assets turned out to be not quite as valuable as the liabilities ? At a minimum, HMRC would be all over their books, if not the Fraud Squad. In the States they'd do time - why not here ?

They might claim they truly believed the valuations - in which case sectioning under the Mental Health Act might be more appropriate. Their delusions have turned out profitable for them and dangerous for us.

Laban's not generally a believer in the state doing what can be done by private enterprise. But the banks are in a unique position - licensed to create money - and have been found grieviously wanting.

Only a few months back any Tory spending proposal would be greeted by Labour with cries of 'where's the money coming from', with dire prognostications of closed hospital wards and classrooms. Now Gordy's spending money he hasn't got like the proverbial drunken sailor, and the tab marked 'taxpayer' behind the bar gets longer and longer.

When the Tories stopped believing in God and Labour stopped believing in the British working class, they soon found other things to believe in. The Gods of the Market Place satisfied the spiritual needs of many Tories, while Labour returned to the Old Religion of the Pelagian Heresy - that man is essentially good and perfectible - but with a twist that Marx would have noted with a sardonic smile - perfectible only with enough teachers, social workers, Housing Officers, Funding Stream Co-ordinators, outreach workers and other Labour-activist beneficiaries of the Caring State.

Old Labour scorned the Gods of the Market, but New Labour realised that the taxes (and the party donations) would have to come from somewhere, so were quite happy to let the Market Place rip while taxing it to feed their core constituency clients - said social workers, Housing Officers etc. Indeed, for the architects of New Lab, it was but a short step from being intensely relaxed about others getting rich to being intensely interested in getting rich themselves. In this context I would recommend a read of lefty Yank Greg Palast's expose of Mandy's mate Derek Draper. It certainly dispels any illusions about the People's Flag.

Draper should have been pleased with his success. But his mood was philosophical.

“I don’t want to be a consultant,” he said. “I just want to stuff my bank account at £250 an hour.”

Blair and Gordy took the whole thing a little too far, though. Convinced that with enough social workers and Sure Start schemes, crime would fall, they didn't bother to build any prisons - and now the ones they have are full. Convinced that 'something would turn up' - like wind power - and afeared of the Guardian, they closed all the nuclear power stations and didn't commission any new ones. Now they've had to sell our energy future to the French, and the lights will soon be going out as the old stations shut faster than new ones can be built. The story of Anglesey Aluminium is a disgrace.

Above all, they spent and taxed in the boom years as though they would never end. What are they going to do now that they have ? The kitty's empty.

IMHO there's only one option open to them. They'll keep spending and start printing. Consider their position. With unemployment projected to rise to three million, they'll be worried about keeping order among the youth of our rainbow nation. No way can they let up on the outreach workers, but who will pay for them ?

The oldies will - especially those who were employed by the private sector. They don't fight. They probably voted Tory anyway. Many of their company pensions have been destroyed, but there are still a fair few impacting the bottom line with their future pension liabilities. Just print money, let inflation rip, and zap ! those future pension liabilities are halved in real terms.

That solves the problem of paying the outreach workers, it ensures more donations and directorships from grateful capitalists - and it also makes a lot of pensioners, with their pensions eroded by inflation, once again dependent on the State. It's a win for everyone - except the pensioners, but who cares about them ? They don't riot !