Monday, 16 July 2018

Silly Season Arrives Early

Now fair enough, it's hot and the atmosphere is febrile.  Plus, it makes a jolly good story.
Hard Brexit: the eye-catching contingency plans to stop NI power blackouts
Thousands of electricity generators would have to be requisitioned at short notice and put on barges in the Irish Sea to help keep the lights on in Northern Ireland in the event of the hardest no-deal Brexit, according to one paper drawn up by Whitehall officials... The eye-catching scenario is contained in a private government paper outlining the various negative consequences of Britain leaving the European Union without any deal. ... Northern Ireland relies on imports from south of the border because it does not have enough generating capacity itself. Britain is hoping to negotiate a deal to allow [the] single electricity market on the island of Ireland to continue after Brexit. 
I tell you somewhere else where they're hoping exactly the same thing: the Republic.  NI's dependency for electricity is more than mirrored by the South's dependency on the UK electricity market (via two big interconnectors) for system balancing: when the wind doesn't blow - there is an awful lot of highly intermittent windpower there; and when it blows a lot - as a much-needed market for electricity exports.

Oh, AND comprehensive dependency on the UK for gas - in pure energy terms, a much bigger deal.  

Curiously, these reciprocal aspects have occurred to none of the eager cut-n-paste reporters following up the story in all newpapers from the lazy comfort of their laptops.

What's even worse is that in all probability, Olly Robbins hasn't mentioned that side of the matter to the craven Mrs May either.

- - - - - - - 
PS if unable to surmount the FT paywall directly, just google the article 

Friday, 13 July 2018

How Does It All End? Weekend Reading

Apocalypse:  SethPDA
Here's something readers of this blog may well wish to grapple with: an intelligent vision of the end of capitalism. by one Wolfgang Streeck.  And he's not giving just the usual 1st-year undergraduate PPE Marxist guff:  as he concludes -
The demise of capitalism is unlikely to follow anyone’s blueprint.
Not for the first time, our recommended reading material comes from the New Left Review.  This one isn't new (it's 4 years old) but I only just came upon it and it's good enough to merit a weekend read.  Some choice extracts: 
Capitalism, as a social order held together by a promise of boundless collective progress, is in critical condition.  Growth is giving way to secular stagnation; what economic progress remains is less and less shared; and confidence in the capitalist money economy is leveraged on a rising mountain of promises that are ever less likely to be kept. On the three frontiers of commodification—labour, nature and money—regulatory institutions restraining the advance of capitalism for its own good have collapsed, and after the final victory of capitalism over its enemies no political agency capable of rebuilding them is in sight ... Capitalism without opposition is left to its own devices, which do not include self-restraint. The capitalist pursuit of profit is open-ended, and cannot be otherwise. The idea that less could be more is not a principle a capitalist society could honour; it must be imposed upon it, or else there will be no end to its progress, self-consuming as it may ultimately be...
Finance is an ‘industry’ where innovation is hard to distinguish from rule-bending or rule-breaking; where the payoffs from semi-legal and illegal activities are particularly high; where the gradient in expertise and pay between firms and regulatory authorities is extreme; where revolving doors between the two offer unending possibilities for subtle and not-so-subtle corruption ... After Enron and WorldCom, it was observed that fraud and corruption had reached all-time highs in the US economy. But what came to light after 2008 beat everything: rating agencies being paid by the producers of toxic securities to award them top grades; offshore shadow banking, money laundering and assistance in large-scale tax evasion as the normal business of the biggest banks with the best addresses; the sale to unsuspecting customers of securities constructed so that other customers could bet against them; the leading banks worldwide fraudulently fixing interest rates and the gold price, and so on. In recent years, several large banks have had to pay billions of dollars in fines for activities of this sort ... minuscule when compared to the banks’ balance sheets—not to mention the fact that all of these were out-of-court settlements of cases that governments didn’t want or dare to prosecute...
What is to be expected, on the basis of capitalism’s recent historical record, is a long and painful period of cumulative decay: of intensifying frictions, of fragility and uncertainty, and of a steady succession of ‘normal accidents’—not necessarily but quite possibly on the scale of the global breakdown of the 1930s.
That'll cheer up your weekend - since there's *ahem* nothing on the telly.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

May, Trump, Merkel

What a weird week this is!

Let's face, since the Brexit referendum thing shave been a bit weird, going back in my lifetime, things have never really calmed down since the financial crisis. The Financial Crisis seems to have pushed much of humanity into a permanent state of anxiety from which there are no signs of recovery.

This week, we have our new weakened emboldened Prime Minister meeting with her German boss, Frau Merkel, who is over in the UK to remind herself that for all her domestic troubles in Germany it could be a lot worse.

May, in her anxious state, even stopped journalists for asking Merkel about 'the deal' which May thinks she has signed off and everyone else know we don't.

After Merkel leaves we have a visit from The Donald, also here to laugh at the UK and generally troll NATO, EU and China for his kicks. Even by Trump standards, he is off the deep end currently, berating allies, starting a trade war with China and pushing that so far that it will actually dent the US economy and then going off for a love-in with Vladimir in Russia (and so ignoring all the legal investigations in the US). Wow, just wow.

There may even be an interesting sports match-up in the middle of all this over the next week.

It is certainly interesting to watch, none of it does much for my own anxiety though!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Naked Into The Conference Chamber

Writing as an old negotiator of big, drawn-out deals (I'm working on one now, which explains the lack of posting) I can only laugh in disbelief.  I'm sure everyone else is laughing, too, though there's precious little non-ironic pleasure to be had.

What does May think she's achieved?  In full public gaze she has wrung out of her Cabinet their collective absolute-worst-we-could-possibly-accept-fallback position, delivered it to the other side - who won't agree even to that!  And why should they?

There are plenty of *successful politicians* who make it to the top without any understanding of the ways of the world.  Corbyn is a pretty extreme example, but there's a rich field to pick from on all sides.
Ordinarily you'd expect ideology-bound Labour would suffer from this more than business-oriented Tories; but in the good old days there were plenty of Union types in their ranks who know a thing or two about the ways of the smoke-filled room.  Even Nye Bevan, apparently an ideologue of the first water, had done a bit of negotiating in his time, and "astonished his supporters by opposing unilateral nuclear disarmament" (Wiki) with his famous one-liner**.

Interesting to see David Davis resigning this morning - he was always a resigner, so no surprises there.  Johnson was never what anyone would think of as principled ...  and remind me, why has anyone, ever, seen anything in Gove??

I'm guessing the odds on Corbyn in No.10 before Xmas have shortened a bit.


**"It is not a question of who is in favour of the hydrogen bomb, but a question of what is the most effective way of getting the damn thing destroyed. It is the most difficult of all problems facing mankind. But if you carry this resolution and follow out all its implications ... you will send a British Foreign Secretary, whoever he may be, naked into the conference chamber."

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The world cup. We ought to mention it.

The world cup. We ought to mention it.

With the notorious aversion to the round ball game that our readers show. Their contempt for the overpaid divers and wrestlers of the soccer match, we have not yet mentioned the largest global event occurring. The 2018 World Cup.
Partly, because like everyone else, we didn't expect to do very well.

Gareth Southgate was not a choice for the many. A bit of a Theresa May. A competent, safe, if dull option. As the more dynamic were far more of  risk.
But we'd just had two safe option managers. Steady Eddies. And both ultimately failed, spectacularly, when the test came.

I do believe that this time, the England manager does actually know what he is doing. Does understand that he needs to ensure his team also understand what they need to do. This isn't simply a Sven 'Pass to the good players and they will score.' sort of team. For one thing, Mr Southgate only has one really good player. A clutch of competent ones, but the Beckham/Lampard/Gerrard/Terry/Rooney/Cole/Owen era is over. Which may be a blessing in disguise.

By having a younger, fresher, less historic side, he has been able to get them to believe what he believes. To play how he wants them to play.

This is no mean feat. Better managers, with higher pedigrees, with better players, have not managed this. The 'no plan B' has been as evident in England football as it has been in Mayite politics, Hoof and hope. And if the ball doesn't go in with that tactic..then do it again. And again. And again.

Those who actively follow will be aware that under the usual and deserved media hype, the actual stats haven't been that impressive. Total number of shots on target, against Columbia, was two. Out of sixteen attempted. Possession was 52-48%. Not overwhelming at all.

But what was different, was the evidence of an actual plan. An actual doctrine. A passing structure. That didn't always work, but at least was in place. So many times before when watching England at a major tournament, could be seen the unbelievable, unnecessary giving away of the ball. Giving away and not seriously trying to come back and defend. Instead waiting for the ball to come back.

The giving away still went on. But the defensive shape, so beloved of pundits, was obvious even to ordinary fans. The alternative routes available to play the ball was also obvious. This, finally, looked like a manager's plan. Where the players play in their best positions. To a system that suits the entire team, rather than the superstars in that team.

And in the extra time, and the shootout vs the Colombians, the pre planning really showed. Not a panicky..what now? Who takes? So and so the winger is really tired so i will put a defender in the same place because he once played as a winger in a friendly twenty years ago.

For once, it actually looked ORGANISED. Not organised for the media. Or the FA. Or the players. Or the wives and tabloids.
But the team.

So, whatever occurs next, full marks for that.

The final Brexit denoument, again...and again

Wow is Brexit boring or what!

I mean, as I keep saying, if I had known it was going to be this intense and dull I would have voted Remain!

On the other hand, Theresa May is making a good fist of her desire to Remain in the EU by using the trick of grounding her opponents into the dust through sheer boredom. So bored are they with the ever changing proposals they are now just confused and my hunch is they will sign anything to make it all go away.

Its a great strategy of attrition and is working a treat. Along with the well-organised continuity remain propaganda; today is the turn of Jaguar Land Rover to pretend that tariff free trade will be affected in no-deal WTO tariff free environment. Facts don't matter now, it is all positioning.

So I am left hoping that we have our Brexit in Name Only deal finally put to Brussels next week, just so the long nightmare has an end in sight. It could have been better, but never with Mrs May and the bigger threat remains the loony Corbynistas ever getting near power.