Monday, 30 July 2018

Textbook Mandelson

Way back in 1997, the year in which the first Blair government was elected, Peter Mandelson wanted to be elected to the NEC of the Labour Party.  He wasn't popular enough for this to be any kind of shoo-in (to put it mildly); indeed, the Labour Party is fairly averse to johhny-come-lately just turning up and expecting to walk it, first time of asking, onto the NEC.  So he called in some of his plentiful markers in the telly-meejah, and pitched to the tame interviewers thus:  (I paraphrase, but on the basis of a very clear recollection)

"Now what I think Labour Party members are saying, they say - that Peter Mandelson, I don't know much about him, but I do know he had a big hand in getting the party elected, and I like that.  But I think he needs to be more accountable to the membership.  So I think he needs to be on the NEC, where we can keep a democratic eye on him.  - That's what I find Labour Party members are saying." 

Never short for a bit of self-serving spurious logic, are you Mandy?  Two decades on, and nothing has changed.  Today, for example, attempting to promote a second referendum he 
... put forward a new argument in favour - that it would be helpful to Theresa May too.  He explained: "People know want to make an informed judgment and choice between what is on offer as a result of this negotiation and the benefits we already have in the European Union.   Also I think, if [she] promises a people’s vote, it will strengthen her hand against the Brextremists in her own party.  She’s got to turn around to them and say, ‘Look, what I negotiate has got to pass muster.  It’s got to gain the support of the British people.  So untie my hands, let me negotiate properly, because you’re going to face a public vote at the end of the day.’  And unless she can say that to them, they’re going to continue keeping her hostage ..."
Oh so bloody clever, Peter.  She'll definitely fall for that.  Anyhow, gives me a chance to re-run one of my digi-gallery.  By the way, he never did get on the NEC ... 

ND

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Anti-Liberalism: A Short Weekend Read

On several occasions we've discussed on C@W how Dilbert author Scott Adams has an impressive line in predicting Trump's actions, based squarely on a coherent thesis about human beings in general (always an advantage).  Here, for weekend perusal, is a very short article on another thesis which may also hold useful explanatory value - at least, for "anti-liberals" ...

It's on the work of a German legal philosopher Carl Schmitt.  It's obligatory to start with this quotation from the article:  "although Schmitt is notorious for joining the Nazi Party in 1933, it would be a mistake to dismiss him for that reason alone. Among scholars today, on both the left and right, Schmitt is known for his incisive critique of modern liberalism". 

The ante-diluvian Theresa May (in her better, "citizen of everywhere = citizen of nowhere" moments) might like this.

At the heart of Schmitt’s critique is his disdain for liberalism’s universal aspirations ... Because the liberal conception of “the people” is non-exclusive, it is also indistinct. Who are we if “we” can include anyone? Schmitt believed that this way of thinking makes liberal states vulnerable to capture by private interest groups from within and by foreigners from without... As defenders of a non-exclusive, rights-based creed, liberals are compelled to meddle in the affairs of other countries whose policies don’t accord with liberal values. And when liberals engage in international military conflict, their worldview is a recipe for total and perpetual war, because their commitment to abstract norms encourages them to view their opponents not merely as competitors but rather as “absolute enemies.
For Schmitt, a political community forms when a group of people recognizes that they share some distinctive cultural trait that they believe is worth defending with their lives ...
ND
 



Thursday, 26 July 2018

No, Prime Minister



Dear BBc.
I hope you enjoy this idea. A pilot pitch to your current fad of remaking favourite old TV sitcoms, such as Open All Hours. Are You Being Served and Porridge. And giving them an unnecessary and transitional modern twist. With the same contemporary, Doctor Who style trend, of gender bending the main characters to give a fresh, if pointless and usually fatal spin, to the format.
Obviously, as is almost compulsory, post salary-gate, the central, dominant, character will be female.

This re-imagining for the modern era has the working title,

 NO, PRIME MINISTER.

https://www.karikatur-museum.de/media/images/Scarfe-May.2e16d0ba.fill-235x360-c100.jpg
Jane Hacker. Prime Minister

In the pilot episode, the hapless, timid, panicky, indecisive and always ineffective, JANE HACKER, Minister for Internal Home Affairs, unexpectedly, through the machinations behind the scenes of  Cabinet Secretary, Sir Olly Robbinby, becomes Prime Minister.

Jane immediately runs into difficulties. The usual Westminster fare of a divided, fractious cabinet. The hard left socialist opposition. The over-exuberant Americans. The NHS in crisis. The threats from the unions. The tricks of the Russians. Falling productivity. The Irish Troubles { This time represented by the DUP} And of course the intransigence of the EU.

 All these wonderful themes from the original classic series, can be easily reused if just given a modern twist. That is easily done with a liberal sprinkling of dialogue involving -  social media, smartphone, Quinoa, Airbnb. Foodbank. Tesla. Hashtag#Fad-whatever. And LBGTQ references. 
It may be possible to give the series a tight shooting and edit deadline. To make each episode really up to the minute, News 24, Millennial focused, with that weeks current affairs references, jammed in. As they did with another old classic Drop the Dead Donkey. 
{Also currently being re-imagined by BQP as "OMG-Facebook, you won't believe it!" -working title.}

PS; We appreciate you do like to mention Olly Murs and Danny Dyer in every single one of your programs. So we will cram them in somehow.

Await your response to this idea for a brand new, old sitcom.

William Quango
BQ Productions
C/o room 40
Westminster, Palace of,
SE11AA

A taster for one of the episodes.

NO, PRIME MINISTER

Episode III
Brexit.

Scene - Outside the PM's office - 

The outside office to the Prime Minister's office, sees a worried Principal Private Secretary,
Wooley Barnard, Theresa May's PPS. He is examining an opinion piece in the nominally supportive Daily Telegraph. It was not supportive.

The cabinet Secretary, Sir Olly Robbinby enters. He notes Wooley's glum expression, and asks,

"Another poor political poll? Barnard?"

"Erm..no Sir Olly..."

"Minister caught out like an Uber? Hiring themselves around the corporates and got stung by a Sunday Times fake Blood Diamond for export scam? No...?....Is it the Ultra Liberal-Panty-Waist-Softball, appointed to be director of Public Prosecutions that's worrying them? "

"Er..No Sir Olly..I mean, yes..it is, obviously....But no. That's not the problem."

"Then what is, Wooley? Love Island season finale didn't go the way you hoped?"

"Its this Newspaper, Sir Olly. It doesn't like the new Brexit White Paper."
 He hands over the offending column.

Sir Olly barely scanned it. He'd seen many such pieces over the last year. And many more over the last few weeks.
  "A piece from the red faced Brexit Furies of that Daily Express rag, is it? A piece of Gammon!" Sir Olly beamed at his witticism and at poor Barnard.

"This is the Telegraph, Sir Olly. A usually supportive of the Prime Minister paper. Although a Brexit one."

"Ohh..Barnard, really. The Telegraph isn't supportive of the Prime Minister or Brexit. Its owners want as much EU subsidy and free press subsidy as they can bank offshore. And they only support someone likely to hand over knighthoods and honours. You do know the Telegraph only came out for Brexit about an hour before those ghastly, awful, votes about the UK leaving were finally counted up? The readers might want out. But who cares about them? Certainly not the owners."

"But Sir Olly. It's quite a personal attack..You know how she is about them."

"A personal attack behind a Paywall, Barnard. No one will read it," soothed the Cabinet Secretary.
And do you know how many daily papers they sell these digital days? Seven would be a good day for them."
Sir Olly finally scanned the troublesome column.

"The Prime Minister has abandoned her Florence speech firmness as carelessly as a second rate assassin might discard a bottle of Novichok perfume. She has lost her Mansion House commitments as foolishly and unmistakably as a junior Thai soccer team in a cave. 
 She has capitulated. She has surrendered. She has rolled over and begged to be beaten by her European Masters. Beaten for her wickedness in attempting to even begin to suggest a bargaining with such mighty overlords. "

"Who's this? Simon the Heifer? Or Quentin's Sweats. Anyway, it's really not that bad.,"
"Read further on, Sir Olly."

Sir Olly did.

" The Prime Minister, Jane Hacker, has already taken it from the EU in every orifice. And now she wants to handle the negotiations herself! She doesn't just flop. And fold. But bends at the waist. She says she will be firm! Laughable! The only firm things in the room will be the throbbing of the 27 members and the grip she has on her own ankles. The door will close and the teabagging will begin."


"I see...Yes..That has come across rather graphicly, hasn't it? Reads like a typical Mumsnet post, doesn't it?" 

"Sir Olly?" asked Wooley, "What shall I tell the PM? And what exactly is tea bagging? She's bound to ask."

"I have no idea, Barnard. I always insist on loose leaf. I don't much care for these modern packaging methods. American ideas..Never been keen on them. Fast food and low tax societies.
.Such,..unpalatable ideas...Well..I assume it means something in much the same,  'scenes of sexual content from the start', as the rest of the piece.
What to tell the PM?.. Well she's a Vicar's daughter. So she won't know what teabagging is either. Just tell her its a reference to..well.. To tea!
 Say it refers to our national characteristic. The enjoyment of a hot beverage in times of crisis..erm..No don't say crisis..We don't want her hiding under the desk again for a week, do we.
Say, the enjoyment of a hot beverage. And SHE represents that ideal of tea. The very character of tea, is how the masses see her own character."

Sir Olly gestured, a bold finger as he expanded on his theme.

"Strong. Warm, Dependable. Necessary. The gritty handed Workman's favourite. A delightful sip. A saucer sup. ..  Fresh....Quintessentially English..The appeal of an afternoon's pleasantness. Rural England's cake shoppe refinement. The very soul of the Vicarage itself."

"That's very reassuring Sir Olly. But I don't think the paper do mean those things. They seem quite hostile. I think it means she is like a teabag. A used one..Sort of .." And Bernard slumped himself down at the shoulders.
"Sort of..Squashed out. Cold. Soft. Unpleasantly wet...Grey...Weak..Saggy..You know..a used teabag is ..well..just a bit desperate and a little bitter, isn't it?"

"Its up to you Barnard. Tell her my version, or tell her yours. But if you don't want her flapping like a wet hen all week, I'd tell her my version. Now, is the leader of the nation available to see me?"

"Oh, erm..no, Sir Olly."

Sir Olly looked at Barnard, annoyed. It wasn't supposed to be a request. He was Olly Robbinby. It was a statement of intent.

"She is still away. On her tour of the Northern, remain voting, marginals."

Sir Olly sighed as he remembered. "Oh yes. Of course. 'The Great Progress.' "

"Well you did say you wanted her out of the way. For the summer."

"Indeed I did Barnard. And a wonderful idea it was of yours. A tour of her people."

"It was actually your idea, Sir Olly."

"... To explain her Chequers Plan."

"It was actually your plan, Sir Olly."

"Do stop interrupting Barnard. ..Its was a good idea to have her away when important decisions need to be taken. Important that I take those decis...Erm...I mean important that the nation takes those decisions, that are required. Without outside interference."

"Sir Olly, you aren't suggesting Mrs Hacker is 'outside interference,' are you ? She is the PM, isn't she?"

"Indeed she is, Barnard. But she is currently outside and I'm sure she is interfering in something. A custard cream production line in a biscuit factory, somewhere in the grey and drizzly depths of the Winterfell that is The North. So my point stands."

 “But Sir Olly, ...if she’s not the one here, now, making decisions. Or more realistically, avoiding making decisions, won’t she duck any blame for any “unpopular” action and reneging on firm, repeated, promises already made ?”

“Barnard!" snapped Sir Robbinby crossly. " Firstly..there can be NO unpopular decisions when it comes to reversing the appalling Brexit disaster!
And secondly, do you really think I’m so amateur I'd allow myself to be caught signing or instigating an actual commitment? 
And do you really think I could be half-witted enough to end up taking the blame for such a thing? I’m not David Davis, you know!”

“Sorry, Sir Olly.”

"Right..Now if you don't mind I shall use the Prime Minister's office for the rest of the day. I find it very helpful if instructions originate from within."


And with that, the Cabinet Secretary went inside and sat himself in his usual government recess place. At the desk of the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Norther Ireland.




TBC



Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Deeply Misleading Impressions, aka Total Bollocks

Remember how Miliband used to conjure up helpful members of the public in his speeches?

"I met a man in my constituency the other day", he would say, "in MacDonalds, you know, and he said to me 'Ed, obviously you're the best leader the Labour Party has ever had, and a really clever bloke - but somehow people get the wrong end of the stick when you're trying to you get your message across and so it makes you look as though you're useless, even though we all know your policies are really brilliant, particularly that energy price freeze'."

That sort of thing.  Really, really credible.

Well.  At the weekend in our BTL discussion on freedom of the press, the name of IMPRESS came up in a comment from our good friend Radders.  As it happens I'd just been reading a particularly self-serving piece about IMPRESS by one Jonathan Heawood, its chief exec.  Here's an extract**. 
It's a pity that the only thing some people know about Impress is that we are linked to Max Mosley.  I got talking recently to someone who asked me what I did for a living.  "Press regulation," I said.  "Oh yes?" he said, brightly.  "There are two regulators these days, aren't there?  Which one are you with — the one that's run by the motor-racing chap?"  "You mean Max Mosley?" "That's the fellow. " "Well, yes, I'm with Impress. And yes, it's supported by a charity that's funded by Max Mosley's family trust, but actually I run it."  "Oh. Not Mosley?"  "No. He doesn't have anything to do with it."  He was surprised. Not particularly bothered (he had nothing against Mosley; in fact, he admired him for the stand he had taken against newspaper intrusion), but surprised.  He was familiar enough with the issue to know that there were two press regulators in the UK, but innocent enough to believe that one of those regulators was run by Mosley.  He is not alone.  Most news about Impress is published by newspapers whose owners have a vested interest in our failure.  As a result, we move through a fog of misinformation.
Don't you just love "in fact, he admired him"?  What a nice touch.

I think I can safely say, I don't believe a word of that.  Just my opinion, mind.  And I've probably been befuddled by all that, errr, fog.

ND
_______________
** British Journalism Review, June 2018 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Putin's Balls


And they're checking the football for bugs.   As well they might - do we all know this story?

In 1945, "Soviet schoolchildren" presented to the U.S. ambassador, Averell Harriman, a wooden carving of the Great Seal of the United States.  He hung the trophy in his office.  In 1952 (under one of his successors), a routine security check revealed that the seal contained a substantial resonating cavity and of course a microphone.  The Russians were able to activate the device remotely: it transmitted a signal to a nearby monitoring station.  You can see a replica of the object in the NSA museum in Fort Meade, Maryland.

What their successors will make of anything they pick up from the Trump household is anyone's guess.  Since in the privacy of his living room he probably declares war on them a couple of times a week, the traffic on the Big Red Telephone could shortly be increasing a little.

ND

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Will the 'Free Press' Be There When We Need It? - Weekend Essay


A few years ago it was possible to be pretty depressed about the state of investigative journalism in the UK.  At one end of the spectrum there was, for example, the mighty FT which fell significantly short of what ought be one of its raisons d’être – to break stories about financial wrongdoing.  It scarcely even pretended otherwise.  When the Enron meltdown occurred - the biggest financial collapse that had ever happened until then, in a company much lauded for innovation and achievement - it completely blind-sighted the FT (amongst others) which then spent weeks mournfully breast-beating over its manifest failure even to recognise, still less to report what was going on.  Just once in a while the Economist might essay something mildly controversial.   

It was easy to guess that an overly nervous attitude towards the reaction of big advertisers lay at the root of much of this indolence and cowardice – and not much about the easily-observed conduct of (e.g.) the Telegraph or the Murdoch media suggested otherwise.   Another cause was manifestly the deep cuts being made to the numbers of fulltime journalists employed by ‘Fleet Street’ – and to their expense accounts.

[So pathetic has been financial reporting that when this modest blog started to gain traction, the good Guido asked if we would become the financial arm of Order-Order, to do for the City of London what he does for City of Westminster.  We felt he’d missed a rather important point about companies’ willingness to litigate …]

At the other end of the spectrum was the decline in once-proud regional newspapers.  Time was when the Yorkshire Post had a dedicated Westminster team; a conceit, perhaps, but dozens of big-city papers would reckon to be able to mount proper investigations on issues of local concern.  Over the years, however, the local press become commoditized.  Owned for the most part by a small number of chains, they became depressingly formulaic productions under a cost-cutting imperative.  To fill out the gaps between advertisements, these rags would typically carry a dozen stories under a single “reporter’s” by-line every issue, this hard-pressed hack mostly re-hashing spoon-fed press releases: they no time to get out onto the streets and find out for themselves.  And avoiding the controversial had the added benefit of minimsing the risks of legal costs and upsetting advertisers.  The ease, and increasingly the ultra-low cost, of running photos in newspapers completed the descent into vacuity.  Breaking a story?  Only if it involved a photogenic kitten - with all material supplied gratis via email by someone with a digital camera.

To cap it all, we had the menacing pincer movement of, on the one hand Leveson, seemingly bent on grinding the press into craven submission; and on the other, social meejah that were (a) breaking stories, true and fake, with minimal cost or regard for the consequences; and (b) eating the MSM’s advertising revenue for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  How would any mainstream outlet find the balls to take on controversial material?  We seemed to be left with Michael Crick, Guido and a handful of others hacking away at the relatively easy targets: individual slimeball politicians who are poorly placed to retaliate.  Little wonder that purposefully generated fake news overwhelms truth in so many quarters.  And with so many universities reduced to gibbering jelly by the contagion of “identity politics” and its flagrant disavowal of reason and objectivity, well might Pilate’s challenge ring out again:  where is truth?  

 But lo! - out of this depressing state of affairs has come something of a turnaround.  At the national and international level, triggered by the really big wikileaks-type of mega-revelations, a newly rediscovered taste for seriously disruptive journalism has been given a significant boost.  By way of a symptom of this:  for some years Private Eye had allowed the 'Paul Foot' awards (for investigative journalism) to lapse.  But they were revived in 2017; and this year saw a shortlist of finalists that was pretty impressive.

Equally heartening, there is a new phenomenon arising out of – yes – regional journalism.  The newspaper chains that dominate ownership of local papers, notwithstanding their unimaginative, ad-laden hard-copy and websites, have started to support pooled teams of reporters from across their multiple titles – and given them mandates and resources to go after stories that actually require diligent research and a bit of patience.  And at all levels, it seems, when the proprietor permits, the hack still hankers after breaking the big scandal.

All this leaves me slightly more optimistic about the health of investigative journalism right now, which seems to be appropriately rude – even if operating as a small fleet of vulnerable vessels in an ocean of craven dross.

And with the newly serious prospect of a Corbyn/McDonnell government in the air, it’s timely.  If this ghastly contingency ever takes place, I think we may confidently predict an all-out attack on freedom of the press as a flanking maneouvre to protect their malign endeavors.  We know that the already-powerful EC dreams of making disrespect of the federast project an offence - and the euro-wallahs are at least somewhat restrained by due process.

I tremble for free speech at the hands of a C/M regime coming to power in anarchic conditions.  We shall need journalists with a determined bias for the truth, working for organisations with serious institutional balls.  We shall need them like never before.  Will they be there?  The question stands. 

ND

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The life cycle of the Mayfly

 Image result for bbc mayfly

BBc 4

This is a change to the scheduled bbc programme - Cliff Richard and his Young Ones.

David Attenborough presents
The Blue Party Planet
Season 3. Episode 2. 


The Mayfly.

Thought to be descended from the Dragonfly, {Margretis Thatchae}The Mayfly is a primitive, aquatic insect, which means it is dripping wet. 
In larvae state, the nymph, unlike its adult self, can survive, for many years. 
 A nymph Mayfly is found in political ponds resting just below the surface. Only eyes showing. In this state a nymph, or neophyte mayfly can stay submerged and unnoticed, and can even operate a major government department for many, many years, without drawing dangerous attention to itself.

The second moult, before political maturity, of the Mayfly, is when it forms its wings. Though not able to reproduce its ideas at this stage, the HomusSecretarius, also known as Catus Pedibus, emerges ever so slightly from the water and skims just above it. Buzzing quietly, and ineffectively.  It’s long, thin, grey body, can glide further, through neighbouring wheat fields.

 The final stage, and the shortest, in the political life-cycle of the Mayfly, is the Headhoncho.
{Caesar Maximus}

The adult Mayfly whizzes onto the political scene. Buzzing furiously and energetically the Mayfly roams further still. Always heading leftwards, the cautious Mayfly, aided by gusts of social democracy,  makes a great deal of noise and can be heard, coughing and spluttering from a considerable distance.
 The odd looking insect is an easy meal for predators. Which are any creature that isn't a Mayfly.
Remainers. Brexiteers. Socialists. Liberals. Kippers. Trumps. Europeans. Russians. Plastic straws and sugar in cans, can all disable a Mayfly with ease.

Adult Mayflies typically gestate their political ideas, in total secrecy, for an insanely long period of time. Often eighteen months or more.
Once an idea is ready for release, the female Mayfly emerges from her hiding place under the Robbins desk and buzzes furiously, to little effect. These ideas burst upon the media, in a bright and unexpected cloud. The Mayfly then optimistically drones from television stations to radio shows, right across the political pond.
She flies in ever decreasing circles. Flapping madly to prevent herself crashing down to the earth.

 95% of a mature, adult Mayfly's political energy, is spent simply keeping the insect aloft.

The Prime Mayfly, ( Greek - Therízō Maybae ) creates the shortest lived policies and plans in the entire political kingdom. Although giving the appearance of a strong and stable beast, the Mayfly is in fact very weak and unstable. And has a similar survival expectancy as someone using Eau de Novichok Pafrum.


The average Prime Mayflies proposals, be they dementia taxation. Grammar school expansion. Or the Brexit, Chequers, Merkel-said-it's-fine-non-agreement, don’t live past twenty four hours of parliamentary scrutiny.


The eternal question, asked since ancient times, 

“What is the point of the Mayfly?” 

Remains unanswered.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Every Schoolboy's Fantasy

The Tempest.  Oh wow!


Is there anything it can't do?

Actually, for those of us who remember the wondrous TSR-2, and have read in the history books of any number of whizzy 1950's ideas, the track record suggests it can't actually get off the ground ...

Cynic?  Moi?

Looks quite neat, though.

ND


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.

ND 
- - - - - - - 
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.

ND

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!