Saturday 30 January 2021

Gathering Intelligence: Desert Storm (part 2)

Iraqi artillery position: too neat for its own good
30 years ago, Desert Storm was raging.  There had been a fairly lengthy build-up period since George Bush Snr declared for unconditional eviction of Saddam from Kuwait, and it had been a period of frenetic and growing activity on a vast scale.  The Iraqi army was big, battle-hardened and on home territory.  The ostensibly impressive coalition Bush had assembled was diverse and for the most part playing away from home.  

There were other problems, too.  It wasn't just an away fixture, it was the desert: and desert warfare is a specialised business.  The sand is a challenging medium; and the relative lack of readily discernible topographic features across very large areas made aerial reconnaisance more difficult, too.  Then there was the heat, which was really giving us the hurry-up during our "winter" of preparations 1990-91.  The prospect of fairly intolerable temperatures once winter was over was troubling for the great preponderance of US, UK and French forces: and staggering amounts of bottled water were procured.

However, there were some very important pluses.  The aforesaid US / UK / French** forces (and a handful of other 'western' allies) all operated under NATO doctrine, meaning that a swathe of practical operational and inter-operability challenges had long-ingrained solutions.  AirLand Battle as a doctrine was a well-practised reality - albeit never yet tested in action.  

And, above all (quite literally) was the near-certainty of air superiority - the quickest and easiest component to deploy, given the many existing airfield facilties enjoyed by the USA and the UK in the Gulf and Eastern Med^^, plus of course US aircraft carriers.  It was early air deployment that also started fixing some of the initial problems around shortage of good intelligence.  Stand-off air recce was able to be mounted quickly; and ultimately a superb new asset was deployed - the E-8A J-STARS, the capabilities of which we will come to later in this account.  For now, suffice to say that the daily sorties were bringing back 2 TB of high-quality data of considerable value.

In my earlier series of posts on Desert Shield and how I came to be involved, I noted that we'd been gratified to find some of our lamentable initial ignorance on Iraq's army was fixed by the convenient fact of Iraq's adherence to Soviet doctrines in many respects (where they hadn't innovated), as well as using Soviet equipment.  Us old Russia hands were pretty good on all that, of course: we'd been working on little else for a long time.   

In fact sometimes it was even easier than we first realised.  The Iraqis were fairly slavish adherents to those precepts, an example being the Russian principle of deploying artillery in threes: three guns to a platoon, three platoons to a battery, three batteries to a batallion, etc - all in neat triangles.  The thing is, in northern Europe, these triangles would be loosely and flexibly deployed, for reasons of terrain and concealment.  In the open desert, the Iraqis went for neat equilateral triangles ... you spot one, and you know exactly where to look for the rest (see pic above).  Kinda handy for finding and plotting them!

It all helped: 2 TB per sortie was a helluva lot of stuff to go through - and computerised imagery analysis was in its infancy.  Also, we were looking for more important things than anti-tank batteries - things that were better hidden, where the lone and level sands stretch far away ...  (to be continued)     



** French / NATO?  Oh yes: even through the long years of  De Gaulle's stand-offish policy, the French military quietly made sure to keep fully up-to-date with NATO STANAGS

^^ Turkey wasn't as *helpful* as it might have been 

Friday 29 January 2021

WallsStreetBets - Suckers gambit!

 What a week, sorry for my lack of posting, have in a tiny way been getting involved and making enough money for a couple of decent takeaways. 

Getting involved in what you ask?

Well, in the most 2021 story yet, Trumpism came to the US markets and just like in politics, make a big splash before getting punched. Maybe he story is not quite finished, but this week has seen the top and blow-off. 

What happened? Well, a canny bunch of retail investors saw that in the US to stocks #GME, #AMC, were being shorted over 100% (hedge funds selling shares, buying them, then selling them again to create double short positions). The retail group started going long, 'to fight the hedgies' A meme developed, thousands of retail investors (now led on by very easy access to the market from phone apps like Reddit), joined in and the Hedge funds were in trouble. The price was rocketing by 100's of percent and they were short. So they had to buy too and the share exploded up over 500% and more. 

Of course, the hedgies then started complain to the regulator, but also the trading apps were in trouble, they did not have the cash collateral to clear their trades (takes 3 days for the 'instant' retail deposits to clear for them). So they limited buying, this, together with hedge funds clearing their shorts at a big loss, meant the buying pressure started falling and so down to earth came #GME.

Then yesterday one of the 'leaders' - WallStreetbets - a nicely anonymous twitter handle to go with the current zeitgeist, started pushing a little known crypto currency- Dogecoin. This promptly went up 800% but has also fallen back already. 

Rampers and irrational booms are not unusual, the dotcom bubble many will remember and also, strangely, the frenzied period in 2009 are the market bottom of the Great Recession. Now lots of people are sat at home, with unused disposable income and gameified trading apps - it is a recipe for fun and the huxters to let rip. Of course if also exposes the Hedge Funds et al who are at the same game, but to me, that is hardly new information. However, for some millennials, that idea they are not investing but trying to take down hedge funds has a moral appeal - very smart move by the huxters, it has worked a treat. 

I guess they have a few more pump and dumps in them and it will be over...

Thursday 28 January 2021

Mystic Meg Does Bitcoin

Never mind C@W's annual predictions-fest:  call for Mystic Meg, who knows all about Bitcoin and can put us right via, errr, interplanetary motion ...

Note: this dynamic young lady describes herself** as an entrepreneur, and I suspect she's read that bit where the man who got richest during the California goldrush was the one who sold shovels ...

Me, I'd say that ordinarily a graph like Bitcoin's is a screaming short.  But what do I know?  (*returns to seance*)



**She's also a "current philosophy graduate student".  I think I like this woman.  

Wednesday 27 January 2021

When will it end?

The UK media remain keen to depress us all with gory details of how 100,000 people have died of Covid. To me the number is flawed, the real number should be excess deaths and not this easily disputable number. but it makes it easier for the loony 'Boris the Butcher' headcases to argue for lockdown forever etc. 

On that note, the excellent progress in vaccination should mean that light is at the end of the tunnel, just when we are at the worst point of the pandemic yet. 

It looks like all (ish) over 80's will have been vaccinated with an initial does by the end of January or early February. This will continue to bring case number down (which have fallen even faster than they rose, not that pundits seem to want to comment on that) even further. 

The tricky decision will then be when to release lockdown. there are many knowns, the state of the economy, the lack of education, the lack of cancer and other treatments - these are not minor considerations. 

The known unknowns are also hard - how effective is a one dose approach? will the younger population still suffer and end up with many deaths and hospitalisations if restrictions are reduced a lot? How long do the vaccine's give protection for? Will a new variant arise that nix's the whole strategy?

it is quite a balance, the Government do not want another lockdown after this. As such they will push it for as long as they think they can manage given the parlous economic circumstances, to buy the most time for the vaccine programme to work. 

With that view, I think the idea schools will be back at end of February to be unlikely, but not impossible given the rapid vaccination rate and relative fall in numbers cases currently. With vaccine success, the end of March is a more likely time for Tier 3/4 in most of the Country.

If the lockdownders win, then end of April will be the worst case. Spring sees the virus struggle to transmit so easily anyway for a few months and cases will remain low whilst they carry on with a wider vaccination programme.

The worst case news is a variant develops that is vaccine resistant currently, such that it causes a 6-8 week delay in the current plan and end up with restrictions for a lot longer. I can't see Wimbledon or any sports having fans until the autumn and I am very glad I don't own a nightclub right now. 

Sunday 24 January 2021

The Hard Dollar Cost of War

 Here's a striking graphic:

Let's assume the bottom bar is accurate enough to make the point (even +/-50% is enough).  What follows from this?  My thoughts run as follows:

  • Avoid war!  How many monarchs screwed up their chances by being altogether too keen on fighting?  You need to be really good at it - Julius Caesar, William of Normandy - to make it pay.  It's said that Thomas Cromwell's entire foreign policy was trying to stop Henry VIII going to war.  "Trading is better than fighting", as I was brought up to believe by my father (who saw WW2 from the sharp end).
  • (Just how wealthy is the USA?!   'Nuff said.)
  • What about the Keynsian effects?  A great deal of that money has been recycled through the US industrial-military complex (possibly even driving some tech advances).  True: but a lot of it must also be counted pure, unadulterated waste: there are more efficient ways!  Leading to ...
  • What else could the USA have done with the money?  Or put another way: what could Biden do if he called an early stop to those outlays?** 
  • "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation" ...



** There's an interesting story here.  When the Ayatollah came to power in Iran, initially he headed off to Qom and didn't do much at all of substance; and people were beginning to wonder if he was just going to return to being a seminarian cleric.  What he actually did in the early months was instructive: he immediately stopped the Shah's huge expenditures on armaments, and redirected the money at the rather nervous population, who quickly concluded, hey, this isn't so bad.  He thereby literally bought himself breathing-space to plot an altogether more comprehensive takeover of most aspects of Iranian life, which he proceded to do.  (To be fair, invasion by Saddam the following year helped consolidate his position too: and he may have regretted some of those cancelled arms shipments.)

Friday 22 January 2021

Weekend Post: in which the Terminator plainly explains the limits of self-rationality

After my posts which generated a big debate (I am not going to say quality) a couple of weeks back, I came across this excellent piece below which is a tweet reply by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I enjoy the way he spells out the limits to post-modern rationalism and how one can moderate one's own behaviour to avoid self- radicalising. I know occasionally it falls down, sometimes nearly all the experts are wrong, but this is almost always when politics are the driver and one side is pushing a angle, it does not invalidate the process. 

"I always say you should know your strengths and listen to the experts,. If you want to learn about building biceps, listen to me, because I've spent my life studying how to get the perfect peak and I have been called the greatest bodybuilder of all time. We all have different specialities.  

Dr. Fauci and all of the virologists and epidemiologists and doctors have studied diseases and vaccines for their entire lives, so I listen to them and I urge you to do the same. None of us are going to learn more than them by watching a few hours of videos. It’s simple: if your house is on fire, you don’t go on YouTube, you call the damn fire department. If you have a heart attack, you don’t check your Facebook group, you call an ambulance. If 9 doctors tell you you have cancer and need to treat it or you will die, and 1 doctor says the cancer will disappear, you should always side with the 9. In this case, virtually all of the real experts around the world are telling us the vaccine is safe and some people on Facebook are saying it isn’t.

In general, I think if the circle of people you trust gets smaller and smaller and you find yourself more and more isolated, it should be a warning sign that you’re going down a rabbit hole of misinformation. Some people say it is weak to listen to experts. That’s bogus. It takes strength to admit you don’t know everything. Weakness is thinking you don’t need expert advice and only listening to sources that confirm what you want to believe."

Thursday 21 January 2021

"Zero Carbon Housing": Heat Pumps For All?

As everybody knows, the easiest target for decarbonisation has been the electricity generation sector.  But that leaves some seriously intractable problems - energy-intensive industry, transport, food/agriculture/land-use, and space heating - which in aggregate are significantly bigger consumers of fossil fuels, and also (with the exception of some industries) much less centralised, i.e. interventionist measures are much more difficult.  Only the supply-side of transportation (oil companies now, electric utilities in the distant future) is *easily* dealt with, in the sense of nobbling a handful of large players that governments know how to transact with.  

One of the difficult areas - some would say the most difficult - is space heating in residential properties, in a country like the UK where gas is by far the predominant fuel.  Electrification?  Consider this: peak winter energy demand for space heating that is currently fuelled by gas, is a multiple of peak electricity demand for all purposes.  So: although the grid starts with a bit of headroom arising from overall energy consumption having been falling slowly for many years now, basically the grid and the generating fleet would need to be more than doubled in capacity, in almost every facet, in order simply to electrify home heating.  That leaves electrification of transport still to be catered for.  (With a bit of management, that might just sneak in with the grid upsizing required for heating, if all the vehicles could be charged in the small hours.)

Politicians having been banging on about legislating towards decarbonising homes for several years now.  One of Sadiq "Showman" Khan's more fatuous actions was to "regulate" that all London newbuild houses would be zero carbon from, errr, 2019.  But then, seeing there wouldn't be any new housebuilding, he changed his mind.

HMG is at it now:

Heat pumps will become the principal low-carbon heating technology in new homes, the government has said. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has responded to feedback to a consultation it conducted just over a year ago into its proposals for a Future Homes Standard that will govern new residential development from 2025. The response confirms the government’s commitment in the Treasury’s 2019 Spring Spending Statement to ban the installation of fossil fuel heating, such as natural gas boilers, in new-build homes by the middle of this decade. (UtilityWeek)

Grammarians, pedants and skeptics amongst you will have identified the weasels there: principal technology might mean "majority of installations" (51%?) or even "biggest single technology" (alongside gas and old-style electric and district heating etc etc).

Note also that heat pumps are only "low" carbon - because of course they use electricity from the mains!   Given that homes presumably includes urban flats, we must also assume it's to be air-source pumps as well as ground-source - a very questionable proposition.  And then there's the finance.  The RHI was meant to incentivise ground-source heat pumps as much as biomass, but in this it failed dismally.  We're talking serious cost here: and that's before anyone even mentioned retrofit.

If they really mean it, new house building will slow to a crawl (just as 2,000,000 Hong Kongers turn up ...).  Still, "ban" is ban.  Ask Sadiq, eh?


Wednesday 20 January 2021

Biden & those multiple Trump sanctions: what now?

The wokerati seem to have invested a lot in Biden, and maybe with good reason as regards domestic policy; but is he going to turn out to be a Hillary-style hawk abroad?

Of particular interest to me is whatever is going to be the successor to Trump's fairly determined policy on blocking Nord Stream 2, the substantial Russian / Gazprom gas pipeline project designed strategically to outflank comprehensively their own former Ukrainian export route.  Germany of course is the intended landfall, and Germany has long stuck doggedly to its own wholly self-interested Russia policy, in the face of widespread unease and often downright condemnation elsewhere.  And yet Germany is exceptionally keen to cozy up to Biden, hoping he'll be both friendly and not overly concerned to make them step up to the plate as regards NATO contributions.

Then there's China ... and Iran ... was there a single global hotspot at which Trump wasn't throwing America's considerable sanction-clout around?  However much bravado the three target-countries muster, they do all suffer under sanctions to a greater (Iran) or lesser (China) extent.  If you've ever done any business where a sanctions-related issue arises, you'll know how paranoid mainstream western companies are about "transgressing" unilateral US diktats.  And of course most other western nations have broadly similar top-level policy goals as the USA in these matters anyway, even if no intention (or ability) to pursue them with as much (or any) vigour.

What will be the successor-policies under the new US regime?  Hillary Clinton's reputation in many quarters is that of an outright warmonger, so being a Democrat isn't per se much of an indication.  And then there are the Biden family's, ahem, *wider interests* ...


Tuesday 19 January 2021

'Desert Storm' - Kuwait, January 1991: the backdrop

The politics of the Middle East is something we don't tend to stray into around C@W, there are too many obvious beartraps (not to mention lurid conspiracy theorists).  However, salient headlines on the high-level situation at the time when Saddam made his ill-fated 1990 move on Kuwait can readily be assembled - see also my previous series of posts.  (BTW, I'm not aiming for my doctorate on late 20th C geopolitics here ...)

  • Iran and Iraq had been hard at it for the best part of the preceding decade.  Early successes for Saddam had not been capitalised upon, leading to bloody stalemate - but also resulting in a very large, battle-hardened Iraqi army that at the tactical level was well led, and could even make some claims to strategic competence - below the political level, that is.  (The earlier posts covered aspects of this in some detail, if you're interested.)
  • Western feelings about this were generally "it's a pity they both can't lose"^^.  For the most part, however (and certainly from the US perspective) the attitude towards post-Shah Iran was so negative, there was a tendency sometimes to view Saddam as something close to "an SoB, but our SoB" - and there had clearly been some maladroit (to put it mildly) high level contacts with his regime along those lines.  Many commentators suggested Saddam even believed he'd been given the green light on Kuwait.
  • Middle Eastern oil loomed larger in 1990-net-importer America's thinking than - thanks to its recent shale-based exporter status - it does today.  Kuwait mattered; and Saudi mattered a lot.  And Israel ... well, let's just say that if Saddam felt his illusory "free pass" extended one inch further than Kuwait's borders he was truly, barking mad.  Oh, and the UK had (and still has) a very significant strategic presence in the area, too.
  • China counted for rather little on the world stage in those days (Tiananmen Square was 1989); and the Soviet Union, which (formally speaking) still had more than a year to run at the time of the invasion, was already an utterly busted flush, the Berlin Wall having fallen also in 1989.  But Russia was a very interested spectator, with a ringside seat. 
  • Saddam had gone a little way towards emollient PR following his invasion, but it was to absolutely no avail**: Bush reacted strongly and quickly, and the battle-lines were drawn very early in the piece.
  • Mrs Thatcher was first on board, naturally; and the coalition assembled by Bush Senior (making military and/or financial contributions) was large and impressive.   
Incidentally MrsT was, in domestic political terms, in a real mess at the time (Poll Tax & generally declining authority), which became steadily worse as the weeks from the invasion went on; and concluded badly for her long before the end of 1990.  She desperately wanted to reprise the 1982 Falklands triumph++ and begged Tory MPs to let her stay on until the job in Kuwait was finished ...  

No such luck, she was well gone before the fighting started - on 17th January 1991.   

To be continued Perversely, it may take me longer to recount the tale than the actual fighting lasted ...



^^ attributed to Kissinger, but surely some American isolationist must have said it about Germany & Russia before the USA came into WW2?

** to be fair, it's entirely possible Jeremy Corbyn bought it

 ++ she'd been hankering after a re-run ever since: subject of another History Corner story I may feel able to recount one day...

Monday 18 January 2021

UK shrinks 2.6% in November - apparently great news

Many economists, like Andrew Sentance for example, are declaring it a relative success that the UK economy did not shrink more during the 2nd Lockdown. 

Determined to see a silver lining to every cloud, they were expecting far worse and think this sets the UK up for a big re-bound in the near future. 

For me, some of the logic is poor, the second lockdown was not like the first, shops and schools were open and people were fed up with the restrictions when virus infections 'felt' low. If you fast forward to today, it is a lot more like the first lockdown. 

Also, with the lockdown here set to last until vaccine escape (if achievable) we have a whole Q1 of negative growth to deal with. 

The UK economy is going to be a lot smaller by the time the pandemic is over / under control. Yes there will be a big period of catch up with 10% growth for a couple of quarters, but lots of the damage is permanent along with a much higher debt to GDP ratio.

A few positives though, the share market and Sterling are already trading very low as compared to historical norms - there maybe upside in both for a while yet.

To me the big unknown for the year remains inflation - can QE keep inflation in its box forever? Maybe 2021 is when we find out. 

Sunday 17 January 2021

Desert Storm: 30 Years On

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of Op Desert Shield in Kuwait / Saudi / Iraq (etc) and the start of Desert Storm.

I haven't forgotten that I said I'd write about the fighting phase, too.  Am a bit tied up at the moment, but it's on the list ... watch this space.


Wednesday 13 January 2021

Seeing the future in the markets?

At the time of writing the FTSE100 is off around 2% on the day, a small blip but still well up in the beginning of the year.

Most years, after a Santa rally to get their bonus' in, fund managers re-allocate their funds in January to safer plays adn let the market drift whilst thier benchamrks for the year are set. 

All very old school. 

This year is interesting, there is a huge race on in the UK to vaccinate as many people as possible before Covid takes too higher toll - on people mainly but also on the economy, a lot of which remains closed.

To me, the FTSE at 6700 odd seems like a very positive readout given the economic damage wrought by Covid. The market investors must seem to think the vaccine race will be won in short order and some normality begin to return. Then again, they can soon turn down, but it is an interesting indicator to watch - more insightful than Twitter...

Monday 11 January 2021

Bitcoin gold rush

Bitcoin Price Chart Today - Live BTC/USD - Gold Price
Being 2021, everything has to be that bit bigger than 2020. Even the price of bitcoin, which last week hit new highs and although it has come off from $40,000 per coin to $38,000 per coin, it is still a huge ramp up. 

The real action is not in bitcoin, but the variety of other dodgy tokens that have been created in the crypto-world which are sometimes going up (and soon down) thousands of percent a week. 

It really is the wild west, but bitcoin has been around for over 10 years now so we are used to it. 

Why the ramp up then?

I can think of a few reasons, the biggest clear one is the huge use of the Federal Reserve balance sheet to create more money to aid the pandemic relief. This money has to go somewhere and it flows into assets. We see shares go higher, property, anything that is not cash. historically this would mean large levels of inflation, but with the economy destroying money very quickly on main street, official inflation remains low.

Bitcoin and brethren have become assets, as hedge as much as say Gold (also riding high, at near historic highs). Bitcoin itself is becoming ever hard to 'mine' so in a way it is increasing its own value - what a genius creation it has proved to be for creating its own success. 

I think too, the whole QAnon type crowd who are very anti-reality have also flocked to something they see as anti-institutional. 

For now, I don't yet see the big crash. The issue of a huge ramp and market crash, a la Tesla, is only a matter to time, but it feels to me there is a little further to go yet until there are no more buyers. 

Friday 8 January 2021

Weekend post - To Trump or not to Trump?

After a week in which he pushed for an insurrection and got the YMCA storming the Capitol, President Trump has now said he won't attend the inauguration of Joe Biden. Quelle Surprise. 

So the question for debate in the comments:

1 - Should be be impeached?

2 - Will he be impeached?

The new season of Earth:2021 is certainly shaping up to match the ghoulish horror of the 2020 season.

Thursday 7 January 2021

Trump shows how deep the rabbit hole has become

Trump vs Democrats 

Remain vs Leave

Covid19 vs Anti-vaxers

Liberals vs identity politics

The Fed vs the markets...

The advent of social media has truly de-stabilised the world now. Trump seems to have convinced himself the normal election was stolen from him. The fact that every investigation has come up empty passes him by. 

In the UK, Remainers were full of how our Country would fail literally on the day of Brexit, with no food or medicines coming in. Brexit is not without its downsides, but non of this was ever true and yet still it gets repeated ad nauseam. 

On the vaccine, utterly unsubstantiated tripe about the vaccine is shared widely, putting people off having it. Does no one recall the MMR scandal and how unscientific nonsense was published linking it to autism? So many kids then exposed to diseases that were supposed to be near eradicated. 

But the internet is powerful, it allows groups who previously would have been 2 people in a pub to gather in larger virtual numbers and in the US just now in real numbers to push their crazed agenda. The whole element of Fake News is such a dark element in our society. Anyone can reinforce their beliefs by finding more outlandish information on QAnon or the Canary - whichever side they are on, there is plenty of content to keep them off-track. 

I have a whattsapp with a CEO of a very large company. All he does is send conspiracy nonsense about the virus not being real and the great reset. An intelligent guy, lost in the rabbit hole of the web. 

What Trump shows is this now goes right through society in the West, right to the top where the person literally in charge of the US can claim 'THE MAN' is against him - he is the man for goodness sake. It is an insanity. 

What I have not figured out is how we get out of this conundrum as a society. Social media won't be put back in its box, How do we figure out a way through it? I think perhaps it is time to make Social Media companies register as publishers. They have to be responsible for content like a newspaper or any other offline media. We need to do something or else the craziness in the Capitol will be the nearer the beginning and not the end. 

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Not enough vaccine is not the same as lack of effort

 All I read around at the moment is how incompetent the Government are, interestingly, this applies pretty much to all Countries bar New Zealand and China - where the Government is amazing and beneficent of course. 

In the UK, bored of the new lockdown and desperate to get out of things, pundits everywhere are asking why the Government has not drivers, the army, pharmacists, vets, GP's, delivery drivers, schools, sports help with the vaccine roll-out. 

It is as if the only limiting factor is willpower - the real issue is lack of vaccine availability and the sign-off to use it once tested. With the way production is going, we will be lucky to get to more than 1 million doses a week in the next month and thereafter it might ramp up. It is not just production, but of course AstraZeneca has sold the vaccine all around the world, the UK only gets a portion of what is produced. 

Still, it says a lot about how low the level is of the the commentators on the virus are at the moment, of course Keir Starmer is king of this battle, demanding 2 million a week vaccinated just because he wants to set Boris a target to fail at. 

With the quality of insight offered across the UK currently, no wonder we are in a mess....and we are keeping kids off school too, not helping improve the long-term prospects of this improving either. 

Sunday 3 January 2021

2021 Predictions - maybe the hardest one in 14 years

We started this little tradition 14 years ago now, gulp, how time flies. 

As I said last week, back in 2006-9 myself and the readership often got 4/5 or better for predictions, it continued at a good rate until the last couple of years when the winner, like last year, often only got 1/5. The world has become more unpredictable or perhaps the authors and readers more stupid....

But now we have 2021, with a global pandemic and runaway stock market fuelled by frankly mental levels of money printing - all the whilst having Russia and China waiting in the wings and a geriatric in charge of America. 

So, good luck, we will need it for both the game and as the kids say, IRL. 

Here goes

1) FTSE close on 31/12/21

2) Share price of Tesla on 31/12/21 (this stock, the focus of the irrational market, will be the bell-weather for a market crash too this year...or not...)

3) When will the Tier system end in the UK (assumes this year...optimism central I am)

4) Who will be US President at the end of the Year

5) What price will Bitcoin be in US Dollars?

A nice rounded global focus there, bit more on the markets this year. As always there are bonus points (to a maximum of one) for guessing some major geo-political event too in your response. 

Good luck all...

Friday 1 January 2021

Resign now, Boris

Auberon Waugh once wrote of Rupert Murdoch:  for crushing the print unions, Murdoch deserves a dukedom.  For everything else - one of the less pleasant circles of Hell.

Two dukedoms, then, for Boris: one for crushing Corbyn, the other for seeing through (after a fashion) the Trade & Cooperation Ageement.

Then go

Oh - and a Happy New Year!