Monday, 19 April 2021

US exporting socialism to Europe: Super League

 I recall a post in the distant past where I discussed how socialist US sports are. For those that don't know, Capitalism has not role to play in US pro sports. This is a huge feature that the announcement by some of Europe's biggest football clubs to create a new league is driven. Three of the four Clubs who are leading the breakaway are UK clubs owned by US sports billionaires. 

In the US, the players are groomed at Universities for free until their early twenties, there are no Academies. From the age of graduation, players go into a 'draft' and are signed by the Professional clubs. The Pro clubs are a closed shop and allocate draft picks in reverse order from how they finished in the league the season before. So if you are bad, you get a bunch of free picks for the best young talent the next year. 

More importantly, all the US major leagues are closed. If teams are added, it is because a rich commercial group has applied and the league has agreed to expand. There is no relegation and no 'pyramid' like we have in Europe. If you have a bad year and finish last, oh well, there is always next year and you can re-stock with better players for free. 

This has a huge advantage of protecting the investment of those who put money into buying a club. The revenues are shared out and fixed and you can't have any bad years. In the US the only people who lose out are cities where the sports teams leave once the tax breaks end and there is a better TV deal to be had elsewhere - St Louis Rams moving to Los Angeles is a good recent example. 

So should socialism succeed in Europe? I really hope not, if anything the change should be the other way with the cabal or unions and owners in the US being challenged by new entrants. When the money men are in charge, all the fun will be drained away for good. 

Maybe this will be a good story to show socialism is a pure evil, doubly so when practiced by billionaires!

Saturday, 17 April 2021

The Special Forces Fallacy

Michael Portillo wasn't the only politician to harbour misconceptions and delusions about the special forces.

Yes, there are certain missions for which only special forces are suitable.  Yes, they can sometimes achieve seeming miracles.  Yes, we'd be a lot the worse for not having highly capable units of this kind.  Yes, we Brits do it rather well.  And, yes, since 1989 the proportion has risen of whatever it is we expect to achieve with armed might, that will be assigned to such troops. 

But no, categorically no, you cannot have armed forces essentially comprised of nothing else, which is what the government appears to imagine, with plans for big reductions in army numbers and conversion of some of the remaining line infantry regiments to "Ranger" forces, with silly American "elite" connotations.  When everyone's special, then nobody is.

And there's a bigger, deep-running problem.  To man a single regiment of SAS, you need thousands of very good "ordinary" soldiers aspiring to join them, training hard to be able just to apply to join them, actually applying to join them - and then, mostly, failing.  To be able to have an elite with such high standards, you must first have a big enough pool of proven, pretty high-standard talent to draw upon.

I don't know what is the critical mass of soldiery to produce, by distillation, what we need by way of special forces.  But diminish the army far enough, and we won't have it.

Enough of random and destructive penny-pinching.   Read yer history**: sell or scrap yer bloody aircraft carriers (before the Chinese do it for you one sunny afternoon in Far Eastern waters): and rebuild & re-equip the forces to a balanced and realistic standard ... at critical mass.



** The Prince of Wales   ...   for pity's sake!

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Cameron & Greensill: and another question ...

Gotta laugh at Cameron falling into his own "lobbying will be the next big scandal" pit - and through sheer greed, too.  The arrogance and entitlement-assumptions of Blair and Cameron know few boundaries.

To me, there's a question as yet unvoiced, which might usefully occupy the enquiry:

  • Cameron did not expect to lose the 2016 Referendum, nor the 2015 GE, and thus to be in the wilderness looking for wonga as early as turned out to be the case.  So: why was he bending over backwards for Greensill way back (2011-2012) in his first administration?  Very long-term planning on his part?  or Someone Else in that government spotting the main chance for themselves? 

Mercifully, Britain is not corrupt au fond: Rafael Behr correctly assesses matters here.  (I've worked in Russia ...)  But it's a slipperly slope.


Monday, 12 April 2021

Lockdown ends and with it threat of recession for a while to come

The great reckoning will come, too much debt, too much government profligacy and not a lot more that can be done to raise taxes anymore. The UK will not escape another decade of 'austerity' in the 2020's, notably as more and more money is piled into the NHS with less and less of a success due to the law of diminishing returns. 

However today is a happy day, as we wait to go for lunch outdoors in the snow, the economy is finally opening up after a very long winter hibernation. Only foreign travel of the big industries will now be still a moribund outlier. 

The FTSE has performed less well than many of the world indexes - the UK media has a part to play here in the unabated portrayal of the UK as the worst place in the world last year to be avoided at all costs. The quick roll out of vaccines have changed the tune and along with the USA we are likely to have the strongest economic re-bound this year. 

Lots of savings have been gathered up, fewer jobs lost than thought and soon maybe a million more jobs will be created in the newly re-opened up service industries. The only blot of the horizon must be the threat of inflation and rising interest rates, but as I have discussed before, with the BOE owning so many Government bonds there are plenty of macro-tools available to stave off inflation. Plus, with other parts of the world still in the grasp of the virus, there won't be global supply shortages for a while any worse than there are now.

So happy days ahead for a the summer at the very least - maybe a horrid variant may come back to haunt us, but even then it won't escape the vaccine that quickly. 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Prince Philip - what a man

Sometimes there are people with apparently controversial sides who, when they depart, turn out to be universally loved (sometimes parochially, sometimes globally), greatly lamented and badly missed, the controversies completely brushed aside.  David Bowie, Peter Cook, Paul Foot ...  the list goes on, and evidently includes Prince Philip.

Since it is clearly shameless obituary name-dropping week, I will give you my personal micro-story.

Prince Philip was Colonel in Chief of my army corps, in which role I met him several times as any soldier does.  We commemorate a particular anniversary every 25 years and, supportive and active as ever, he presided over the celebration that fell in the 1990s, when he would have been in his 70s.  He congratulated us all on the foregoing quarter-century, wished us well for the next occasion 25 years hence, and concluded with the words: "... but I can tell you one thing - I shan't be there to celebrate it with you!".

Well, he was - and he did. 

What a man.