Friday, January 30, 2009

S'ralan waves the flag

It was back in 1968, a few weeks after another monster Labour devaluation of the £, that Harold ("The £ in your pocket is not worth any less") Wilson produced the "I'm backing Britain" campaign...

TMP remembers it well, and Sir Alan Sugar's recent Mirror article exhorting the readers to buy British rang a few old bells. Here's some wonderful Daily Mirror irony from the story of the 1968 campaign:

"...attempts were made to take over the campaign by Robert Maxwell [proprietor of the Mirror] who wanted to change its focus into an appeal to 'Buy British'"

(Sir A had better make certain the guard rails on his boat are well bolted down if he gets any Mirror management on board.)

And today, we have the fiasco over "British Jobs for .... ooops - foreign refinery construction workers". A gaffe-prone Gordon Brown just keeps on putting his foot in his mouth. Let's also remember: "No more boom and bust", "the best placed economy to weather the downturn", "a weak currency is the sign of a weak country".

The only logical conclusion of our politicians' passion for globalisation is that we must all end up rounded down to the living standards of a Chinese peasant - otherwise we have to accept that life and business is unfair, like the admirable French; who, as S'ralan observes, are able to bend the rules to suit themselves better than anyone.

SirA goes on:

"It's time for us in the UK to worry about ourselves. Let's face it, no one else is going to help us out."

"I say stuff the EU for a while until it suits us."

Seconded. But is Paxo is still made in the UK..?

Let's face it, a Labour government always collapses in financial disaster and devaluation. Did S'ralan ever ask Gordon how many Labour MPs have any experience of running their own businesses? TMP thinks it's about 10. Labour Peers, on the other hand, seem to be extremely enterprising... and their "customers" are "buying British".

What a thoroughly disgraceful shambles. Isn't it about time Sir Alan gave Brown and Labour the finger it so richly deserves, even if he cannot yet bring himself to overtly support Cameron's Tories?

TMP would be happy to invite him into our swelling ranks. His series of video interviews with Gordon Brown on YouTube (below) is an eye opening event that deserves a far wider audience. He nearly plucks up courage to call the Auld Caledonian Fraud a moron, but one gets the feeling that his deep distaste for the Bullingdon Boys will prevent a defection until his Apprentice protege Tim Campbell is running to be the first black Conservative PM.

There are 5 interviews in this series (search Youtube) - they're all well worth watching.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Be fair to cats

The present economic shambles has caused the phrase "fat cats" to be used rather too widely and frequently.

TMP would like to point out that cats are far too smart and elegant to be abused in this way, and would like to start a movement to ensure that the term used when describing civil servants and politicians who are clinging on for dear life and enjoying vast salaries and pensions at our expense are labelled more accurately as "Fat Sloths".

Another week, and still no clues

It's plain the UK government (like most governments) still has no real clue, and is reacting out of sheer confusion and a visibly growing panic. Until such time as the precise size and scope of the "toxic" assets can be agreed, what's the point? It seems the whole western economy is in danger of collapse unless there is VAST concerted and synchronised international action.

Yet what has actually changed since that time when there was to be "no more boom and bust" ..? the Martians haven't landed (have they?); there were no unpredictable movements in world commodity prices? Perhaps the Eastern economies were emerging and accelerating rather faster than was comfortable for the resource constrained and carbon-obsessed West - so was "pulling the plug" on the global financial system conceived as a way to cool this unnerving process down?

Maybe Obama should say "Here's the deal: forget the past 24 months, they never happened. I have just printed $25 trillion to fund a Mars landing project and massive programme of eco energy research and development - so now Billy-Bob can pay off his mortgage after all, and we can get back to the good times. And by the way, Guantanamo is now filled up with Wall Street CEOs and bankers, and we're building more capacity."

Would the Chinese care if their factories starting working flat out again? Would India be bothered if there people were going to benefit from the energy project research and development?

Has anyone got any better ideas? Apart from

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The misinformation age

So little of the present febrile economic debate factors in the effects of the "information age" - a world of bytes and transparency where just about any data on anything is allegedly instantly accessible from anywhere. But apparently the Googlebot has not yet trawled any of the key details of toxic loans, because we STILL have no hard information on exactly what these things that have trashed the UK economy actually are.

All this is reducing economics to the status of a superstitious religious belief, managed by high priests of presumptions and guesswork - and based on the success of the oldest confidence trick in the book - namely that there is a God, or in this case, some supreme being that knows WTF is going on. But if there is, it sure ain't Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling.

In the absence of the essential hard analysis, sceptics have to suspect that there is yet more bad news being covered up (eg the sort of news that medieval catholics were frequently spared for their own goods, such as news that the pope was actually a serial pederast), and the really irritating thing is that with the (unavoidable) retirement of Bush all the old priesthood still remain mostly in control. Especially some from the "Clinton" era when the whole manipulation of banking for political expedience got started.

If the toxic loans based on securitised mortgages that are dragging down UK banks are being "backed" by depressed property assets in the US, then let's be told about it, please, so if that property is valued at 10c on the $, we, the banks' shareholders, can decide to buy it and do something more creative with it than let it rot. Maybe we can use any land to build jails to lock away our useless bankers and politicians in our very own version of camp X-ray.

So do we in fact now "own" vast swathes of US housing and other assets? Let's bloody well go and live it and use them. If they really are worthless and don't actually exist in any corporeal form, then we are entitled to a good old-fashioned human sacrifice or two, to see if we can appease the God of Credit. Simply asking Him (of Her) for "a sign" is likely to result in the familiar gesture of the one or two digit variety.

When there is a train wreck, most folks expect those who were in charge of the faulty rails and trains to be replaced forthwith, not asked to keep on going until the entire rail network is a smoking heap of rubble.

It's ironic Broon kept on banging on about "do nothing Tories" when all he manages to "do" is stumble from crisis to crisis without the slightest whiff of inspiration or an exit strategy. So many of the catastrophically failed institutions have the word "Scottish" in their names, and the absence of anyone in the Cabinet from south of Watford is equally significant - the complete destruction of the UK by our calamitous Caledonian cabal is nearing it's completion.

Home rule for England, please - and let Scotland sort out its assorted busted institutions using the all-knowing Alex Salmond's fairyland "Arc of Prosperity"...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

So exactly what are the toxic assets?

TMP has been taking a brief flu-break, and using the opportunity to try and take stock of the continuing shambolic situation that paralyses the real economy. It's quite notable that the massive client economy of state employment sails on regardless, barely sensing any pain.

It now seems inescapable that Broon will be buying another priceless (literally) asset on behalf of the nation: £200bn of toxic assets that are so toxic that they continue to paralyse our doughty bankers. Does anyone actually have a list of the toxic assets that we can inspect? After all, we are going to own them.

I have a suspicion that the news will be that precious few of them relate to the anything like the types of loans presently being sought to keep the UK's businesses and individuals afloat at this torrid time. Most of them will probably further expose the incompetence, greed and stupidity of our bankers who eagerly cut corners and did things that "normal" business would regard as extremely unwise.

If these "assets" turn out to be fairy money mortgages in foreign lands now backed by property that is worth 30% of the outstanding mortgage, then why should this have any bearing on a mortgage required by a (relatively) honest and industrious Brit who needs an 80% mortgage on a property that is probably (oh dear, that word...) still going to covered by the asset value at the end of the year. Even if the predicted continued drop in UK housing continues.

Which seems like a pretty straightforward argument for a vote of confidence in establishing the principle of British assets for British loans. To coin a phrase.

But maybe our bankers are using more of their discredited economic modelling tools (Excel has a lot answer for) that are also factoring in the number of people who are going to be out of work as a result of the financial crisis brought about by the banks' incompetence - and extrapolating the consequences of an economy with almost no tax income other than the PAYE on the state payroll, and profits made by the relatively unscathed cartels and monopolies like the big supermarkets and utilities. The rest of us are feeling pretty much screwed unless our client base happens to be entirely comprised of one the lucky classes like MPs' expenses and Premiership footballers.

If the analysis to find out exactly what these toxic assets are made of shows that UK lending is still stuck in the headlights of foreign debt express trains that have yet to apply the brakes, then all those responsible really do need to be traced and made to something suitably contrite, starting with having all their personal assets forfeited. Yet the present plan seems to be to pretend these same people are the ones that will lead us out of Broon's bust and back to Broon's boom. Maybe Broon is scared that by properly sacking all those incumbents and replacing them with more competent souls from somewhere in the real world, far outside the banking industry, he would be inviting his own demise by the same argument?

Ironically, any action TMP proposes against our own Madoffs is strictly in the interests of keeping capitalism honest, and has nothing whatever to with socialism. All the rules necessary to prevent the present situation were almost certainly in place, but broken time and again by cavalier polticians, traders and bankers who got into a vicious spiral of chasing their apparently successful competitors.

This is a crisis entirely caused by state intervention in the first place! We must never lose sight of the fact that Clinton's democrats began the entire process by insisting the US institutions backed unwise loans for democrat voters. So maybe the first up for a sequestration of every personal asset should be old Slick himself; after all, he's no stranger to the notion of "going down".

Sunday, January 04, 2009

It's all someone else's fault

It's 2009, and still no politician (and precious few media commentators) seem to be aware of and properly acknowledging the fundamental effects of instantaneous global communication on every aspect of human endeavour.

Too much reference to historical economic precedents to look for pointers to solutions for the current shambles will be dangerously misleading. This is starting to look all too reminiscent of those "experienced" World War One generals sending in the cavalry to deal with tanks and machine guns. The 40/50 "somethings" in charge of politics and commerce generally don't fully understand technology and its implications - and the 20/30 somethings that understand technology have scant sense of political or commercial perspective. They have no concept of the rather more expansive and entrepreneurial scope and breadth of commercial life before the mountain of red tape and insidious political correctness dumbed us all down to where we are now. They probably also don't understand what it is like to have distinct choices in politics after the relatively sterile and homogeneous experience of the past 17 years or so.

There was once talk of the information superhighway providing a transparency in all things such that all markets would be level playing fields and there could never be any more big surprises arising from "obscured information". Ho ho...

Our Beloved Leader always makes reference to this being the first crisis of the "global era", but doesn't seem to understand what the words actually mean. His next remark is invariably to try and pin the blame on the USA (always failing to note that it was Clinton's Democrats and their market-bending political intervention to buy votes that lies at the root, although some go further back and suggest Nixon's cash printing to pay for the Vietnam war actually began the rot when the gold standard was abandoned). Broon's interview today with Andrew Marr was yet another tour de force of never answering the question - so why does the BBC bend over backwards to give the Auld Caledonian Fraud such a lavish and cosy a platform for his speeches?

Events like the motor car, telephone, radio and TV are all attributed with making structural changes to society and the way just about everything works. All those events were basically about "communication", and yet the most massive communication revolution of all time remains largely misrepresented and woefully misunderstood. Abuse of its possibilities has been used to good effect by slick bankers wrapping up toxic loans and then manipulating other dumber bankers using herd tactics - something that online instant communication driven by the fear of being a millisecond behind the market, supports extremely well.

The strength of the Internet always was (and will be) is ability to promote resilience through diversity - and to allow smaller and more agile operations a far more level playing field with the likes of BP and Tesco than could have been conceived of prior to its adoption. Hence the ongoing efforts of larger companies to try and crowd out and stifle competition when trying to remind government that it's simpler to manage a few huge relationships than try and manage the unruly mass of UK's smaller and more enterprising businesses. Gordon can pick up the phone to Sir Terry Leahy at Tesco and "do a deal" with the bloke running 25% of UK consumer spending; why would he want to have to try and work with 10,000 independent shopkeepers?

David Cameron is hinting at the potential for a redistribution of authority back to the people in many ways ranging from schools, to healthcare and councils. He needs to be encouraged, and commentators need to pursue him for detail, because herein lies possibly the one and only long term and viable route out of the present process-bound chaotic shambles. It is only through enabling and encouraging new small businesses that the unemployment tsunami currently gathering pace can be absorbed.

Pointless gestures like a 2.5% VAT cuts are complete smokescreen nonsense when the currency has been devalued 30-50% .

Telling bankers to lend money just after they took the biggest hit in all eternity from imprudent lending seems unlikely to get a favourable reception; especially since Broon himself is keen to absolve them of responsibility, forever blaming toxic US loans. If Broon properly attributed responsibility and tagged the many culpable UK bankers, then he would have to accept the blame as the ultimate regulator of the UK economy for the past 11 years.

We all know bankers have no imagination or capacity for analysis, so reminding them that the toxic loans were mostly not the result of mostly honest UK borrowers doesn't change their desire to protect their own jobs and pensions by clinging onto all the cash that they can. We should all be looking at paradigm-shifting ideas that operate at the core of the economy with ideas like the network-leverage of social lending schemes of Zopa.

Unless we can come up with some radical new ideas and leadership that understands where and how the world has changed, it's increasingly looking like the alternative is that we will find ourselves trapped ever more in Field Marshal Broon's grim version of WW1, and waiting for him to blow the next whistle to send more cannon fodder over the top.

It is not a cheery thought.