Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2011

FIFA foe, fum... I smell the blood of a Swiss man.

Nursing a sprained ankle, I am finding it a little tedious to get about- hobbling across the cobbles of the Old Town of Tallinn, I wonder if the large number of Finnish tourists drinking beer for breakfast in the the Town Hall Square are simply used to Quasimodo impressions. Although it is said that swearing releases the pain, I think that this is a frankly rather debatable point. Mind you each time I jar my ankle I certainly test the theory. One thing is for sure, I am in a rather irritated mood. I suppose this is why instead of finding the spectacle of Sepp Blatter lying and cheating his way to re-election as leader of FIFA amusing, I find myself cursing at the television as well as at my ankle. It certainly takes a large dollop of delusion for Blatter to think that the inevitable corruption scandal that has exploded under his watch is not any kind of crisis, just "some difficulties". I noted at the time that Mr. Blatter's humiliation of the English FA over the right to

The German € crisis

As it becomes clearer every day that Greece can not repay its debts, many obervers are missing the point about what this means for the rest of the Eurozone. Far from Germany being the virtuous party in the Eurozone, they have committed some serious mistakes and may, in time end up becoming the largest victim of a Eurozone pile-up. The fact is that while German industry has grown in efficiency and regained its position as an export power house, German banking remains weak, overprotected and distorted. Most people will know of the large German banks that operate internationally: Deutsche Bank or Commerzbank, these are after all large and generally successful institutions. However a significant proportion of bank assets are taken up by Federal or Land controlled banks such as KfW or Helaba, and within this sector (and indeed in the larger banks as well), there is significant pan-Euro exposure. Indeed outsiders estimate that the largest holder of Greek government debt is probably Germany.

The UK: the spendthrift of Europe

The latest government borrowing numbers for the UK are spectacularly bad. To increase borrowing by 25% compared to the same month last year ( excluding bank bailout costs) is a major failure for a government that must stand or fall by the way it tackles the deficit. Borrowing £10 billion in a month is not tackling the deficit, it is widening it. Meanwhile the Bank of England has failed, yet again, to address the acceleration in inflation. They continue to pretend that a 4.5% inflation rate can be ignored because it is only a function of "temporary conditions". This is false- there is now a clear structural problem and the failure of the MPC to recognize this, still less to tackle it, is continuing to penalize savers. It also distorts the housing market in a way that is set to exclude an ever growing proportion of people from ever owning their own property. The fact is that, far from encouraging an orderly reduction of debt, the continued artificially low interest rates perm

The End Times... don't exist

So as yet another doomsday nutter finds their "predictions" end up just a bit wide of the mark, I wonder if we, the rest of humanity, might just face the fact of an existence that speaks way beyond the nonsense of the self appointed loons in the US who reject evolution, but demand absurd respect for absurd ideas of destruction. Science can essentially prove evolution, but as we see today, religion makes up ideas of "end times". In a Universe of essentially infinite extent, where we find an evolution of time and space, the magic that we may choose to escape from our limited lives may well exist- yet we simply do not know how or whereof such magic may proceed. One thing we do know: fools like Harold Camping would not even begin to understand the truth that may, or may not, exist. Religion and stupidity are clearly too close bedfellows.

Judgement Day

An 89 year old American man, Mr. Harold Camping, has spent quite a large amount of money trying to persuade people, largely in the US, that the "according to Biblical prophecy" the world will enter the "End Times" with a huge Earthquake the day after tomorrow. According to Science it won't. Mr. Camping, who seems a perfectly pleasant but perhaps rather confused figure, is probably no different from many other people who begin to believe impossible things- and by no means all of them are senile. What IS different is the media attention- after all from the media perspective, the end of the world is a pretty big story, although Mr. Camping is probably receiving rather less attention than the sale of Princess Beatrice of York's wedding hat. So I guess that means that Mr. Camping is not widely believed. What I feel a sad about is that the large amount of money being spent promoting this fairy story is not only essentially wasted money, it is also going to discre

Rebuilding Scottish Liberalism

The past week has been a very painful one for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The loss of excellent, long standing and hard working MSPs is a sobering experience. The Scottish electorate may have finally broken with Labour, but they appear to have chosen as their vehicle of protest a party that is based on a marriage of shrewd political populism with dishonest economics: the SNP. The Scottish Liberal Democrats were punished for a coalition with a party that continues to drift into oblivion north of the border, the Conservatives. While tuition fees do not generally apply in Scotland, there is little doubt that the education debacle helped to undermine the credibility of the party at Holyrood. Many Scottish Liberal hearts have been broken over the last few days. The question for now is how to restore the credibility of the party in the eyes of the Scottish people as a legitimate political force. Even as we relive the agony of this election result we should take heart from three things.

Believing the polls

If we believe the final polls before today's votes, then the UK may look rather different tomorrow. If we believe the polls, the Liberal Democrats will receive a pasting: set to lose up to half their seats on Scotland and several hundred council seats across the country, the party may also be facing a major setback in its quest for British political reform, with the rejection of the AV voting system. Many journalists are forecasting a party in meltdown, with early leadership challenges coming to Nick Clegg . If we believe the polls. the the SNP is set to win close to an outright majority at Holyrood , which will finally give them the opportunity to stage their own referendum on whether of not Scottish separatism should break up the UK. I am not sure how much we should believe the polls, or in any event I am not sure about the message that they convey. I think that the Liberal Democrats will take some heavy punishment, and I am braced for some sad results, yet in fact the party

Media Overkill

OK, so Osama is now officially a stiff, although it turns out that his influence was waning anyway. It should not take away from the skills of the Americans who raided the Bin Laden compound and finally laid the ghost that has haunted the United States for over a decade. It should also not take away from the steely-eyed way that President Obama faced his country's national nightmare. One more thing we now know: it is probably a very bad idea to play the President at poker. Yet I can not be the only one who finds the descent of the media onto the smoking ruins in Abbottabad to be pretty disgusting. The place is now a sea of OB trucks, helicopters and well coiffured but mostly ignorant journalists glibly informing us that a few days ago something dramatic happened in the background behind them. The slightest detail is not too small to be turned into a story before said coiffured journo returns to his or her five star hotel in Islamabad and thence via a premium ticket to the first wo

Bin Laden Binned

The death of Osama bin Laden, the leader of the fanatical death cult of Al Qaida, has sparked celebrations across the United States, and well it might. I do not usually feel elation at the death of a human being, but today is different. Sure Al Qaida continues in various guises in various places: a hydra headed conspiracy that only a couple of days ago sent a 12 year old boy to blow himself up. What did that kid need virgins for? He was one himself. I felt a powerful surge of loathing for the villains who put him up to such a crime and hoped that they would shortly face an unpleasant fate themselves. Ultimately it was Osama bin Laden who was the author of such wickedness. The charge sheet for such a monster is long indeed- and it does not stop with the murder of thousands of innocents on September 11th 2001. So although, of course, the war continues, and may even be redoubled; yet the death of bin Laden is of more than symbolic significance. Eventually the Al Qaida conspiracy will be o

Bad Language

In the world of advertising there is a whole vocabulary that is rarely, if ever, used outside advertising: "fragrance" means chemical perfume, "indulgent" means fattening, "sensual" means sweet, "enter a new world" means buy, and so on. So in the rather saccharin coverage of the Royal Wedding, it was easy to spot the journalistic bullshit too. "curves" means body, "crafted" means expensive, "fairy tale" means has carriages, "magical" means expensive, "informal" means very formal indeed, and "our future King/Queen" means we are prepared to tempt fate. I did watch it, although it did not impress me in quite the same way as I remember the ill-fated first wedding of the Prince of Wales. Is it uncharitable to say that it all seemed a little formulaic? Even the music- "I was glad" and "Guide me O thou Great Redeemer" was such that we have quite literally heard it all before