July 31, 2012
“RBS is said to have paid £25m to just one businessman who was mis-sold products intended to protect against interest rate rises.” – Guardian article
The Chief of RBS, one Stephen Hester was given the bank to run after nearly failing when the Brown Labour Government decided to intervene to protect the seventh largest bank in the world after it very nearly failed due to exposure to the derivatives market, the PPI debacle costs, and the mis-selling of derivatives resulting in costs such as the above case.
After the terrifyingly real fiasco of the failure of their computer systems that locked out some users for up to one month and many users for days in the National Westminster crisis, Hester cancelled his year’s bonuses after public amazement that such failures on top of massive losses should be rewarded with bonuses out of step with natural justice. Good on him.
But is it is rather odd that a man sent in to fix things should leave so much unfixed? Is the banking culture so infiltrated by greed that their personal enrichment is all that counts for them? The public who trust banks to have fiscal integrity hope for a bank that can be honest with them, with themselves and that promote an extremely high level of integrity and transparency.
The talk of separation of the investment and savings arms of the bank has remained just talk for far too long. Banking is an integral part of the financial system. Time to get it right.
July 24, 2012
In the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/world/middleeast/chemical-weapons-wont-be-used-in-rebellion-syria-says.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120724 – it is evident that Syria has a large cachet of WMD. Why? Well Saddam’s stock must have gone somewhere when sabrés were rattled.
Syria is all that is left of the common Ba-athist political party that fell with Saddam in Iraq. What is Ba’athism? It is an Islamic form of Socialism. Possibly a good thing for the Arab World to balance the many dynastic totalitarian ruled cultures that seem stuck in feudal existence. That Syria has many weapons of mass destruction was predicted. It was reported on the news that weapons were probably hidden in Syria, the storage place inheriting Saddam’s WMD. There may well have been much political cooperation between their governments both under the iron grip of a leader past his use by date, slaughtering dissidents. His domination of a country by going to war with factions is in common.
And now the Assad regime is bombing Allepo. And denying that they would use chemical weapons on Syrians. Foreign invaders would be a completely other matter. Will Romney start to threaten to invade Syria? Seems a natural. Or he will he be beaten to it. The temptation must be terrible on both candidates. They see it in different terms.
All the more so as it is probably quite correct – that Syria indeed has WMD and that someone is going to do the equation that constructed history. The problem is going to be the brutal Assad regime. It is going to be the WMD, and now it seems only natural that the UN will demand that Syria give them up. Or face terrible consequences.
Who would America trust in such a scenario. The guy who killed that terrorist guy.
July 22, 2012
Guns are a religion in America. It is amazing how second amendment faith does not get shaken by these mass shootings. They shake their heads reassuring themselves “It’s not the guns that kill, it’s people that kill people.”
If you allow broad proliferation of weapons, then people will die. And, if you don’t the same thing may happen, anyway. The act of one individual with a particular distorted view of the world developed by obsessive behaviour and at a particular revision or developmental stage can have an impact that is amplified and acted upon to an extent of terrible violence and unbelievable harm. Or without the weapons would it just be a lunatic waving his arms around and disturbing cinema goers?
We have evolved fiction as a means to understand the more difficult parts of human nature. These thoughts exist already, the fiction does not inform, it may provide a storyline but so does Crime and Punishment, and The Bible, and we do not see these works as informing murderers to murder. Our fiction is our strength. It allows us to learn consequence without hurting ourselves.
It is not the gun that kills. It is not the snake that bites. It is not the disease I will catch. The safety hymns of reassurance we need to remember to stay sane. Of course over 99.99% of the people we know will probably survive the week and if we all behave, well and good. Violence is visible in a moderate environment. We believe outbreaks can be quickly contained, quelled and increasingly these days crave harsh decisive treatment by the police.
The London Olympics. Isn’t it nice for the Tory government to be seen by the world for the next few weeks having the military providing a security presence. It is seem almost logical to get them dressed in mufti. No! That would be even creepier. The cameras of the world will record the UK in the guise of a military dictatorship. And maybe that’s fair. It has been hard to discern Osbornomics as much apart from a grand Malthusian erosion of the needs of the state by shipping the poor off to forgotten council estates to fend for their financial existence he is exerting a kind of social totalitarianism. But now they exert a show of the military for the most watched World gathering of sports. I think that it is a Government ploy, a kind of show-piece Falklands – a Thatcherite glow of austerity for people and freedom of the corporate monster to consume them.
Countries survived on bluster backed by destructive power and domination. Bluster is only useful if it can be backed by military force. Something Britain had talent for. It is a dishonest assessment of our safety and economic state.
It guns become part of the culture, when citizens bear deadly force, you probably need a functioning social infrastructure without the usual feeders of crime. It still does not stop those with emotional demons or subverted realities from acting out drama with a deadly set of consequences.
July 21, 2012
Why is America the greatest country in the world?
It is not countries. It is ideals. And something has crept into culture that redefines political entities. America is a continent, a super country make up of smaller entities ruled in their own right. It’s political system is so focused on itself, its steel backbone of fundamentals that strengthen resolve but also provide for criminal elements and the enslavement of others which is why America is so good at screwing itself and the rest of humanity.
It is an easily hijacked one way or the other political system that favours elitism over the plight of the poor. It reduces the role of Government to that of lawmakers who try to keep up with a changing world, finding that things like making health care possible for all is an act of humanity that transcends political views. Providing for pensions and education. Some things a Government simply has to support or there is no progress to greatness. Government has a purpose.
A leader has another. He or she is there to guide and set the people with a philosophy and if America now questions itself accurately and honestly, it may well discover that it is precisely that thing. The affecting of the action of the individual that America cares about, its cultural ideal no longer resonates with the febrile narcissism of a sports hero but now the hedonism of a self righteous coddled experience. Indulgence should not be the strong point, however it is not the indulgence that harms.
What seems most harmful is the impoverishing and immobility of the base of the pyramid. Its capitalism demands that half the country is less successful, that many are living more pointless lives and stuck in a relentless poverty that restricts many to provide for an elite who can indulge themselves like rock star chic out partying all night and being covered in the newspaper. A purile necessity perhaps, but one that is cast in the iron creuset of inescapable cultural cooking. Those locked into inescapable necessity must have its little chuckles at the plight of the very rich.
Should America consider a course of fairness for all tempered by a vital entrepreneurial spirit instead of one driven by consumption? A baseline of at least being alive and educated, to participate, to survive with bubbles of economic success
Economic destiny has become all consuming. It is what we do as a world, as a society and as a local community that matter. The actions of individual matter too. We all do. That is the very point.
July 20, 2012
After Columbine, after numerous shootings and violence in America and copy cat events in other countries, what is to blame?
The crowd in a comic book violence movie were shot at by a young man bearing arms, smoke bombs and a gas mask. Fundamentalists will blame the movie. Others will blame video games and our violent culture. But the real issue here is the right to bear arms forming a basic part of the constitution.
“There is no link to terrorism” – rubbish. It is terrorism, domestically sourced and just as deadly. It is wrong to allow people to carry guns. They kill people.
The above item was published 20 July 2012 12:27 BST
Update: editorial in The Guardian Friday 20 July 2012 20.20 BST
July 14, 2012
Over 300 flood defence schemes were subject to budget cuts and not proceded with, and hundreds of millions of pounds in insurance claims and the cost of the suffering and interruptions in people’s lives that could have been avoided by not abandoning the relatively trivial cost in net human experience quality of life vs how much exactly in tax savings? What if it happens, again, next year?
The role of Government is to apply wisdom to prevent disasters rather than throw the cards into the air hoping to catch a few as they tumble down. The abandonment of not just progress, but the safety of residents – we tax payers invested in some planning for there to be 300 flood defence schemes, so lets go ahead and make the necessary investment. It is hardly a luxury but the ruthless abandonment of Governmental responsibility for our investment in the work of civil servants which would have to be redone at another date if we are not to relocate families from 300 or more locations affected by the failure to actually employ valid work. It is more than supplying a demand, it is an act of massive criminal cruelty to the lives of many, many people.
Austerity is a tightening of the belt of economic safety and keeping the lid on things that actually have an impact on the economy. What the Osborne regime is doing however increasingly appears to be a failure in the strategic intelligence department. The investment in flood barriers was not as great as the cost of the damage. Far less than the bank bailouts. Far less than Trident. We waste 83 billion on a system while isolating Iran for trying to emulate it.
A failure to apprehend that climate change meant strategy change is only now becoming relevant to Government now that 98% of the scientific community are indicating that the extreme weather we are having may well be a bit of a sign of things to come. The others deny this and that is their right. But Government should not be banking on the unconventional view here. If we are going to build houses on flood prone ground, then we had better build protection. As this had already been researched, and understood, abandoning necessary planning is worse than criminal negligence on a scale. It is politically motivated cruelty. Protecting the bankers while stomping on the need to look after each other.
July 12, 2012
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/10/extreme-weather-manmade-climate-change If the weather got nasty due to climate change then we ain’t seen nothing yet. Perhaps the worst legacy of this consumption bubble, things will continually get worse.
July 8, 2012
(Update: no progress on Syria).
July 2, 2012
The harder things are, the better few are found? “Look at how great Britain was after the war.” The 80s drive defined by greed resulted in inflated property prices funded by an unrestrained banking sector. The economy inflated, however due to the nature of compound interest the banker made disproportionately more than the average person.
Because the economy appeared to be “growing”, things were improving as people basically borrowed themselves into bankruptcy. The property bubble does not deflate quickly. It is a great unwinding that could spread over generations. As long as there is a pressure of demand over supply, prices will hold. But if housing falls behind the increases in population, and we achieve precisely what the Right objects to most. The modular commodification of our “experience”.
Liken it to the taught crisp sail in the wind and you see the objective of economics. To harness a drag that equates to a sense of process – the hooking up of economic life-rafts to “individuals” instead of to a society – individuals empowered outside the grip of traditions. This is the new Right.
It is trivial when compared to the inherent massive inflation of the modern curse, rampant securitisation. How will a graduate saddled with near permanent debt pay a mortgage and have children? What has created that level of social indebtedness? Is it as deliberate as the libor scam?
Linear thinking about economics pervade. If it is not black, it must be white! If you said Communism was a failure, then what shall we call Capitalism? Well, both are roaring successes for the very richest and instead of serving the population, is is they, whom Governments compete with each other over.
This economy does not deliver to increasingly large swathes of smart people, unless they take risks. When the risk is abject failure the youthful drive will compete with those struggling to stay in the work force. Those who become a slave of the state are a cost to the state. Now we can add those who become victims of the margin spreading as the middle class is consumed by a creeping puddle of poverty. If you suck too much toward the centre, the edges fray but society is no two dimensional circle or even a three dimensional sphere. It is a multifaceted multidimensional and fluid organism with a huge skin and tiny skeleton that adjusts its balance according to a rule book we used to have. Our economic existence had meaning in terms of some correlation between what we did, and what we have.
Then suddenly, we were set on an economic course that allowed disproportionate capital growth. It was as though someone turned up gravity – the banks added the potential for endless fuel and this has caused a collapse of energy into the centre. As the banks made debt almost obligatory and definitely a trap for continuous pouring of human effort into a hole, as they caused a massive inflation in the value of property by lending capital back, setting us up for endless payment, Governments have gotten in on the act, and started to charge our children for their education. What is next, buying a licence to have grandchildren?