Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Does it actually matter?

Most of this crisis remains way above the heads of your average local council's pension-proof bin inspectors, traffic wardens and Feng Shui advisers.

For the rest of us left alone in the wealth creating economy, it will take years (and a new government and possibly the undoing of much of the EU) to return to a system of reality in finance and investment. Expect the retirement age to go up to 80.

Otherwise there are many reasons to think that the present crisis could do some long overdue good if it can restore a sense of perspective to the relationship between borrowings, earnings and the ability to repay. The major victims look like being bankers, and the major winners are bankers who got lucky enough to have remained just viable enough to last long enough pick over the twitching corpses of their their less fortunate colleagues.

This dose of reality will however highlight the probability that the UK is uniquely poorly positioned in global markets, despite Broon's blathering. That said, the fact that we have little or no productive industry might not be so bad since there is no money left for anyone to buy things with anyway.

But the farm was pretty much bet on "financial services" - a brilliant industry that managed conjure fairy money from the 5th dimension. The remarkable thing was that the bubble burst mostly without the people doing the traditional thing of trying to get their cash out of banks that didn't have any. The bubble burst almost entirely due to the parade of naked emperors within the finance industry deciding to state the obvious for themselves.

And this says it all very nicely...



All of which raises intersting issues about the extremes that still apply in the US economy. Al Quaeda could not have possibly hoped for a better outcome.

And this explains the banker's role with perfect precision...



Enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Education, education, education - not spend, spend, spend

Messers (sic) Blair and Brown both claimed to have identified the long term solution to the Nationa's malaise: a better educational process. So what have we got? Parents willing to do anything to avoid sending their kids into an increasingly dysfunctional but amazingly well funded state system, run by targets and idiots.

Cameron's declared policy of copying the hugely successful Swedish system by allowing state funds to be used by properly managed private institutions is a more credible policy for the future of the country than anything Broon/Blair managed over 11 costly years.

Expect it to be borrowed by the next Labour leader before the next election.

The Dragons' FD

TMP offers a further idea for stimulating new company start ups. There’s obviously been a huge amount of interest in Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice, suggesting that many people are aching to cut loose from the shackles of secure employment to try their luck at business start-ups.

Some of those on Dragon’s Den who are naive enough to bowl up and ask for money to pay their own wages fairly rapidly learn the first lesson of investment reality – you start by investing in yourself. So there is a need for busy investors to keep tabs on these fledglings, to ensure that they are on the right tracks. Investors really don’t need interminable meetings and discussions, they just want to be able to set out and agree basic game plans, and then monitor for exceptions.

For many start ups, the last thing they need is to hire a full time financial director to count the beans and produce management reports. A rather more useful way forward would be the adoption of an entirely online business accounting process that was rigidly adopted from day one, where an investor can log in at any time to get a snapshot of what the business is doing with their cash. It is amazing how few such systems are available, and how convoluted the accounting procedures of most small businesses remain, mostly for the benefit of the High Priests of the black arts of finance, their accountants.

Such an option for totally transparent accounting practices would allow investors of all sorts – possibly including suppliers to start ups in some circumstances – to become de-facto share holders in those businesses that took their fancy as potential growth partners.

In one fell swoop, such a scheme could help addresses the perennial moan that small, businesses rarely provide adequate accounting and business information to their bank managers and investors, and find it difficult to establish credit facilities with key suppliers.


Has anyone got any practical policies..?

The effects of the global financial crisis are still a long way from the pockets of ordinary people. Much more obvious are the soaring food and energy bills which have little to do with Fannie Mae – although the dangerous slide in the value of the £ is also having severe high street consequences.

Never before has a financial meltdown like this occurred when such a large proposition of the UK population was employed by the public purse in its many guises. A huge slice of the population is now being paid to perform non-jobs to avoid embarrassing the government employment statistics. For the most part, you probably know who are, and have been wondering how long your gravy train could possibly stay on the rails.

We ain’t going to fix this mess by expecting large companies to invent new jobs. Most large companies are going into damage limitation mode, and preserving their resources while they wait and see what the outcome of the banking mess actually means in terms of rising interest rates and costs. Corporate tax receipts are going to fall off a cliff (other than from the energy behemoths), the government will not be able to afford to do anything. Although whether or not they will just print more money anyway, remains to be seen..

We need concrete ideas on how to enable start ups to start up before they are shut down again by the piles of red tape that have been massively expanded by EU membership and other pointless nannying regulations that have no purpose, other than to employ the otherwise unemployable in a string of non-productive jobs ranging from diversity enforcement officers to HIPs inspectors. Do you think China or any of our global competitors wastes a penny on such irrelevance? The only other country outside the EU that seems to have caught up in the same costly PC fiasco is the only other one with such a diverse population of "swing voters" to appease - the USA. And as examples go, that's not a very smart one.

For an immediate eye-catching start, TMP suggests keeping it simple. Instead of making it nearly impossible to employ people as a result of numerous impositions in the form of PAYE/NI contributions and regulations a foot deep – allow start-up employers to retain 15% of employee PAYE/NI for the business. In effect, reward them for providing employment that is not costing the public purse anything.

This can easily be cost-neutral if we scrap most of the wasteful subsidy schemes that provide employment to the quangos and timeservers like regional development authorities.

This would work in enterprises of up to say 25 people (maybe a sliding scale thereafter), and help offset some of the massive advantages being enjoyed by larger companies that can absorb the costs of operation more readily. And if this means that companies in the awkward size zones of 25-100 employees decide to split themselves down into smaller operational units, then that’s good news too, as the skills and chutzpah for operating a business will be spread more widely.

After all the efforts of recent governments to put obstacles in their way, small enterprise and self employment of all types has to be made simpler and more attractive - and FAST! What other ways are there available to take up the fallout from the disasters affecting bigger businesses, or redeploy the talent presently wasted on non-jobs producing £3 cups of coffee, and those legions on the the public payroll..?

The last financial crisis on this scale lasted ten years (1929-39) and was accompanied by an employment crisis, the like of which we have yet to see emerging. However, that crisis was only ended by a world war in Europe that was paid for by selling the jewels of the British Empire at knocked-down prices to the yanks; and although bold public projects like the Hoover Dam and the freeway network in the USA helped to revive the US (Roosevelt's famous "New Deal"), that too required the war to properly get its economy moving again using massive deficit spending.

Any of which other than "massive deficit spending" seem like unlikely options just now.

Will the energy economies of places like Kuwait and Qatar be willing to write the cheques to ensure that their rulers will still be able to get a decent Latte at the Ritz? Will the Chinese feel obliged to prop up the US treasury some more in order to keep orders coming for Chinese factories?

If we don't want to continue to rely on the age of fairy money, J K Rowling aside, the way out of this mess is to enable new businesses to emerge, survive and then flourish. Something that Gordon Brown's Labour Party wouldn't know how to do if their lives depended on it - but yours does...


Globalisation ends in communism ..!

Let's cut away the politics and blather. The fundamental issue in a capitalist society is markets. It always was and always will be. But now the leaders of the world's largest market economies are currently debating plans for the state control of private finance that Stalin would have been proud to put before a committee of commissars in the heyday of Communism ..!

More than one banker has recently observed that the present crisis of confidence would be regarded as a proud achievement by just about any terrorist bent on bringing down the West. Apparently this is because our brainless leaders have allowed companies to become too big to be allowed to go bust. Moreover, such is the unimagined scale of the calamity that even oppositions seem powerless to oppose - because they realise that they too will have to deal with the shambles when it's their turn, as seems especially likely to be the case in the USA and UK.

So can someone please explain to TMP why Globalisation is frequently touted as a good thing, when it appears to be the root of this particular fiscal evil by not just permitting, but actively encouraging monopolies to exploit monopoly power to the apparent detriment of us all. Then by being too big to be allowed to go bust, a form of public ownership is required that can only bring a tear to the eye of Karl Marx and his chums.

An operating system that you cannot refuse

The globalised Godfather of the IT age, Microsoft, skilfully seized the monopoly abdicated by the slow-witted IBM, who were probably too distracted by antitrust issues than they needed to have been in the light of events. And so Microsoft very effectively smothered innovation in entire sectors of the world economy, and it has only been the accidental ascent of Google at a time when a tectonic shift in technology created the possibility of "cloud computing" that has curtailed Microsoft's effective ability to "tax" the world's IT users. Bill Gates very cleverly played the Mussolini card when he arrived on the scene at a time of some disarray in personal computing, and did the PC equivalent of making the trains run on time.

Such was the relief that here was a single vision and way out of the shambles that had been built around the original business personal microcomputer operating system - Digital Research's CP/M - that blind eyes were turned to all the basic rules of monopoly checks and balances. And Microsoft became the first truly globalised business of the intellectual property age.

The old warhorses of global manufacturing had never seen a single business dominate in such a thorough and effective fashion so quickly. After all, it took a lot of time and capital for Ford or GM build a car plant – or IBM a computer plant – in Europe. But in order to exploit local markets, low taxes and other EU incentives, Microsoft set up shop in Ireland in the space of a week or two, with no discernible cost or government scrutiny.

Ironically, this means that all the failed financial institutions have used Microsoft technology extensively in the operation and planning of their businesses – especially the ubiquitous Excel spreadsheet – in a series of "what if" scenarios designed to extract the maximum money for the least possible effort ...which usually means the greatest “manageable risk”. Accountants become so mesmerised by their fancy business models and spreadsheets that there is a tendency to fiddle and play with them until they get the answers they are looking for, without necessarily paying too much attention to the basic details of business (or reality).

Globalisation also seems to involve hiring managers from outside the operating country. The reasons for this practise may not be to get the best people for the job, but to get people who are isolated from their familiar associates and colleagues (and thus “approaches” from competitors in the country of origin), and isolated to focus solely on the company and its culture.

So where has all this wonderful technology and cultural diversity lead us? Into the biggest financial crisis in 80 years!

The economists' Excel spreadsheet models were run enough times to persuade them and their political leaders that the fairy money of inflated house values was somehow good for the economy. People with no hope of repaying on today's values would be loaned the cash on the spreadsheet analysis assumption that their collateral would continue to climb in value, until the amount outstanding would be covered by repossession time.

And in the “good old days” of 10% inflation, salaries would also have risen to make the monthly repayments seem more manageable in the overall scale of things. So then a smart banker invented "mortgage securitisation" - a posh name for selling these mortgage contracts to rather less smart bankers, who assumed that property values were always going to be a one way bet.

It was a scheme entirely built on confidence, because there was never any traceable connection between the value attributed to these mortgages and the value of underlying assets - if any. And those selling these "assets" appeared to be able to do so without any guarantees, because some even less smart insurers in the shape of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac assumed large parts of the risk.

The real economy

And all the time this was going on, real businesspeople with real ideas about creating products, services and genuine wealth were being starved of funding because bankers the world over preferred to believe in the "investment sanctuary" value of property above all else.

Ironically, the house of cards is now also set to tumble at Microsoft, a trailblazer of globalisation. The mostly unchallenged monopoly of Microsoft's technology has been allowed to become so cumbersome and unwieldy that organisations that have grown dependent on it find themselves at the mercy of daily "security updates". These have created individual desktop computers with such delicately balanced setups that the act of adding a single new program or plug-in device is likely to bring the whole thing crashing down about the users' ears. Serious business are returning to more manageable solutions, and are delighted to find that many of them are now free - paid for by advertising. There is surely no way back for Microsoft in this new world.

Globalisation is not a good thing; it never was, and never can be. It run counter to human nature at many levels, but nevertheless it seems to have been permitted through the sort of tawdry expedience that finds governments "doing deals" with large employers (and taxpayers).

This type of dealing goes on at all levels of government - Tesco gets planning permission in return for some proposed "social benefit" - and the shopkeepers that kept a town supplied for hundreds of years, have paid humongous business rates, and employed local people in a rather more robust and ad-hoc manner than Tesco's regimented process permits, are put out of business, and told to get jobs as shelf stackers.

The older staff and eccentric characters without fashionable degrees in retail theory, IT, media studies and humanities that were once employed by these informal small businesses then retreat to the dole for the rest of their non-working lives. Worse, they discover employment as bin inspectors, traffic wardens or one of the many other non-jobs that are being created using public money to mop up those otherwise left unemployable by globalised businesses.

It is in the nature of globalisation that it creates and nurtures cabals and monopolies on the scale of government itself. There are/were many companies with larger turnovers than many small nation states, and these companies have the funds to buy influence in a number of insidious ways. The sight of retired politicians taking up well paid jobs in the companies that they previously "regulated" is an absolute scandal that must be ceased forthwith; there can be no excuse whatever for this practise.

These vast globalised companies necessarily operate with civil-service like infrastructures and process. In many cases globalised businesses are more complex than any government, since these organisations operate in many countries, not just one, and can play complex games with each country and its regulators to obtain the most favourable terms for taxation. But this huge inertia means that the scope for versatility and innovation is stifled at every turn, since an overall process of "negative feedback" is specifically designed to maintain the status-quo in such systems by reducing the risk from any change.

Companies such as Nestle have to resort to setting up their own "skunk works" with a specific brief not be behave like the parent behemoth, but to think entrepreneurially and creatively. Perhaps the one overall benefit of this system has been that many start-up enterprises have been set up to exploit the inability of globalised companies to think outside the box, because they can see a simple exit by being acquired by some leviathan that in turn becomes ever larger and more lovely with each morsel it consumes. And rather than the individual founders, it's generally been private equity and venture capital operators that have thrived from this.

This may in turn have contributed to the problems we now face, since the traditional form of financing small and growing businesses using "traditional banks" has all but ceased to exist, and so those banks that once had a very diverse range of customers and services - and the skills and experience to deal with them - have seen their key talent disappear off to private equity, leaving behind the dullards who understand the deeds of your house and how to use these to "invent" fairy money, but little else. As a consequence, they have been getting further involved with dubious mortgage instruments that have landed the world economy in the poo.

Another reason to downsize the behemoths is that globalised companies seem too willing to accept piles of rules and impositions that can only be handled by a company with an offshore treasury facility, and an HR department the size of a small town. Such barriers conveniently raise the bar for any competition, and the circle becomes ever more vicious.

However, the good news is that the same technology that got us into the mess also provides the means to enable these behemoths to be broken up into manageable units once again (remember the Baby Bells?) - and small enough to be allowed to go bust through inept management, without jeopardising an entire country or planet's economy.

A broader and more diverse range of (relatively) smaller companies will allow for more creative managerial talent to develop and be better showcased. Technology means that old notions such as "economies of scale" can be far outweighed by the benefits of diversity; bigger gene pools for talent means less incest, and that has to be a good thing.

The same thinking can rapidly downsize the grotesquely centralised EU, and then the remnants of the Westminster government. The decision and review processes must be returned much closer to the paying customers in their own communities where the immediate benefits of cause and effect can be properly exploited, with a huge increase in the efficiency with which money is used.

If there is a downside, TMP can't see it.

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Shock horror! Politician answers the question

For those of us who suspect anything is better than another Labour administration, occasions when David Cameron offers himself for sacrifice on the altars of the BBC's socialist sympathisers can be nervous occasions. We all know that the present poll ratings reflect despair with Brown rather than confidence in the alternative, so the bounce in Broon's popularity when his conference speech was not the complete disaster that was expected, is mildly disconcerting. Can he really con more of the people, more of the ime?

Today ,(Sunday) the boy Cameron managed the less than perfectly objective Andrew Marr very well, and answered all the questions without evading a single one, or making obtuse and irrelevant references. In fact, at times he simply doesn't come across as a politician "as we know it"- so is that why Brown calls him "inexperienced and lightweight"? After all, if Labour's lightweight politicians started answering simple questions directly, if would be far worse for socialist business.

Cameron had the sense to let a tasty policy out of the bag to spice the interview, and one that is going to be hard to rubbish (but tempting to copy?). Blair and Brown have both identified the long term solution to the economic shambles: a better educational process. Blair went on about education, education, education at tedious length, and left Brown to do little but spend, spend, spend.

Despite all the fine rhetoric, we still have despairing parents willing to do anything to avoid sending their kids into a dysfunctional state system.

TMP endorses Cameron's declared policy of copying the hugely successful Swedish system by allowing state funds to be used by properly managed private institutions is a more credible policy for the future of the country than anything Broon/Blair managed over 11 costly years. And thanks to the vagueness and distortion of PFI, there may well be another £100bn surprise coming the voters' way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Great Caledonain Swindle

Talk about rudderless. The annual Labour Party Goon Show was as typically unenlightening as it was scary for the complete absence of any workable ideas to take the country forward in the midst of financial chaos. A situation brought about by precisely the fumbling boom and bust cock-up that Gordon had promised us was a thing of the wicked Tory past.

A failed old Caledonian fraudster reads a speech written by someone else, gets bigged up his PR-savvy missus, and the fluffy UK media heaves a sigh of relief that it wasn't as dreadful as it might have been. Yet no new proposals were put forward, just some thinly veiled threats that it could get worse - especially if a new an inexperienced David was handed the reins. And every time he opened his mouth, out came platitudes aplenty - but at a cost; and no clues as to how to cut the crippling costs and abject waste of 11 years of socialist misrule.

Much of Gordon's effort moved away from blathering on endlessly about prudence (for she is now in firmly forgotten consigned to a rest home for loose women) to try and rubbish the Conservatives by the use the age old tactic of a big enough lie repeated frequently enough.

Although some may suspect that the new caring, sharing Gordon Brown has probably got his heart in the right place, but his head remains firmly stuck up his arse, and he only offers the semblance of leadership thanks to the fact that all his colleagues are plainly lightweight no hopers. But do we want "nice blokes" to lead the UK at this time of global challenge and crisis, or would we prefer to have the nation's interests being managed by an uncompromising hard case like Margaret Hilda Thatcher in her prime? Or dare we suggest it, a "completely unreasonable and irascible old bastard" like Robert Mugabe, albeit with the nation's interests at heart, rather than his own?

A damp eyed Rab C Nesbitt could have comfortably replaced Gordon Brown reading the speech off the auto-prompt, and the poll ratings might have been even better. At least there might have been a few laughs.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Deep down in the Brown Stuff

Brown's big party speech was a pathetic ramble that failed to explain why after 11 years we are where we are - ie up to our ears in the Brown Stuff. How he has managed to spend so much of everyone's cash with so little to show for it all remains a mystery; but he will of course be spending even more in pursuit of his vision (and votes).

TMP lost count of the number of times the empty words "British" and "fairness" were used.

Apparently, we are going to work tirelessly to bring justice and democracy to Burma, Zimbabwe, Darfur are we..? Err... could we test that idea out in England, please?

And the NHS is now apparently going to cure cancer and all other diseases; never mind the rocketing rates of TB and resistance to antibiotics that have arisen pretty much as a direct result of Labour's woefully (and wilfully) misguided policies.

The boy Cameron still has an open goal to aim at. If anything it grew wider and taller by a few feet during Brown's tiresome waffle - so those of us who are aching to see a credible alternative to displace Labour will not forgive him if he does a Beckham and plants the ball in the stands.

Meanwhile, this YouTube poster seems to be able to find something to laugh about...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bring back the stocks

Not the sort you had in mind, but the sort that once were used to hold individuals proposed for public ridicule.

There is a grave danger that in the scramble to smooth over the shambles of the past couple of weeks that the bankers and their political cohorts will be allowed to get away without being properly fingered and humiliated for their misdeeds over the past 5-10 years when the terms "securitisation" and "globalisation" began to be bandied about.

It seems probable that politicians in the US and UK have been well aware of the risks since the start of the whole toxic mortgage fiasco. Brown's reliance on funding the UK economy with fairy money (long before JK Rowling's wedge came along) created by inflated property values had been a feature of his fiscal srategy since the outset of his term as chancellor. A panicing Darling was first to break rank and tell the truth about the scale of the cock up - but was immediately forced to retract and rejoin Broon in splendid denial.

Opposition politicians in the UK and US find themselves obliged to participate in the clean up and cover up or be accused of rocking the boat - and since these policitians expect to inherit the rather unseaworthy boat soon enough, it is not in their interests to be too blunt with the truth and dish out the retribution that the bankers actually deserve.

This whole story is a classic examle of the oldest truth in banking: if you owe the bank £100K and you can't repay it, then you are in trouble; if you owe the bank £100m and can't repay it, then the bank is in trouble. And when the bank in turn then owes £100bn, we are ALL in trouble.

It's time to lock the whole incompetent lot up and pelt them with rotten vegetables.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

JK Rowling says it all

How wonderfully appropriate that JK Rowling should bankroll Gordon Brown with cash earned from writing fairy stories.

Even TMP is lost for words at the awesome irony of it all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The bigger they are...

Gordon and the Brownies bleat that the present economic shambles is not their fault, citing "global factors", implying "not me guv". Do not under any circumstances let them get away that assertion, it is the consequence of their labours over the past ten years.

Brown and his acolytes are all as guilty as sin of supporting and promoting the notion of economic growth based on the fairy money of improbably inflated house and land values, and the "partnership" of globalised financial markets and companies.

Do you recall those early days of the Blair regime when the same businesspeople that once feted Mrs Thatcher for sorting out Labour's previous shambles then flocked to support the Blair fraud (and contribute to the Labour Party), in return for the policy of "light regulation" that would allow the City to become a global financial hub?

Let's not forget one of Blair-Brown's other keystone economic policies over the past ten years is the unfettered immigration that helps keeps average wages down by flooding the economy with "cheap labour" (and likely Labour voters). With unemployment now about to lurch, there will be troubles ahead once there are no more of Gordon's "British Jobs for British People".

Yet the mass of the UK is probably still not feeling the pinch - thanks to the creation of millions of non-jobs, paid from fast depleting public funds, that will be amongst the very last to go. As TMP followers will know, this economic crisis is not a huge surprise to everyone; it was an inevitability given the poor quality of the politicians in control of stupid policies, and even worse execution. The Police and Health services have both had humongous additional cash thrown at them over recent times, but does anyone really think either has improved measurably?

And still no one has learned anything about scale and globalisation: the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Instead of learning that there is strength in diversity, the present panic to consolidate teetering behemoths is doing the opposite, and creating even more vast institutions that they apparently have to be pseudo-nationalised in order to preserve any hope of financial stability. The chances of those institutions being returned to the private sector in the foreseeable future is virtually nil.

And what possible chance is there that any government could allow the proposed merged HBOS-Lloyds to fail? Everyone will assume that however badly run it might be, it will be saved in the same way that Northern Rock was saved, there is no choice.

The frustration for those of us that know better is that the internet has provided all the tools required to create a robust distributed economy, based on a network of small self-managed units. It's time consider the possibilities of de-globalising and splitting these unmanageable monsters into a number of much smaller autonomous units that could be allowed to go bust if run by the sort of impotent idiots we are watching emerging in their droves.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where is the leadership coming from?

Labour has pretty much wrecked the economy, and history repeats itself - in part. But the last time Jim Callaghan drove the UK into the buffers and the arms of unctuous international financiers, a certain iron lady was able to step up to the plate and sort out the shambles, without worrying too much about treading on a few toes. Globalisation then meant the last vestiges of the British Empire, and most of the UK was not owned by assorted French, Spanish, German and even Icelandic conglomerates. And the Eu was a trading block, not a social engineering project of the left leaning politicians of France and Germany.

However, she didn't have the benefit of instant global nonstop communication and PR advisers with Blackberries, or benches laden with professional politicians who wouldn't know an honest day's work if it bit them in the arse. Most of Maggie's crew had worked at real jobs at some time or other.

This time around Labour has wrecked not only the economy, but also a large part of the heritage of the entire country, and in their efforts to create a client society has managed to give Scotland both the will and the means to establish meaningful Independence! An own goal if ever there was for Westminster's Caledonian cabal. Elect them again and watch as Bolton votes to secede from the remains of the UK and become a province of Bangladesh or Pakistan.

There is so much about the modern "professional" political scene that is wrong and harmful to the people who live in the real world (and we don't mean the world of Guardian adverts offering pages and pages of non-job to people who simply could not exist in a world of commercial reality).

Democracy - implying majority rule - was clearly a flawed concept long before the Georges Bush were spouting it as the basis for beating up Arabs for oil. Democracy now means rule by a tyranny of minorities that controls the swing vote, so let us pray that at the next election there will be a party able to muster sufficient Thatcher-esque leadership nerve to make a difference.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Brown's syndrome

Gordon Brown's measures to "bolster" the economy tell you pretty much everything you need to know about this once-lucky politician. They are a typical hotpotch of inept fiddling on the fringes, long on detail and minutiae, short on effect and substance. His handling of the Northern Rock crisis was equally inept. The poor bloke simply did not have what it took to cope with the economic storms of the real world once the last vestige of the shelter afforded by John Major's now apparently astonishing economic miracle, was finally blown away by 10 years of socialist meddling and decay.

He references to his personal challenges as evidence of his suitability for the task ahead are borderline pathetic, he is a sorry and embarrassing sight, and must go soon.

The yanks, on the other hand, do things in style. When they bale out a mortgage lender, they don't mess about, and the world applauds them. Although now the US faces the fascinating challenge of coping with a state-owned institution. TMP is tempted to ponder what the US government has been saying to the captains of US finance, and if it has told them they are going to being paying for this anyway, since it was their mismanagement that caused the problem.

The UK needs a bold new vision and someone with the nerve to blast it through the many poisonous vested interests now in play. Back in the days of Mrs Thatcher, it was "just" the unions that needed seeing to, these days the challenge is trimming the influence of globalised markets and the manipulative companies (EDF and Eon spring to mind). The way EDF outrageously fleeces UK customers to subsidise the French market is quite amazing, yet because Brown needs to get EDF to build the power stations that Labour has fudged, he seems powerless (sic) to sort them out.

It seems that Tories are more terrified then ever of an early election - they really don't want to be held in any way responsible for what is about to happen over the next 18 months in the UK.

God help us all.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Banging a few protons together

The £4bn spent by scientists at Cern on the mother of all particle colliders has produced the usual mixed reaction from the gallery. Press attention has focused mostly on reports of the possible emergence of a black hole that swallows us all - in effect, the reversal of creation.

So what's the point? Put simply, the point is that despite everything, science has no real idea of how the universe works because the accumulation of knowledge springing from Einstein's theory of relatively has failed to explain where most of the matter in the universe is hiding - or for that matter, the nature of gravity. These are actually quite massive holes in any basic understanding of how things works; it's like medical science hadn't moved beyond expecting to find babies under gooseberry bushes.

And most scientists who understand a bit about the principles involved suspect that the gap/chasm in their knowledge holds some if not all the answers to the basics of nuclear fusion technology. Science fiction such as Stargate and Star Trek has actually adapted some of the postulations to credible effect with the notions of sub space and warp fields - so credible in fact that many conspiracy nerds are convinced that this is all based on genuine discoveries made at Roswell.

Managed fusion is the holy grail of energy - it basically means free infinite energy for all. So just pause to consider for a moment what that means for a world that lurches from crisis to crisis thanks to assorted charlatans, liars and cheats that seek to manipulate the factors of the current fossil energy economy. In that moment of reflection, consider just how those assorted rogues and charlatans would feel if their jealously guarded energy resources were actually made worthless overnight. That alone has got to be worth the miniscule risk of switching on at Cern.

Unlike most commercial and national organisations, Cern - inventor of the world wide web - has a pretty good track record of making its discoveries available for the good of Mankind.

The mastery of the techniques necessary for assembly of atoms from their component particles means that any element could be made to order, and there is clearly more than enough energy to be tapped from the universe to provide the minuscule needs of this planet without any pollution - if only we knew how to tap into it. This energy is amply displayed in large scale natural phenomenon such as hurricanes, where estimates vary considerably, but most suggest the energy of a single hurricane would keep the lights on for a whole year.

So by faffing about at the fringes of alternative energy, we may be missing the point. If there is a chance that the Cern scientists are able to isolate and explain the process of nuclear fusion and a practical result that can explain gravity, it really must be taken.

But if the doomsday theorists are correct, and the collider starts a chain reaction and the whole of creation disappears into a singularity before re-emerging in another big bang (and who knows how many times that might have already happened in the course of infinity?) then that too would solve the world's problems - but not quite so elegantly. Too bad we wouldn't be able to leave a note for the next bunch of sentient beings that might try it all again in another 14 billion years time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Drunk and impoverished

Hands up anyone who is not by now sick of encountering drunks in public? The main problem remains that moderate drinking is widely regarded as socially acceptable as long as no driving is involved, and that the legless are in some strange way, amusing.

A radical solution is required that wastes minimal police time, so how about anyone that wants to "drink heavily" must buy an alcohol consumption licence for £250 from their local A&E counter, and forfeits it automatically if found at A&E or otherwise anywhere in public creating a nuisance with more than 100mg/100ml of alcohol in their blood. The driving limit is 40mg, so 100mg is pretty generous. And even if they are not up to the 100mg limit, any suggestion of drink-related nuisance would mean suspension of licence for 3 months.

All those taking out such a licence to enable them to get inebriated would be required to say so on any insurance form or job application, and that register would be available for checking. Normal "social drinkers" would get a free photo ID "purchase pass" (paid for by the booze industry) - and the age of buying alcohol goes up to 21.

Then anyone "unlicensed" found in public or at A&E with more than 50mg of alcohol pays a £250 NI surcharge as an attachment on earnings if necessary, plus a further £50 per 10mg over the limit, plus loss of the alcohol purchase card for 3 months. We won't call it a fine, and we'll just pay it straight to the local hospital A&E without deductions. For all those are under the age of 18, their parents get the option to pay or let them be sent to boot camp for a week of rehab.

But if you want to drink yourselves to death in private or the comfort of your own home or a friend's house, then please be our guest and just get on with it as quietly as possible. However, should you overdo things to the extent that you ended up in the care of the NHS, then get your credit card ready, or if you can't afford to pay for the consequences of your "problem", then keep a suitcase ready and packed for the 3 months you will be spending in secure rehab

And before you ask, a similar system could be adapted to work for drug users quite easily.