Monday, 17 March 2008

Idle thoughts on the ides of March

Of course the actual Ides of March is the 15th day, which will be long gone by the time I get around to posting this. But rather than a post on a single topic let’s have some topical news review with commentary.

Today Heather Mills McCartney won over £24m as a litigant-in-person in her divorce from Sir Paul. This weekend the fourth largest US investment bank, Bear Stearns, went belly up – or did it? And we learn today that a canon of the Church of England was assaulted by Asians in his own churchyard.

Starting with the tabloid news: “Lady” Heather is now made for life, unless she does something reckless like entrusting her fortune to an investment bank. Her settlement includes the cash pile, plus £35,000 per annum for their daughter, a paid-for nanny, paid-for school fees and a £2.5m house in London.

My thoughts on this? Well, she was married to Paul for four of his 60-plus years and didn’t assist in any way in the creation of his fortune so the £35K pa alone would be generous; most people don’t earn that in a year. In fact £35K pa until the daughter is 18 seems like a reasonable settlement. It’s a living wage. And when the daughter is properly in school Heather can supplement it by taking a part-time job. She could probably make it up to £60K and be quite affluent.

Now to Bear Stearns, an investment bank on Madison Avenue, New York, at 80 slightly older than Sir Paul. Two weeks ago its shares were trading at $60 a pop, last week they were down to $30, and over the weekend JP Morgan “rescued” Bear Stearns by offering to buy it for $2 a share using a $30bn loan facility provided by the Federal Reserve System. (Amusingly Bear Stearns’s website quoted its own share price as $30 through out the weekend.)

Although the boards of both banks have approved the “rescue”, it’s by no means a done deal. To start with why should JP Morgan get handed an investment bank on a plate? Yes, Bear Stearns is bust, but not with a £30bn sweetener it isn’t. Its HQ building alone is probably worth $8/share. And strangely, despite JPM’s “rescue” at $2 per share BS is still trading at over $3 a share. And why am I putting sneer-quotes around the word “rescue”? Well, it’s because it looks more than a little fishy, this rescue. This story may have a way to run.

And lastly to the man of the cloth. The BBC reported that those nasty Asians “jeered at his occupation”. No they didn’t, they called him a “f*cking priest”, and said his church should be a mosque (according to the Daily Telegraph which is unlikely to be making it up.) Let’s dissect the BBC’s report a little shall we? “Jeered” isn’t that rather down playing the level of offence? And “occupation” – since when was being a priest an occupation? It’s a calling. So what we have here are some muslims (one presumes given the reference to a mosque) getting far too big for their boots and seem to be psyching themselves up for a little ethnic cleansing, and the BBC determined to downplay the incident. I find it hard to decide which is worse: muslim nation-building in our land, or the BBC pandering to it. I think, by a tiny margin, the BBC revolts me more.

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