Friday, 23 January 2015

Leon Brittan, next Jimmy Savile?

Jimmy Savile famously died with his reputation intact and then was discovered to be a monster after his death. Now Leon Brttan is dead and politicians are lining up to praise his memory. William Hague and Ken Clarke have been particularly effusive.

But there are already two question marks over his reputation: that he raped a 19-year-old girl back in the 1960s, and that he 'mislaid' a dossier on paedophiles (the so-called Dickens Dossier) when he was Home Secretary.

Bubbling under we have suggestions that he used MI5 to cover up his own paedophile activity and police were silenced when a naked and abused boy was found outside his house. There are also suggestions that he was the 'senior Tory' who systematically abused boys as reported by the Newsnight programme and wrongly attributed to Lord McAlpine (also now deceased.)

So Brittan's reputation may not outlive him by very long.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Eric Pickles puts foot in mouth

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric "Who ate all the pies?" Pickles, has been prompted by the Paris terrorism to write a letter to 1,000 of the most important muslims in the UK. In it he exhorts these muslim leaders to put an end to the radicalisation of young muslims; in fact he says they are uniquely able to do this.

Rt Hon Branston Pickles, MP

The Muslim Council of Britain sent him a rather sarky response. Their first beef was simply that he hadn't included them in the 1,000 most important muslims. The MCB considers itself the voice for muslims in Britain (they don't bother calling it Great Britain anymore) and being left off the list gnawed at their amour propre.

They go on to aver that they have nothing to prove when it comes to Britishness, assert that the country is "ours" and resent the implication that extremists are somehow created in mosques.

Pickles can do no right it seems.

The MCB btw is actually a Pakistani organisation which claims to represent all UK muslims but largely excludes the Arab contingent, which in turn resents them right back.

Bizarrely Pickles spends a lot of the letter worrying about hatred of muslims and letting these 1,000 top men know of the many ways they can report any "hate crimes" against muslims that may have been provoked by muslims killing police and cartoonists in France. He goes on to revile the EDL and Britain First and their thuggish ways. ("Thug" is a Hindi word and these blog is minded to report Jabba the Pickle for even using it - hate speech surely?!)

But this blog is far more concerned about how the BNP seems to have been left off the list of untouchables (oops!) Did he just forget them, or is he admitting that the BNP is not thuggish? Some clarification is required here. And how does he even know about Britain First? BF is a small, recent organisation which splintered off from the BNP a year or so ago (they flounced out when Nick the Griff got re-elected as Chairman.) Frankly BF should be flattered to be on the Hut's radar at all. And the EDL has been defunct since Tommy Robinson quit as leader; ministerial radar not so good after all.

Anyway, it all goes to show - there is really no pleasing some people.

Monday, 19 January 2015

BBC publishes cartoon of Mohammed

Alright, it's actually an ASCII-art rendition posted as a comment on an article by a reader called "fuzzy". But still, it could be considered offensive. Maybe someone should be beheaded. But the idea is neat - we could all draw ASCII-art cartoons of the prophet and post them everywhere.

The comment at the Beeb is:

This blog's attempt....

            (( ))
          ((     ))
         { _     _ }
           0     0
             -   je suis Mo!

OK, needs work, I know..... :-)

Friday, 16 January 2015

Swiss break Franc peg to Euro

Until yesterday the Swiss Franc (CHF) was pegged to the Euro - every time it soared above €0.83 the Swiss National Bank (SNB) printed up some CHFs and sold them to bring the CHF back to the desired level. And the CHF has been very prone to rising as the worried rich looked for a safe place to stash their cash.

Until yesterday SNB chairman, Thomas Jordan, was assuring the world that the Euro peg was here to stay, a permanent feature of Swiss monetary policy. Needless to say there was a good living to be made by foreign exchange (FX) dealers seeing a gap open up between the Euro and the CHF and, knowing that the SNB would soon act to close it, placing an appropriate short-term bet. Yesterday they all got their fingers burned and billions must have been lost.

So why did the SNB drop the peg? Well, they almost certainly know something we do not, and most likely that thing is that the EU is about to start quantitative easing (QE), ie printing up some Euros, and this would make it impossible to maintain the peg. Previously the SNB has maintained they would keep the peg during Euro QE, but likely they have been told just how many Euros are to be printed and it's a very big number indeed and keeping the CHF down at the level the Euro is going to fall to would be too damaging to the Swiss economy to tolerate.

The SNB is already suffering from the CHF printing it has had to do to keep the Franc down at Euro levels - it has created "substantial" inflation in Switzerland. ("Substantial" for a Swiss person is different from what anyone else might consider high inflation. The CHF has maintained its buying power for decade after decade - 0.1% is high inflation for the Swiss.) One must assume the SNB took one look at the EU's intentions and realised the game was up - they had to break the peg. So they bit the bullet early, announced the peg was over, and the CHF soared.

Here's a graph of how many CHFs one pound will buy you:

Much the same graph applies to all other currencies vs the CHF - they all fell off a cliff; generally about 30% down.

What are we to take from this? Well, in fact, the really signicant factoid is the "confirmation" of Euro QE comming soon, perhaps as soon as next week. If it's as big as the SNB seem to be indicating then there is going to be a lot of "free" money sloshing around. This will find its way into the world's stockmarkets and make them fly.

But money printing is likely to be unpopular in Germany. They still have a race memory of the Reichmark and how a loaf of bread went from 1 mark to 1 million in less than a year. The Germans wrote the rules for the Euro and they made it illegal to make new ones from nothing. Euro QE could well be challenged in the courts. That though, will take time and QE will be a done deal before any verdict is returned.

Another coming event is the Greek general election next week (on Sunday). If a party determined to leave the Euro wins the Germans will need the big Euro print-run to bribe them to stay and to deal with the systemic shocks if they do leave, ie, to lend to banks which have run out of money due to the Greeks defaulting on their debt.

Another shock coming down the pipeline is mortgage defaulting in Eastern Europe and Russia. A lot of people in the East have CHF-denominated mortgages because the interest rate is so much lower: the Euro base rate is 0.15%, but in Switzerland it's a negative number - they pay you to borrow money from them! (Intriguingly but perhaps not related: the same is true for gold at the moment. The "GOFO" rate is negative.)

These CHF mortgage holders have just seen a 30% rise in their their payments and some of them are not going to be able to make it. This is particularly true in Russia where the Ruble lost half its value in the course of 2014 (mainly due to political pressure on Putin to get him out of the Ukraine.) Russian CHF mortgage holders who can survive the multiple shock of a collapsing economy, a collapsing currency and a soaring CHF are likely to be very rare indeed.

Unfortunately if someone owes you money and they cannot pay, it's really you who has got the problem. We are entering a period of deep uncertainly in the markets (although I'm confident the CHF will remain a good place to store your savings!)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Media not very brave

The first post-massacre Charlie Hebdo mag is out with a sold-out three million copies print run - they normally sell 30,000-40,000 per week - and the question on everyone's lips is: who will dare show the cover which features yet another cartoon of Mo?

Caption: "All is forgiven."

The BBC have dipped their toes in the Jihad water with a TV report which showed the issue being printed and for a fraction of a second a box full of magazines is in shot and you can see into the box and just about make out the cartoon if you already know what it looks like.

They must be feeling very brave and smug.

The newspapers are no better. They all cover the long queues to buy a copy in France but none of them quite shows the cover in full.

Daily Telegraph: No Mo at all!
Guardian: Mo is a bit folded

Daily Mail: Where has Mo gone?

They are all running scared - which of course means the terrorists have won.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

News overflow

Nobody is worrying much about Bill Cosby anymore, are they?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Annus mirabilis

It's shaping up to be a wonderful year for the government. Suddenly a whole sheaf of economic numbers have turned good. Oil has dropped from roughly $100 per barrel a few months ago to $50 today as the Saudis try to bankrupt American shale oil producers; the Euro has tumbled on fears that Greece may elect the commies and leave the Euro, and the FTSE seems to have defied the rest of the world and not crashed because the UK is seen as a safe place for your wealth, be your wealth houses or stocks and shares.

Falling oil prices will permeate our economy and make us all feel, and actually be, richer. It's not just  filling up the car at the petrol station that is so much easier - the oil price affects the price of just about everything. Food will be cheaper; electricity will be cheaper; clothes will be cheaper, and when the staples get cheaper - everything else also gets cheaper.

Meanwhile, since we import far more from the EU than we export to them, the falling Euro will further reduce the price of stuff.

This will all feed through into more jobs and bigger pay rises for the Great British public.

And there is a general election coming. The government just has to hope that everything stays rosy for at least four months. There is no guarantee of this though. Four months is plenty of time for the Greeks to pull back from the edge; the Saudis to complete their decapitation maneuver and the whole glorious future to unraffle.

So, fingers crossed, eh, George?

Annus horribilis

It's shaping up to be another horrible year for HM the Queen. The last time she used the phrase annus horribilis (1992) her second son, the Duke of York, had just got divorced. Now he is in the frame for under-aged sex with a sex slave.

Well, that's allegedly, but the reported facts don't actually support the allegations. He is alledged to have slept with an American woman called Virgina Roberts when she was 17 and he was 42. The trysts supposedly occurred in London, New York and the Caribbean (British Virgin Islands).

Newspapers are casually reporting this as "under-aged" but the age of consent is federally 16 in the USA, specifically 17 in New York state, and of course 16 through out the United Kingdom. So, even if the reported facts are true, and they are denied by official statements from Buckingham Palace, the Duke of York would not actually have committed a crime; nor even committed adultery since he would have been single at the time.

However, there is no point letting the facts get in the way of a salacious, money-making, front-page story with much mileage left in it, is there?