“How Ill Disciplined Financial Mayhem
Has Led to a Nine Trillion Dollar
by Guest Blogger Michael Hey in Aberdeen
the arcane world of Collateralised Debt
Credit Default Swaps,
how a bank's very own credit rating agency can turn
the Value at Risk assessment of its loans entirely on its head and then
pass the exposure to a highly leveraged hedge fund
gambles in an unregulated market with your money in a
zero sum game that
simply takes wealth from the savings of thousands to
the pockets of few.
Heronimus Clinch - an SPM salesman,
Grabbit 'n Run a hedge fund that operates right on
the edge and
ZIT the insurance behemoth that insures the risk of
failure of pumped up SIV's
plus many many more!
Feel free to embellish the tale with your own perspective
and maybe one day we can publish that too!
Once Upon a Time
there was a hard working baker by the name of Miller who, with
his family, lived in a simple vinyl sided house in Smallville,
Ohio. They rented the house from a greedy landlord and dreamed
of one day owning their own home. But however hard Miller
worked and however many long hours he put in at the local bakery
he could never save enough money to place a deposit down. And
each year the price of houses in Smallville went up and up and
up, and each year his greedy landlord would increase the rent so
that any rise in pay Miller could earn vanished into the
Then one sunny Saturday morning
a smart young man drew up in a shiny car on the road in front of
Miller’s home. He stepped out and walked confidently up and rapped
on the front door ...
So Barack Obama has won the
US Presidency as the culmination of a truly gruelling campaign that was
record-breaking in terms of its duration (nearly two years) and spending
(nearly a billion dollars). He won fair and square, despite the crookery
of his campaign -
up to a million multiple, illegible and fictitious voters
via ACORN and
website fund-raising in terms of deliberately
checks that would otherwise screen out illegal donations.
His winning margin was
large enough to conclude that that these illegal behaviours were
unlikely to have swung the balance. Nevertheless, it was disgraceful
that the fawning media resolutely refused to give them the widespread
publicity they deserved; details were to be found only in conservative
publications and blogs. The silence of the law-enforcement agencies was
Mr Obama is to be sincerely
congratulated on his skilfully wrought campaign, certainly better than
those of either John McCain or Hillary Clinton.
But he has a back-history
that either is unknown or else is appalling, and what he has offered the
American people in terms of policies has been dreadful, conflicting or
indecipherable. Again, conventional media worldwide made every effort
not to dig in and find out details. They got far more excited about the
cost of Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe (having first complained what a
hick she was) than whether, for example, Mr Obama
spent his first few
years as a Muslim (he
did, so he's an apostate), or
palled around with
those unrepentant terrorists Mr & Mrs Bill Ayers (he
did, up to 2005) or
whether he had passed
most of his adult life subscribing to the black racist philosophies
of Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan (the evidence is plain).
As for exploring his
conflicting policies (eg Jerusalem undivided or separate?) or his dishonest
language (eg tax “cuts” for the
30% of Americans who don’t even pay tax), the media simply looked
politely the other way.
But Mr Obama certainly has
a couple of very strong positives.
He is undoubtedly a
magnificent, inspirational orator. I don't like hearing him but
that is because of my own personal dislike of the fellow which makes
him sound irritating to me and makes me want to give him the malefit
of any doubt. But he enthuses hundreds of millions of others not
just in America but across the globe. So, whatever actions he wants
to take, he is very well able to sell them to that broad swathe of
people who are so favourably predisposed towards him.
it takes some rhetoric to make someone
believe that under his presidency she will no longer have
to worry about filling her car or paying her mortgage.
has similar skills which he used to remarkable effect in engineering
three decisive elections in Britain even when the majority of people
disliked his policies, particularly the Iraq War.
Secondly, the new
president is certainly calm under pressure. He appears not to have
got upset or emotional even once during his two long hard years of
campaigning, despite a lot of provocation both on the stump and off
it. An example of that was on show in all three public debates with
John McCain where the latter certainly tried and failed to rile him
and was himself rather emotional. If at some point of his campaign
Mr Obama had, for example, erupted in a wholly understandable rage
as John McCain sometimes does and Bill Clinton also did, the
conservative blogosphere would certainly have reported it, and with
While this icy calmness
may make him seem humourless and a bit of a cold fish, it is however
a very valuable and pretty unusual quality which will stand him in
good stead in the tough negotiations and challenges, both domestic
and international, that will confront him in the next four years.
Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian Empire’s deputy Czar, and
boss of Hamas have already laid down arrogant challenges which have
the potential to make any American president very angry.
softer time than with George Bush or John McCain, assorted jihadist
Indonesia have expressed their (surely unwelcome) pleasure at
the Obama victory.
But Mr Obama will not allow himself to get
emotional over such provocations.
The big question is,
however, to what objectives will be apply these two formidable talents?
If he wants to raise taxes, run away from Iraq, enter unconditional
talks with Iran, appoint Supreme Court justices intent on promoting left
wing causes - all that policies he has promised - then he will truly prove to
be one of America’s most disastrous presidents.
But many chief executives
have said one thing when vying for the top job and then behaved
completely differently when they actually get to work. This is usually
due to two things.
Firstly, once they see
the true facts and details of the situation for the first time,
they realise the recklessness of their earlier advocacies.
Secondly, while on the
stump or in opposition it is easy to say anything you want because
you have no real responsibility for the consequences. But once you
assume office the whole ball game changes. As chief executive, you
no longer have anyone else you can blame. This again can lead to a
radical reassessment of previous views.
Personally, I fervently
hope President Obama goes through this honourable transition, and if he
is indeed a patriotic American it is hard to imagine he will not.
Nevertheless only time will tell.
If he adopts a common sense
approach, his oratorical skills and calmness under pressure can make
him, against my worst fears, into a truly great American president.
In the meantime, we should
all at least stand back and marvel at the extraordinary masterclass in
democracy that the United States has put on and which the world has been
privileged to witness. It has been an example to us all.
One of the numerous non-accomplishments of
President-elect Barack Obama was that, despite having been a professor of
the University of Chicago Law School, he never authored a single academic
piece of work. When I pointed this out in a
recent newspaper column, an irate Obamaniac had a letter published
saying that this was only because he was too busy
legal aid, being a state senator, and serving on the boards of
several charitable foundations”,
as if ordinary professors have too much time on their hands. In fact,
no other university in the world appoints professors unless and until they
have already accumulated a body of academic work, which they are expected to
add to after their appointment.
Maybe Professor Obama simply lacked the
imagination to find anything interesting to write about.
For it must sometimes be be hard for
university staff, whether professors or would-be professors, to dream up
worthy subjects to study and pen learned articles about in academic
journals. This might explain research undertaken in recent times by,
Anthropologists Dr Russell Hill and Dr
Robert Barton of Durham University,
Professor Martin Attrill, of Plymouth
University's School of Biological Sciences,
Professor of psychology
Andrew Elliot and Dr Daniela Niesta of University of Rochester in New York.
What do they have in common?
They all published learned articles about ...
the colour red.
And the findings are stunning ... not.
First the brainboxes of Durham and Plymouth
Their work revealed that sportsmen in
tend to do better than, and against, those in other colour(s). This
applies both to team sports such as rugby (above, Munster, the current champions of Europe) and football and to one-on-one
combat such as tae-kwon-do (or is that no-can-do?).
The combat theory was
tested at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Contestants in four combat sports
- boxing, tae-kwon-do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling - were
outfits, or body protectors. In every case, those wearing
significantly more fights.
This daring display of academia succeeded
in enhancing the professorshipism of the authors by getting published in
the much respected scientific journal
For examining team sports, professional soccer in England was selected.
found that, over the thousands of league matches played from 1947 to 2003
between the country's top 68 clubs, teams with
(such as Manchester United or Liverpool) won
the league 60% of the time, compared with only 20% for those in
(such as Chelsea), despite more teams wearing
blue. But the
perform well only when they actually wear
red: when they have to
wear a different colour, such as for away games, their advantage disappears.
The learned gentlemen who came up with
this hope to score their own professorial goals when their findings are
published later this year in the
Journal of Sports Sciences.
the geniuses in New York looked at
red from a different
angle. They wanted to find out how good it is as a man-magnet.
Calling it a
psychological experiment to make it sound important and scientific, they showed
an assortment of lusty men photographs
of women framed by a
border of either redor white and
of women wearing redclothes and then another
In all cases,
so the proud researchers
concluded, reddid the trick; men love
ladies in red. In
the little minxes were more likely to attract a good-looking guy, to receive an invitation
and to be treated to a more expensive date.
It might have been easier to simply ask crooner Chris de
ladies in red, but I guess it was more fun dressing up pretty women in different colours
and inviting them out on expensive dates.
Moreover, Mr de Burgh would not have enhanced
their careers, whereas their latest findings have just been published as
red: Red enhances men's attraction to women”
in the very impressive-sounding Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Incidentally, you can make your own judgement about the erudition of
this scientific periodical by having a look at a few other articles in
the same edition, gems such as
In humans, anger is
associated with a reddening of the skin due to increased blood flow, whereas
with fear you get increased pallor; moreover animal studies show that
in males is a signal of dominance. Hence in human competitive
situations, redness stimulates deep-rooted aggression and dominance,
whereas non-red players are pale, trembling and defensive (I exaggerate)
for the ladies, research
has shown that male primates are more attracted to females who put on a
reddisplay (hence those
embarrassing rear ends). That's why female baboons and chimpanzees
redden when nearing ovulation to give the boys the come-on.
Once the baboons
and chimps had evolved into humans, it was sexy reddresses that the girls employed for the same purpose.
The latest research
confirms what women
have long suspected - that in the sexual realm men are not the
thoughtful sophisticates that they (we) imagine but are consumed by
primitive animal-like predilections.
Since the universities that unearthed all
this wealth of information are
largely funded or subsidised by public funds, is it not heart-warming to
learn in today's straightened times that there is such value being won for
Thanks to the academics' selfless research, we now know
beyond all doubt that wearing red
gives any male or female an unsporting opportunity to score, whether in
games or love - or indeed who knows in what other sphere of human life as
But this situation, like conservative talk radio in the US, is
obviously unfair. The US Democrats are right; we need a
So here is a suggestion for Law Professor Obama in his
spare presidential time in order to plump up his empty professorial
credentials. He ought to research the legal implications of allowing a
redélite to continue selfishly to
enjoy more than its fair share of red,
with a view to
spreading the wealth
This is surely hope and change we can all believe in.
Barack Obama in his victory speech
as president-elect of the United States.
Whatever happened to hope?
“As January 20th draws near, some of you may be
anxious about finding a new job or a new place to live. I know how
President George W Bush, in jocular mode,
addresses his White House staffers
as he calls for a smooth transition to the Obama presidency
Quote: “So, where were we? It's been a long eight years. Eight years
later, here we are. And you know the story. The economy started to go
downhill when the policies changed. It started on 20 January 2001. I know. I
was the first one laid off.”
Al Gore who, in his own words,
“used to be the next president of the United States”
still has a witty turn of phrase.
He was campaigning for Barack Obama in
the scene in 2001 of his political demise by hanging chad.
Quote (minute 27:20 to 27:35):
“If somebody wants to
build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will
bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all
that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”
Barack Obama threatens to destroy the coal industry,
oblivious - or uncaring - as to the consequences
for its 150 million consumers.
He made the remarks to the San Francisco Chronicle's
editorial board in January 2008,
but in order to minimise damage to the Obamessiah,
the newspaper released the video
only a couple of days before the US election
Quote: “The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because
it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition
that we not release it.”
The LA Times excuses itself for
not publishing a 2003 video showing Mr Obama
farewell party for Palestinian terror-supporting academic
Rashid Khalidi who was leaving the University of Chicago
Mr Obama, speaking to guests
the unrepentant former terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn,
congratulates Prof Khalidi for his work apparently
“Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine”
and that there's been
“genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis”.
Why, I wonder, would the LA
Times be so shy
about releasing such an explosive tape (unless it’s true)?
And anyway, whoever heard of
someone giving a tape to a newspaper
on condition it not be published?
“I won't need to worry about putting gas in my car, I
won't have to
worry about paying my mortgage. If I help him, he's gonna help
Citizen Peggy Joseph in ecstasy
after hearing the Obamessiah speak
at a rally
just before he was elected.
She is going to be one of millions of
very disappointed Obama voters in the years ahead.
“Mr Obama's election [has] been hailed by
world public opinion as the arrival of a Messiah ... who is also
handsome, young and suntanned.”
Silvio Berlusconi, speaking in Moscow to
the Russian Empire's vice-Czar Dmitri Medvedev,
prompts righteous indignation from assorted PC multiculturists
who think his jocular remarks are
racist, or youngist or handsomist or whatever.
- - - - - - U N - - - - - -
“People are being slaughtered and [17,000 UN
peacekeepers] did nothing”.
No, not the unfolding genocide in
Rwanda in 1994
as frenzied Hutus murdered 800,000 Tutsis
under the disinterested gaze of the Club of Tyrants' own
This time it's the Democratic
Republic of Congo.
The bitter remark was made by
Joseph Kabila its elected president,
as fighting broke out in the east of the country
next door to, yes, Rwanda
and between yes, Hutus and Tutsis.
- - - - - - J A P A N - - - - - -
Quote: “It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country
[Japan] was an aggressor [in World War 2] … Roosevelt trapped
Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor in December 1941.”
General Toshio Tamogami, chief
of staff of Japan's air force,
who has been sacked for such remarks,
which appear in his essay “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?”
- - - - - - G A Y M A R R I A
G E - - - - - -
Quote: “Only a
marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California.”
Proposition 8, which Californians carried
in a referendum by 52˝%,
after a campaign to which the Mormon Church contributed $70m
for the Yes-side (the No-side spent a similar amount).
Mr Nice Gay”,
responded Daniel Ginnes, a gay activist
vowing to protest the result.
- - - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - - -
Quote: “Sorry lads, I can't shake hands with you now. I'm like John
McCain, I can't raise my arm above my shoulder.”
Lenihan, an Irish Minister of State,
speaking to journalists after being censured
for calling a fellow parliamentarian a fascist
and allegedly raising his arm – above his shoulder – in a Nazi salute.
“Sharon [is] simply wonderful ...
straightforward and honest ... very loving and giving ... a decent
lady ... one of the nicest people you could ever have been fortunate
to know ... I will not give up on Sharon and will have no hesitation
in living with her again.”
Wealthy Irish businessman PJ Howard
at the sentencing of his would-be murderess Sharon Collins,
his former live-in girlfriend.
She will serve six years for having tried to
an Egyptian hitman to kill him and his two sons
in order to inherit his money
via a phoney Mexican wedding certificate.
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF