Saturday, 25 August 2012

Mouchel - Triples all round!

Mouchel is such a secure niche fixture of British industry that only a financial hurricane, zero spending on roads or grossly incapable management should be able to bring it down. But bankrupt it was, mostly due to the same greedy, culpably foolhardy and away-with-the-fairies debt-fuelled acquisitions that destroyed the foolish banks, leaving it £170m in debt. Having run the company into the ground, you won't be surprised to hear that the management (including the splendidly named CE Grant Rumbles, who earned a £400k bonus for incompetence) and a consortium of RBS, Barclays and Lloyds, have ..er, taken control of the company, leaving its shareholders with nothing, de-listed it and will now run it for private profit. They made sure their chums in the Big Five got their snouts in the trough, too; fee costs for restructuring 'advice' come to £18m, and in a Buggins-turn sort of way it's KPMG's go at being administrators, earning them a strawberry on top. The incompetent managers get 20% of the new company, the banks get 80% and the former shareholders get flipped the finger.

It's not only the banks where profits are privatised and losses socialised. Pension funds and institutional investors must also now pay for greed, stupidity and arrogance. And yet again, those who belong in jail - including, in my opinion, Grant Rumbles and his entire management consortium, get away scot-free.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Yalta

If you really want to piss-off a Pole, just say 'Yalta'. Even today, Poles view the US and British betrayal of their nation with a resentment so deep-seated it's hard to get them to even talk about it without half a litre of Zubrowka and apple juice under their belt. Roosevelt, with all the ardour of a Labrador bitch in heat and all the intelligence of a Rottweiler, offered his crippled frame for Stalin to abuse at will, and with it the freedom of the whole of western Europe. In vain did Churchill rage against Roosevelt's infatuation with Big Joe, in vain did he argue for a firm US / UK stand against Soviet expansionism. But Roosevelt was not only an extremely stupid man, he was stubborn with it. This was the same klutz who had green-lighted the Morgenthau Plan. And he was so in love with Uncle Joe that he betrayed the Polish nation for a rictus smile and a pat from his master. It's just bad luck for the UK that the Poles hold us equally guilty - despite Roosevelt's threats to chop us off at the knees economically unless we agreed with him. 

So it will be with great interest that I will look at the complete US archives relating to Katyn when they are released on 10th September. By Yalta, the Russian responsibility for the massacre should have been well established by intelligence agencies; the question is, how much did Roosevelt know, and how much did he choose to ignore?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Time for Osborne to go

"Greater self-love hath no man than he lay down his best friend for his political career"


Rape - it's what juries are for

The papers - and particularly the Guardian - are heavy with opinion pieces arising from the alleged bedroom behaviour of Julian Assange, ranging from the shrill castrate-'em-all feminazis to the angels-on-a-pinhead legislators who see the solution in making each act of intercourse akin to a passport visa application. It seems we're still not grown up enough to trust a legal process that on the whole works quite well.

Rape is rightly an indictable offence; imagine some female Roland Freisler like District Judge exercising their prejudices. It quite rightly takes a jury to convict. To prove guilt, there must be both actus reus and mens rea; rape cannot ever be a strict liability crime. Moreover, unlike a complex long-firm fraud or international VAT 'carousel' evasion case, pretty much every member of the jury will have a clear understanding of the processes and issues at hand. It's exactly the sort of criminal accusation that English juries were made to hear.   

Monday, 20 August 2012

Apres la canicule, l'Euro

Richard North, on EU Referendum, and Christopher Booker in his Telegraph column yesterday, report on recent events within Germany, largely unremarked in not only the British press but elsewhere. The tectonic plates have shifted, and today we have a Germany no longer prepared, as Mr Draghi promised, to save the Euro at any cost. 

In France, La Figaro also does its best to ignore the Euro crisis; the canicule, or heatwave, is bigger news. Le Monde reports on new figures for Spanish banking bad debts on housing; now up to 10% of the banks' loan book, €164 bn. This is only the tip of the iceburg. As I have commented before, the OMV (open market value) of Spanish property is about half the value that the banks hold on their books.

And I can't find anyone still arguing that Greece needs to stay in the Eurozone. Grexit is a done deal, the only question is when. Back in June, I opted in a comment on C@W for a July collapse; clearly I underestimated the grasp on life of the doomed single currency, but this is at a terrible human cost. Self-murder has joined malnourishment as being unremarkable in Greece. 

Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reported on a French Academician's insight into the coming process that carries a note of verity. Just as the assassination of an Archduke in Sarajevo set in motion a process of Europe-wide mobilisation and deployment in accordance with fixed rail-transport plans, a process that monarchs and governments were almost wholly powerless to prevent once in motion, so the systems in place in the banks will react automatically once the process starts of the Euro unravelling, and until it plays its course, governments and central banks will only be able to stand by and watch.