Tag Archives: Saville Row

A haircut before the guillotine

That is how we sometimes see life. We are all dressed up, all ready, smooth shave and a decent look, all on route to the main event where we are the guest of honour at a dinner party hosted by Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. Yes, we are the person on the chopping block. When death is all you look forward to, the way getting there will mean the most to anyone.

So out comes the master of coiffure, to make sure that the shave and the haircut were done to levels of excellence that you never considered before. Master tailor Marc de Luca will come and see you to make sure that the suit is one that Versace will look at with utter envy, the people on Saville Row will look with utter amazement on just how perfect a suit can be, because you must look your best on route to that once in a life time dinner party with Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, all the elements mattered the most on this one day.

So there is the setting you see when we consider ‘EU says Greece can ‘finally turn the page’ as bailout ends‘. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/20/eu-greece-bailout-ends-pierre-moscovici) gives us “Greece has turned the page to become “a normal” member of the single currency“. Yes in that regard it is nice to know that a mental health setting of ignorance when it comes to the economy, is still riding high with too many individuals. I mentioned it over 3 years ago in the article ‘Dress rehearsal (part 1)‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2015/07/01/dress-rehearsal-part-1/), where I stated ““Greece would face an unsustainable level of debt by 2030 even if it signs up to the full package of tax and spending reforms demanded of it, according to unpublished documents compiled by its three main creditors“, the reason that I call it questionable, is because Greece is what I call a 3G nation, which means it will take three generations for this debt to become close to manageable. So, with that I imply that the debt is still a massive form of pressure in 2061, there is no escaping it“. That part we now see with “Greece has the highest government debt in the EU, 177% of gross domestic product, and is forecast to be repaying loans until 2060“. WOW! I was off by one year and that was me using my fingers and an abacus over three years ago. Now we see that it will be all done by 2060, which is actually not a certainty. I took a few setbacks in consideration that are likely to be missing here, so considering that this started 8 years ago, we see that in the end it will take another 42 years, making my ‘three generation‘ prediction spot on. Yet the good news is not yet done. When we consider that the debt is 177% of gross domestic product, the fact that youth unemployment remains at 43.6%, as well as a few setbacks, there is merely one stupid act of starting another bonds plan and it all goes south really really fast.

The first is that with “Athens will face more exacting checks than any other Eurozone member, so Brussels can monitor whether the government’s budgets are in line with EU stability and growth targets” Greece will still be bound by some factors. The setting is a given if Greece decided to try the Goldman Sachs strategy again, the future will start to look extremely dim again at that point, with little to no hope on resolving it ever. There will always be politicians that play the fast and loose card whenever they are in a pickle, which will soon thereafter become the ‘fast and lose‘ scenario, especially for the Greek population.

Even now we see the quote: “Many analysts believe it will take a decade before Greece returns to pre-crisis living standards following a slump in which its economy contracted by 25% and unemployment peaked at 28%“, I am not convinced that it will be that quick. It might be if serious investors can be found to pump up the Greek economy like a Google space, an Apple hub and an IBM data centre. Those steps will be a turn for the good for Greece, but without a really large player opening the field, Greece keeps on lagging behind and a decade will not be enough to set the economy back on track to the pre-crises degree stated. Furthermore, there is the consideration of “levels of extreme poverty jumped. The population has fallen by 3% because of emigration and a lower birth rate“, you see, the levels of extreme poverty also slows the recovery setting and the loss of population will not merely mean that there are less jobs required, it also means that a continuation of certain aspects can no longer happen. So the setting of parent to child implies that more and more businesses die over time lowering the GDP further, which in turn shoves the debt up by 5%-10% more than previous. So it is not the percentage, it is the €336,900,000,000 that is due its interest and that amount is not shifting merely due to the shifting GDP percentage. It is rising because 336 billion implies 6-9 billion euro of interest a year and with a population of less than 11 million, whilst we get the slightly over enthusiastic “By 2023 unemployment is forecast to fall to 14%“, yes, I’ll accept that when I see it. You see, last October it was 20.7 percent. This now give us that close to 2.5 million Greeks are not paying tax. So exactly how are they not merely getting the infrastructure paid for, but in addition to that pay for the 6-9 billion in annual interest? From my point of view the picture we are given is a rosy coloured setting of ‘Bull dung and grapes’, at which point the grapes are not that appetising anymore.

The final part is seen with “As a condition of getting debt relief, Athens agreed to the EU’s demand to run a budget surplus of 3.5% of GDP until 2022 and thereafter 2%. However, the International Monetary Fund, a co-funder of the bailouts, has long argued this goal is too onerous for a country that has endured years of belt-tightening“. That shows part of the imbalance, or merely the gross injustice to the Greek population. There is close to no way to live with the ‘a budget surplus of 3.5% of GDP until 2022‘, unless you cook the books that is, which is a purely personal speculated option. It merely seems more than an impossible task and agreeing towards demands that are unrealistic is just not acceptable and utterly inhumane.

Forbes is on my side in this. The article (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/francescoppola/2018/08/20/lessons-for-the-eurozone-from-the-greek-debt-crisis) gives us: “Fiscal austerity is on the menu for generations to come. Furthermore, if GDP takes a nosedive – as both business cycle theory and economic history tell us is almost certain to happen at some point during that time – further cuts will be necessary to meet primary surplus targets. In the light of this, the IMF has expressed serious reservation about the sustainability of Greek finances. If it is right, then the Greek crisis is not ended. It will be back with a vengeance in a decade or so“, I actually believe that ‘a decade or so‘, is a little optimistic. When we correct for Murphy (anything that can go wrong will go wrong), the tie line will shove the entire situation to the foreground by the year 2025.

The article is a really good read, mainly because it gives us in short the history on how it happened, which was essential in all this, because the danger of “in 2009 the Greek government lied about the true state of its finances, and that the pre-crisis boom had resulted in a fiscal deficit of 15% of GDP and debt/GDP of well over 100%” is a setting that is not unlikely to return in the 2023-2025 years, for a few reasons, especially when the Greeks are set in a stage of what is humanly called to be in a stage ‘without a pot to piss in‘. there will be overreactions and that is when things go from bad to worse and in that time, when there is still 35 years to go, a lot of people will re-enter new (read: even more harsh) levels of austerity.

So even when we think that the bailouts have ended, we also need to consider that this is academically correct, yet the truth is that we need to realise that in a little less than 16 months “the expensive debt to the International Monetary Fund, some 2.6 billion euros of which is due by the end of 2019” (source: Bloomberg), apart from the interest, posts like the maturing bonds come out to play and that is in this case well over 2.6 billion, also we need to consider ‘the interest Greece has to pay on bonds is still too high at about 4.2 percent‘, there we see that the additional pressures that Greece gets from refinancing all those bonds come at a huge cost. In addition to that part, we also need to notice ‘National Bank of Greece issued international bonds (XS1698932925) with a 2.75% coupon for EUR 750.0m maturing in 2020‘, so where will that money be coming from? We accept that seven hundred and fifty million Euros is not a lot when you say it fast, but in lieu of the outstanding debts, the budget surplus as well as bond maturities, all that whilst the economy is not on track and will not be anywhere near that in 2020, my prediction of a new stage of defaulting by 2025 might have been slightly too optimistic.

Personally I really hope that we can find a decent solution for Greece, a solution that allows for a growing economy because Greece is an awesome place and for the most Greeks are awesome (unless you’re German at that point you’re on your own). The good news is not there yet and I personally believe that some players are still stacking the cards in a way that suits them and not Greece. I am referring to the message: ‘S&P Global Ratings upgrades Foreign Currency LT credit rating of National Bank of Greece to “B-” from “CCC+”; outlook stable‘. It was given to the people on June 6th 2018. I personally do not believe it to be correct or better stated ‘justified’. Bloomberg gave us those goods an hour ago with: ‘Greek Bad Loans Are a Drag Even after Crisis Shrank Bank Sector‘. Basically an hour ago we were treated to “the problem she saw 12 years ago lingers on — Greece’s banks are still weighed down by bad loans. That’s making them cautious about new lending, which the country’s cratered economy needs to grow again after its European bailout ended on August 20th“. Basically hidden ghosts still rock the financial cadaver of Greece and there is more to come. Do you really think that ‘stable’ is the correct word? When we consider the S&P definitions we end up getting “An obligation rated ‘B’ is more vulnerable to non-payment than obligations rated ‘BB’, but the obligor currently has the capacity to meet its financial commitments on the obligation. Adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitments on the obligation“, if the entire setting relies on ‘currently‘ I end up with the consideration that this could revert to a more negative stage by years end and then we see that the costs will increase whilst the maintenance of a budget surplus is close to a nil percent possibility at that point.

If we see that this is going on and the stage is set in several ways against Greece, who was the message ‘Greece can ‘finally turn the page’‘ for? Was it for the EU and European, was it for Greece (as an optional setting of false hope) or was this as the starting signal for Wall Street? In my mind the question becomes, who exactly was The European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici catering for? Perhaps it is less complicated, perhaps he was merely acting as the maître des cérémonies for Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. To set the stage, where in the old days, executions by guillotine were a popular form of entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators (their version of the Roman bread and games). Perhaps that is what is needed in Europe and for now the Greek government is unaware that their status has been elevated from underdog to the proverbial ‘guest of honour’.

Yet in all this, we need to be more then sceptical, there is much doubt and most of it based on common sense. We need to realise that the setting of Greece remains close to unacceptable, these levels of austerity will have to continue not for a decade, but for several decades, mainly because until the economy gets an actual boost, the options of budget surplus seem to be so unrealistic that whatever was signed was basically signed under duress. If the CIA and others stopped torturing a terrorist because the issue was too inhumane and the intelligence was never reliable, why would you transfer such levels of inhumane economic pressure to a European ally?

In the entire Greek economic setting that one part never ever made any sense to me.

 

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Choices we make under pressure

It is an odd day, one day we predict and await, the next day we see how issues are just settled out of media. Now, at times I am all for keeping the media out. Not to put too delicate a point on it, but some members of a group we at times laughingly refer to as ‘people with journalistic integrity’ seems to have a moral view that is only slightly worse than a crack user in Camden. So as I saw that Chuka Umunna was going for the Labour leadership, I took a look at him. I saw just one interview he had just after the elections and I was not impressed. That is not a measurement of anything. You see, when Ed Miliband abdicated, which is a shame in one way, but understandable in another, I expected to see a person equal to the presenting task. Mr Umunna was not it. Now, that is just a first impression. I have no idea about his family, his extended family or anything else, I do not care about them (not meant in a bad way). In my view, it is about the man/woman and his/her political ability. The rest does not matter to me. Doesn’t it seem strange that a person who fights to get on top of things, who works hard to get anywhere, that person should not be measured by anything else but him/her! If I was to be measured by my abusive alcoholic father, I would be a lot better of going to the top of the closest by high building and enjoy the view on the way down (and I do not mean via the stairs or elevator). I am my own man, I fought to get where I got and I did it mostly myself. That is how I would measure Chuka Umunna!

So when it was revealed that he pulled out, I became curious (at https://www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/waugh-room/why-chuka-pulled-out). It is this quote “But the 48 hours crystallised his view that he just didn’t want the level of private scrutiny that being a Labour leadership contender, let alone Labour leader or Prime Minister, could entail“, which is fair enough! Or is it?

You see people in high places always had scrutiny, they accept that, but nowadays, the press has taken all of this into a realm that is no longer acceptable. So when you see this quote: “It’s also true that his girlfriend’s elderly grandmother was contacted by the media” in that article, we should consider what level of harassment any person in public office should get, and to what degree their family members are allowed to be shielded from. Remember, this is not the media around the election, this is day 5 after the elections and the pressure is already on. The fact that Chuka is shielding his family from all this for the coming 5 years is understandable but still regrettable.

This reflects back to the beginning. Was my view right? For now, I reckon so! For now he is the starter, the newbie, likely to be prone to all kinds of beginner’s mistakes, but that is what happens in year 0 (as any faction leader would face). Yet, should we accept this? Even as a conservative, I wonder whether the press is now engaging in acts that deprives the British people from proper representation. Is Chuka Umunna the best representation Labour would get? Well, now it seems that the Labour party will never find out, the press seems to have put a stop on that. Let me be frank, as a public figure, Mr Umunna can expect all kinds of exposure, to a limited degree the immediate family too, but the pressure to the extent some people get now it is a lot less acceptable. We get back to the press and how the press is actually abusing its freedom.

Lord Tebbit, former conservative MP for Epping and Chingford once stated: “It’s better to risk the press abusing its freedom than to risk the authorities abusing an unfree press“. In my own way I would add to that, that this might have been true in the days when his lordship was young and innocent, but in today’s society we must truly consider whether the press remains such a force of consideration. The term ‘risk regarding the press abusing its freedom‘ is now with some certainty the issue of ‘the press abusing the rights and freedoms of the people for the need of innuendo and circulation‘. This goes far beyond the old Hacked off issues. From the moment that was settled we saw some articles grovelling, then hyping on how freedom is such a good thing and how the press can regulate itself and that entire matter was not even a month old we got ‘MH370 suicide flight‘, were we ever shown any actual evidence to that? Now it is likely to get worse and many of my readers from the UK have not signed up for their possible political representation to be scrutinised to such a harassing degree. Here I must oppose Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter. In the interview in the Guardian, where after only 8 seconds he goes on with ‘but we have a great range of talent out there still hoping to run‘, so the person the conservatives feared the most (me thinks not) is replaced after 8 seconds for the next person. There is something wrong here too. If Chuka Umunna is such a great person, why not fight for him. You see, either Chuka is not that great a politician (fair enough) or this is about the worry on how much limelight labour will get from the press regarding the ‘wrong’ person. That is an immediate threat to the democratic freedom of all. So this is not about NOT looking into a politician, this is about the decent level of privacy the not immediate family is entitled to.

In the Guardian we also see Mary Creagh who was quoted from BBC Radio 4 “Modern politicians with social media, Facebook and emails face pressures even 15 or 20 years ago they did not face … We are expected to be some how superhuman”, is that true, or is there an increasingly skewed action by the press to overexpose whatever is not perfectly spotless and in that manner undo whatever good a politician is trying to do.

In the Daily Mail (I apologise for using a lowly regarded source of information) we see two quotes “Chuka Umunna is the articulate politician who had hoped to make the Labour Party electable again after the humiliations suffered under Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. But many party workers were worried that this 36-year-old, 6ft-tall, well-dressed former lawyer may be just a little too smooth. The grandson of a British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war trials, Chuka was educated at a private boys’ school, and was a chorister at Southwark Cathedral. His voice can be heard singing the theme tune to the Rowan Atkinson comedy Mr Bean. Mr Umunna thinks nothing of spending £1,200 on bespoke suits from Alexandra Wood, an exclusive Saville Row tailor“.

So why would this be an issue? The terms ‘well-dressed‘ and ‘too smooth‘? The fact that he is the grandson of a former War Crimes prosecutor! That counts! Then there is the Saville Row reference, so this is not about skill, this is about the image that he inherited, the choices he made. Yet this person also decided to give his time to Labour, to champion the workers. He did not become a conservative as rich people seem to be seen as. In addition we get the quote “He was forced to apologise two years ago after it was revealed that he had once commented on a website that London’s nightclubs were ‘full of trash and C-list wannabes’“, so now people must apologise for speaking the truth? Have you seen the trash that comes out of some of these clubs? Smashed, drunk as a skunk and regularly we see how some of these places will have people leaving on all kinds of chemical trips. This is a consequence of binge drinking and slipping 1-2 pills with the white wine. This whilst many of them ladies complain on how they were entitled to VIP treatments in clubs so much better than the one they just crawled out of on all four. So perhaps Chuka Umunna is more than just a little right. Perhaps the press was worried on not having a hold on a person like this and they prefer a person slightly more ‘colourful’ (pardon the pun).

So where will Labour stand? Time will tell. Bren Bradshaw was right in one regard. The Labour party has loads of talent, no one denies that, but they’ve already forgotten that Ed Miliband was plenty talented and to some extent even visionary (in the wrong time as I saw it). So as the second talented member gets pushed off stage, are we seeing the effects of internal power plays and if so, should the press not be held to account for being the tool in all this?

I will let you, the reader mull over those facts and you should come to your own conclusions.

 

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Two sides of a political nature

The NOS (source: www.nos.nl ) is again inspiration to today’s blog. The Dutch television mentioned two articles that have bearing on this. The second one is about Syria, so you the reader will probably have your own views. The first one is an important one, yet, it might at present not be on your radar.

A scandal hit Dutch politics as the Chairman of the First room. A position that is comparable to speaker of the house in the US or the speaker of the House of Lords in the UK has resigned. His position must be one of pure neutrality. A position that came into question in an article by the newspaper called ‘the Volkskrant’ (translated: The People’s paper). In that article he was quoted to have stated that keeping a politician out of the procession during the Royal inauguration was in the back of his mind. That is regarded as a huge ‘no no’ and as such, to prevent escalation, he resigned his position as speaker of the house.

This is not about former speaker Fred de Graaf. It is about a certain approach to certain political parties. You see in the 90’s there was the CP (Centrum Party). This was an ultra-right movement with such an outspoken disdain for that what did not fit, that they made the Ku Klux Klan look like a social moderate organisation. Yes, they are that extreme. Whenever its speaker ‘JanMaat’ spoke out, politicians would walk away, not debate, just remain silent. I always regarded that as an utter mistake. Political scientists told me on how good the approach was, how the wind was taken away from his sails. Yet, as he was allowed to speak unchallenged a fearful thing happened, people accepted his words to some extent. He gained 3 seats in parliament (Dutch version of the House of Commons). Finally someone woke up and they started to debate issues and of course, that resulted in the Centrum Party losing all three seats in the following elections 4 years later. Silence is NOT golden!

Following that event a new party came, the name was ‘Leefbaar Nederland’ (translated as ‘Liveable Netherlands’). This was led by a person named Pim Fortuyn. This was nothing like the Centrum Party! Mr Fortuyn was a person of Charisma, he was a true politician and he was an excellent speaker. The issue was that there were similarities. The platform still had ‘full=full’ in a central position. You see, the Netherlands is not that large. In the US it is only slightly larger than Maryland (30%), and Tasmania Australia is 50% larger than the Netherlands, a nation with 17 million, making it one of the densest populated nations on the planet. He had a few radical (read politically incorrect idea’s) those messages do not matter. What was the issue, was the fact that his charisma gave him ten times the following the Centrum Party ever had. In the end Pim Fortuyn was assassinated by a person who was regarded as mentally unstable and an environmental activist. It became a source for years of conspiracy theories.

Now we have Mr Geert Wilders of the PVV (Party for freedom). Mr Wilders visited Australia, which in its own was quite the show as the Australians rebelled against such an extreme politician. The last one has been active in the Dutch House of Commons. An interesting event was that he was denied entrance in the UK. When he did travel via Heathrow with reporters he was detained, only to be shipped back on the next plane.

It seems to me that Geert Wilders is to some extent ignored in political circles. The danger here is that this man is no Mr Janmaat of the CP. This man is highly intelligent and a decent speaker. He is also a lot stronger political muscle then the previous two politicians. Not engaging him has strengthened him, and as such his party now has 10% of the seats in the Dutch House of Commons. It could be debated that as he is a strong speaker going up against him would have a risky factor for anyone debating him as he can be ruthless.

So the question becomes, why are politicians so easy to choose the ignore option to fight the values they and many others detest? Is that not a showing of cowardice? If we are truly vested in not allowing a growth of right wing extremities to grow into political houses, then ignoring is not a solution. If you think that we are all in a better place, think again. Look at the statistics of poverty and unemployment rates then consider that we are close to the levels that we had in the times leading up to WW2. That was the beginning of a group that held a great power to politically manipulate in the past. To see that part escalate, read on below where we look at Syria.

As history is to repeat itself, we see a growing fear of returning events of escalations. Syria has according to the evidence engaged the use of Chemical weapons on a small scale. The body count has surpassed 150 (dying of the effects of chemical warfare) and now several parties are under agreement that the straw that broke the camel’s back had been delivered. A coalition which currently contains France and UK, with the US now ready to join ranks has put their foot down. We have seen the consequences, we have seen the movies and medical evidence, yet the Russians are not convinced (in a state of denial). When we look at Chemical warfare, we see a weapon of Mass Destruction. So did the Press speak to people like Oznobistchev, Saveliev and Arbotov? Are they not supposed to be experts in the area of WMD? So did the press get to them, or was there a health statement of laryngitis by Director Bortnikov? #JustSaying. The issue is not just the Yay or Nay. It is that again we have two sides. The Russian side, delivering S-300 missiles to Syria and there is the other side. I have no issue with Russia delivering the hardware. It is legitimate hardware and no matter how we feel, the sovereign ruler of a nation bought a defensive weapon system for its country. In all honesty I must confess that at 3% commission, selling missiles at 250 million per system looks appealing. Charging that much for a weapon system that the Russians took off the market in 2012? I’d sell that! One must always be ready to pay the tailor, and Saville Row is slightly costly. Those systems are not used to deploy chemical weapons, but they will stop those who want to stop them. Where is this going?

This re-reads like the beginning of another Vietnam. One goes one corner, one goes the other (music by: Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Two Tribes). This is the level of high stakes poker we currently cannot afford to play. This is likely to have repercussions on all levels. From the previous part one could come to the conclusion that politicians prefer to evade. That might actually be less of an option. This is because larger players now have their ego at stake. The issue is not them, as whatever escalates will be far from their bedrooms. The issue is now quickly becoming Jordan AND Israel, as they both will get caught in the middle. Jordan already has rising issues as the Syrian population is running for their lives, straight into the arms of Jordan’s dwindling resources. It will also raise risks for Israel as HAMAS and their allies will see this as an option to really light the tinderbox.

So what can we do to solve this? Well, what if we can get info from another party? Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan was/is a member of the WMDC (weapons of mass destruction commission). This all affects his country one way or another. What are his views? Has he seen any evidence? I think that this is more about settling the Syrian war. Settling that war can never succeed if we do not bolster stability in the region overall.

I believe that when, not if that stability fails, America will not need to worry about finding Lone-Wolf terrorists. There will be every chance that people from Morocco to Egypt will rush to enlist with Al-Qaeda, a scenario no one wants.

I fear that some have lost sight of that. There is too much smoke and the wrong people are calling to push buttons, whilst they are not at risk at all.

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