Friday, October 31, 2008

Review of The Gods That Failed

I found Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson’s book The Gods That Failed on the credit crunch and the build-up to it to be both interesting and amusing. The book uses the colourful analogy of the ancient Greek gods on Mount Olympus when considering the powerful forces of the international financial markets. They are portrayed as capricious gods who promised wealth and prosperity to people and nations if only they would sacrifice their business regulations, welfare states, nationalised industries, trade union rights and progressive taxation systems to it. They have failed to deliver on this. Their ‘servants’ – the wealthy businessmen, traders, journalists, academics, politicians and opinion-formers – who promote this ideology as portrayed as the ‘New Olympians’, living on Mount Olympus distant from the sufferings their favoured policies have inflicted on mere mortals down on earth.

The key points in the book are that the economic growth in Britain and the US over the past decade and a half has been mainly caused by consumer spending. This consumer spending has been sustained, to a significant degree, by taking on more and more debt. People’s consumption has been growing faster than their incomes. This may be partly because people are becoming more acquisitive but, also, because incomes for those on average and below-average earnings have not been growing as fast as they were in the 1945-73 period.

The low interest rates of the period since the early 1990s have also encouraged two things. It has encouraged asset price bubbles as people are more able to borrow large sums of money to buy property since the interest payments are low. Also, the low rate of interest has tempted institutional investors into more risky investments as part of a ‘hunt for yield’.

The financial markets have also developed more and more advanced systems for lenders to pass on their loans to others. Mortgages can be packed into mortgage-backed securities, collateralised debt obligations and other such weird financial instruments. This makes it increasingly hard to calculate risk. It doesn't matter to a company if they have made a risky loan if they can then pass it on to another firm.

Additionally, the growth in derivatives and related instruments mean that holders of some financial instruments are not hedging but magnifying their potential gains and losses from any given movement of share or commodity prices. That is all well and good if, say, someone has bet on silver going up in price and it does. But, if they have bet on it going down in price, their loss is magnified in the event that it rises in price. They could be obliged to close down their futures contracts at a huge loss to themselves. Given that a lot of these speculators are not playing with their own money, but with the money of banks, pension funds and others then this has huge potential problems.

The authors also highlight the large trade deficits of the US and the UK. Although some aspects of the asset price and debt bubble are common to lots of countries, the UK and the US have the additional problem (that Japan and Germany lack) of a large trade deficit. That means they have to borrow money from, say, China in order to buy Chinese manufactured goods. The Chinese are lending us the money to buy their own exports. The oil-rich Middle Eastern states are doing the same, as is Japan.

In a sense, the economic boom of the 1990s and early 2000s has been artificially prolonged and exaggerated by us mortgaging our own future. There is only so long that China will be willing and able to lend the developed countries money to buy its products. As the UK and US get more indebted and more pressure falls on sterling and the dollar, the more likely it is they will fall in value. If so, the value of Chinese and Japanese assets in the UK and US falls. That will mean that they will more or less have to sell up – causing even further falls in sterling and the dollar. There is only so long that Chinese consumers will be willing to save a lot of their meagre just so that the nationalised banks and related enterprises of the Chinese economy can lend money to firms that then lend it to richer American consumers.

The book does launch a number of criticisms of the ‘Left’ – the core of it being that, because of its focus on ‘identity politics’ and ‘post-material’ issues – it has taken the eye off the ball and let the deregulation of the financial markets go unchecked. The book is written by the economics correspondents of the Guardian (Elliot) and Daily Mail (Atkinson). The Daily Mail’s dislike for the ‘nanny state’ is manifested in the chapter that talks of the increased public expenditure of the early 2000s contributing to growth but that this growth was not well-targetted. They seem to think that too much money was spent on employing people to deal with ‘equalities issues’ and to change public behaviour (e.g. health education, parenting classes, the smoking ban). There is perhaps some truth to the charge that, as parties of the left became more pro-market, they switched their radicalism to social issues. However, there is a danger of over-egging the pudding on this. After all, social issues are important as well and anyone who calls themselves progressive would not like to go back to an era when racism, homophobia and so forth were more socially acceptable. Also, although issues like anti-alcohol and anti-smoking campaigns may seem like a ‘nanny state’ matter it is legitimate for the state to wish to improve the health of the population. That should be part of its role to improve the general welfare.

The other respect in which the book does not take a ‘conventional’ left stand is in their desire for what they call an ‘independent middle-class’. They do mention that the tide of market forces has swept away trade union rights and job security for the working-class. They also mention that the ideology of deregulation means that the position of middle-class professionals such as doctors and lawyers and the position of small businessmen are challenged. They want to see the government making a greater effort to protect them – since they see an independent middle-class as an important part of civil society. From my point of view, that’s all well and good, but the priority must be to help those at the bottom of the pile more than them.

Their solution to the credit crunch and to prevent it from happening in the same way again is to put finance back in its cage. This was achieved prior to the 1970s and it could be done again. One key point they mention is the Glass-Seagall Act in the US in the 1930s. That existed for decades and separated out retail banking from investment banking and other more speculative activities. They think that should be reintroduced in the US and introduced here in the UK. That would stop problems in the financial markets directly affecting ordinary savers and borrowers so dramatically. In addition, certain credit and capital controls are suggested. This would make finance the servant of the real economy rather than vice-versa. The sticks suggested to make firms obey these new laws rather than evade them are making it clear to firms that limited-liability, trusts and fractional-reserve banking are privileges. The state could threaten to remove these privileges from firms that abuse them. Unlimited liability would definitely make company directors less reckless with their firm’s money.

The book also points out that the government could ask for all new financial instruments (CDOs, MBSs and other such devices) to be pre-approved. If an instrument has not been approved, then the courts would refuse to enforce contracts concerning it. There is always the danger of companies and individuals moving their money overseas but this is over-played. As Elliot and Atkinson point out, governments let them be too easily blackmailed by this threat. In practice, even if two Channel Islands or Cayman Islands companies come into dispute they will need to have the judgement enforced in the UK. Otherwise, how can a trust in these tax havens exercise control over a business with workers in the UK? After all, the productive economic activity of the world – on which a lot of the finance industry is parasitic upon – is based in large nation-states not in little tax havens. It is not the tax havens that produce the wealth of the world, but the efforts of workers throughout the globe. The governments of the lands that those workers live in can use their sovereignty to prevent profits from these activities seeping away into tax havens.

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Voter's Guide


The Sandwich Generation and our next financial meltdown

I have been thinking so much about our role as members of the Sandwich Generations--being a parent of a young child, a daughter of parents reaching retirement age, and a granddaughter as well.

In our family we have a quadruple-decker sandwich in which the 90-year-olds, the 65-year-olds, and the 40-year-olds all worry about each other. (Only the kids are blissfully oblivious.)

My 65-year old parents are each facing retirement as single divorced people, and each one of them also has one 90+ year old parent living in a retirement community.

There are two trends here that I have been meaning to write about. One is that when divorced parents reach retirement, you start worrying about them in a new way, and it's like a new sequel, "The Return of the Divorce," being written. I have long ago come to terms with the emotional issues of their divorce, but now 24 years later, the practical issues are huge. Now there are two individual Seniors who each need to plan retirement, and need care, or a family member to be with them and help navigate health challenges, and they are not working with each other as they would be if they were married.

I am an only child so their "person" is me. (Often, when there are multiple adult children, one of them still ends up carrying this responsibility largely alone.) There are financial issues galore, from the fact that a displaced home-maker receives a much smaller monthly Social Security check than her former husband, to the fact that it costs a lot more to fund two households and long-term care options in retirement.

I had been meaning to blog about this last month but then the Wall Street financial meltdown took over the financial spotlight. But we as adult children of aging parents need to get these issues on our radar NOW. Unfortunately, this could be our next financial meltdown, made worse by the fact that just about everyone's retirement savings have taken a huge hit this month. had a very sad article about Boomer adults kissing their own retirements goodbye because they need to tap into their own savings to pay for their parents' care when Mom & Dad don't have resources of their own: Hello Mom, Goodbye Retirement.

This is a huge issue for married women in particular because we live longer and yet we may let our husbands "handle the finances." If we turn our retirement planning over to our husbands and they mess it up, we may be left living with the consequences for decades as widows or divorcees.

That's an ugly wake-up call to imagine, but we can try to reframe it in a more positive way for younger women by emphasizing that each of us needs to take charge of our personal financial future and save for our retirement. This need is on par with our children's college savings and in some ways is even more important. If we can help our children save enough for basic college expenses, or show them how to qualify for student loans, then the extra savings beyond that level may be better allocated to our personal retirement savings. Our children may thank us when they are 40.

I'll be writing more on this issue, but if you are willing to dive in to the issue, I highly recommend Jane Gross' New York Times blog, The New Old Age. It's written from the perspective of Baby Boomer adult children caring for their elderly parents. If you are in your 30's or 40's, these concerns are likely to come your way sooner than you think.

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I Exhort You to Do What Kristi Burton Encourages: Pray and Fast for Proposition #48

Dear Friends,

We are so grateful for your support over the last few months and year as we've worked to protect every human being, no matter how small. Let's pray even harder these last few days, and commit this work to the Lord. We can plow the fields, but He must bring the rain.
Please pray that God would touch the hearts of the voters...even at the last minute as they enter the voting booth. Please pray that they would know and vote according to the truth, and that the truth would set them free.

We are specifically creating a "3 Day Prayer Team." We're asking people to commit to prayer and fasting (if they are able) for 3 days, just like Queen Esther and her people did. So this means Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (Election Day). Prayer and fasting do change things!

Ask everyone you know to keep praying for Amendment 48 to pass and for lives to be saved, both physically and spiritually.

Thank you again for standing with us in the battle for life.

The YES on 48 Campaign

Kristi Burton
Initiative Sponsor
Colorado Personhood Amendment
(719) 661-8827

Vote "YES!" on 48…Every Person Counts!

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Here's your chance....

To carve a pumpkin online. The only one I'll do this year.....

Thanks to Knox Views Ashvegas.

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Gary Becker on the financial crisis

Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker blogs about the recent financial turmoil.
Is this the final "Crisis of Global Capitalism"- to borrow the title of a book by George Soros written shortly after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98? The crisis that kills capitalism has been said to happen during every major recession and financial crisis ever since Karl Marx prophesized the collapse of capitalism in the middle of the 19th century. Although I admit to having greatly underestimated the severity of this financial crisis, I am confident that sizable world economic growth will resume under a mainly capitalist world economy. Consider, for example, that in the decade after Soros' and others predictions of the collapse of global capitalism following the Asian crisis in the 1990s, both world GDP and world trade experienced unprecedented growth. The South Korean economy, for example, was pummeled during that crisis, but has had significant economic growth ever since. I expect robust world economic growth to resume once we are over the current severe financial difficulties.
Finally, the magnitude of this crisis must be placed in perspective. Although it is the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it is a far far smaller crisis, especially in terms of the effects on output and employment. The United States had about 25 percent unemployment during most of the decade from 1931 until 1941, and sharp falls in GDP. Other countries experienced economic difficulties of a similar magnitude. American GDP so far during this crisis has essentially not yet fallen, and unemployment has reached only about 61/2 percent. Both figures are likely to get considerably worse, but they will nowhere approach those of the 1930s.
I stop agreeing with him when he says this:
Was the extent of the Treasury's and Fed's involvement in financial markets during the past several weeks justified? Certainly there was a widespread belief during this week among both government officials and participants in financial markets that short-term capital markets completely broke down. Not only Lehman, but also Goldman Sachs, Stanley Morgan, and other banks were also in serious trouble. Despite my deep concerns about having so much greater government control over financial transactions, I have reluctantly concluded that substantial intervention was justified to avoid a major short-term collapse of the financial system that could push the world economy into a major depression.
Still, the brilliant economist he is, Becker recognizes the potential trouble posed by government intervention.

Still, we have to consider potential risks of these governmental actions. Taxpayers may be stuck with hundreds of billions, and perhaps more than a trillion, dollars of losses from the various insurance and other government commitments.


Future moral hazards created by these actions are certainly worrisome. On the one hand, the equity of stockholders and of management in Fannie and Freddie, Bears Stern, AIG, and Lehman Brothers have been almost completely wiped out, so they were not spared major losses. On the other hand, that makes it difficult to raise additional equity for companies in trouble because suppliers of equity would expect their capital to be wiped out in any future forced governmental assistance program. Furthermore, that bondholders in Bears Stern and these other companies were almost completely protected implies that future financing will be biased toward bonds and away from equities since bondholders will expect protections against governmental responses to future adversities that are not available to equity participants. Although the government was apparently concerned that foreign central banks were major holders of the bonds of the Freddies, I believe it was unwise to give them and other bondholders such full protection.

Various other mistakes were made in government actions in financial markets during the past several weeks. Banning short sales during this week is an example of a perennial approach to difficulties in financial markets and elsewhere; namely, "shoot the messenger". Short sales did not cause the crisis, but reflect beliefs about how long the slide will continue. Trying to prevent these beliefs from being expressed suppresses useful information, and also creates serious problems for many hedge funds that use short sales to hedge other risks. Their ban can also cause greater panic in other markets.

Potential political risks of these actions are also looming. The two Freddies should before long be either closed down, or made completely private with no governmental insurance protection of their lending activities. Their heavy involvement in the mortgage backed securities markets were one cause of the excessive financing of home mortgages. I fear, however, that Congress will eventually recreate these companies in more or less their old form, with a mission to continue to artificially expand the market for mortgages.

New regulations of financial transactions are a certainty, but whether overall they will help rather than hinder the functioning of capital markets is far from clear. For example, Professor Shimizu of Hitotsubashi University has recently shown that the Bank of International Settlement (BIS) regulation on the required minimum ratio of bank capital to their assets was completely misleading in predicting which Japanese banks got into trouble during that country's financial crisis of the 1990s. Other misguided regulations, such as permanent restrictions on short sales, or discouragement of securitization of assets, will both reduce the efficiency of financial markets in the United States, and they will shift even larger amounts of financial transactions to London, Shanghai, Tokyo, Dubai, and other financial centers.

Becker blogs once weekly along with judge Richard Posner. Their comments are almost always worth reading.

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Called in the retrievers

Any more credit crunch jokes anyone?

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama's tax plan does not add up

CBS News:

Without question, the Barack Obama infomercial served as a very slick and powerful recitation of the biggest promises he's made as a presidential candidate. But the very bigness of his ideas is the problem: he seems blind to the concept his numbers don't add up.

Let's start with his highly suspect, and widely discredited, claim that he can find federal "spending cuts beyond the costs" of his promises. Very few independent economists believe he has identified the savings needed to offset his remarkable list of tax credits, tax cuts and spending pledges.

Fact: Even if you believe Obama intends to fix health care, most independent analysts say the cost is massive - $1.2 trillion over ten years, according to the highly respected Lewin Group. When the new Congress wakes up next year to a $1 trillion deficit, and answers the overwhelming new demands for another stimulus package, will the leadership really bite on a health care reform package that digs the deficit hole so much deeper?

And that's just the beginning of what Obama would spend.

Fact: The tax cuts he promises, which are mostly refundable tax credits (code for cash back), will cost $60 billion just in year one, according the National Taxpayers Union, though the Obama campaign's own estimates in July put that figure at $130 billion.

Fact: His new promise to give businesses a $3,000 tax credit for each new job created will cost $40 billion. But economists say this credit is far more likely to benefit companies already planning to expand and will likely not be enough to help companies create new jobs or forestall layoffs.

Fact: Obama's claim he will lower health care premiums by $2,500 is: 1.) guesswork, which is 2.) based on health care savings that might, in a perfect world, happen over 10 years - a fact Obama neatly glosses over.

There is more.

CBS has done more than most in examining Obama promises. They probably have done a better job than the McCain campaign is explaining the incoherence of Obama's tax policy and spending plans.

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Accountability and the BBC

Anton gets it - a UK newspaper complaining about the accountability of the BBC

Here's a question:

Can anyone think of any ownership / management structure that is more effectively accountable than that of the BBC?

Take your time....

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Collective action: conceptually finished

Here's Tom Freeman, going around the houses to arrive at a consideration of the Citizens Basic Income. Worth a look.

And here's Meghnad Desai with the truth about Keynes and profligacy (he wasn't as keen on it as you would be led to believe). This - for me - raises an important question (with a few pre-qualifiers).

  • Labour's historic mission has been to meet everyone's needs by collective provision - where those needs are not met otherwise

  • We have - in the last decade - tried to meet those needs by increasing public spending - and in some areas we've succeeded (and we've failed in others)

  • If there is any justice or sense in the world, we won't need to discuss the structure of collective provision against a white noise of hubristic capitalist privatisation-fetishists anymore
This last point should, of course, provide an opportunity for extended period of gloating and cheap point-scoring. But it also removes the cushion that the left has quietly enjoyed for a very long time now.

We've been able to say - for years - that the privatised semi-state model of collective action is doomed to failure. It's all wrong, it's uncaring and inefficient, it will never work, etc. But we've never felt any pressing need to offer a coherent alternative.

The left knows what it's against, and it shares a very coherent critique that history is clearly beginning to vindicate. But I've not seen any evidence that there is a shared understanding of what we are in favour of now. This isn't just a call for a flurry of pamphlets from various factions, or a collection of stilted meetings at Conway Hall.

The capitalist managerialist caste have a structured way of looking at the world. They send their people on MBA courses in which the virtues of box-ticking and hierarchical management is learned. And while people who work in the public sector may not realise this, their management is - in my experience - a great deal more hierarchical than the structures found in corporations.

They may have been told that the public sector is aping the private sector in this, but I would suggest that this is a very effective piece of propaganda. And when 'Lenin' goes all blasé about 'workers councils', we don't have any answers to the important questions that MBA students address themselves to:

  • How important is ownership? Should it rest with the workers, or with society as a whole? And should workers seek ownership of their workplace, or should they prefer to control it? And is there a tension here?
  • What are the responsibilities of the individual in a collectively managed workplace? After all, when two people agree to feed a horse, the horse usually starves, doesn't it?
  • If workers do seek ownership of their workplace, how is it divided up? At what point? Do you divy it up at the start, or wait a few years? Do you pay dividends if it's successful? And how far does the demand for a dividend compete with a pay structure that isn't flat?
  • If workers seek control, how do they exercise it? Do they pick a management team and leave them for fixed periods at which they are recalled? Or do they all sit on the paperclip procurement committee? At what point between these two poles should we settle?
  • How do you incentivise people to innovate?
  • How do you retain good skills and how do you jettison obsolete or demotivated ones?
  • How do you reward hard work and generally energise a workforce?
  • How do you share good-practice, and how far does a need to compete cut across this imperative?
  • How do you combat the possibility of a dominant producer interest? How does the consumer interest assert itself? And if ownership is held in common, how do we deal with the tragedy of the commons?
  • What about social responsibility? Do individual collectively owned or managed entities have a responsibility to meet ethical / social responsibility / equality aims? And if so, how are these determined, agreed and met?***
These seem to me to be the big questions. You've heard of them all before if you've read Animal Farm, and I'm conscious that lots of my follow lefties will detect some sort of apostasy in the fact that I've even raised some of them. After all, there are bloody obvious answers aren't there?

Well OK. Maybe I've just not seen them written down anywhere.

I used to work with a really annoying (but very clever) software developer. He used to be able to identify all of the big logical problems that needed to be solved in order to build a particular application, and he was very impressive in the way he did this. He used to tell the sales people that it was their job to find customers. They (in this case, me) had to find the customers, sell the idea - sight unseen - and get them to pay for it upfront thereby funding the development (see vaporware).

He used to tell the development team that he'd done his bit and solved all of their big problems for them and the rest was just project management that was a bit beneath him. He'd tell the designers that he wasn't interested in 'usability' or design. Again, they were implementation details.

The product was, he said, conceptually finished. The drones could do the rest.

I wasted three years of my life working with this bloke. We never got a viable product out of the door, he drew a massive salary and the company eventually went bust. Being a lefty is a bit like working with a boss like that. Airy-fairy thinkers get all of the kudos. None of them ever gets their hands dirty. I've never seen any answers to any of those questions backed up be credible field-work in the way that MBA students can answer to questions that they have put to them.

If we are to manage collective provision - and not do it in the inefficient and uncaring way that the managerialist of New Labour have done, we need to start asking these questions and offering alternative models. At the moment, Chris is the only one I've seen asking some of these questions (and raising some more of his own).

(Update: the last bullet point *** was added later -it was a line that somehow got edited out of the draft that was published. Sorry about that now....)

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Is Obama answer to al Qaeda's prayer?


An al Qaeda leader has called for President George W. Bush and the Republicans to be "humiliated," without endorsing any party in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, according to a video posted on the Internet.

"O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him," Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, in a video posted on the Internet.


The remarks were the first comments from a leading al Qaeda figure referring, albeit indirectly, to the U.S. elections. Muslim clerics often end sermons by calling on God to guide and support Muslims and help defeat their enemies.


I suspect they are afraid a direct endorsement will result in a backlash. Can there be any doubt after this prayer that they see Obama as the answer? As much as I think Obama will be a very poor president, I am also sure al Qaeda will be disappointed in him too.

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Here's why hate crimes are a dangerous idea...

Not because law enforcement decided that a Sarah Palin mannequin hung in effigy as part of a Halloween display in Hollywood is not a hate crime; I happen to believe that's protected speech.

No, the reason that hate crimes are a dangerous idea is because had the same display included Barack Obama it might have been:

[Sheriff's Department spokesman]: Whitmore said that potential hate crimes are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If the same display had been made of a Barack Obama-like doll, for example, authorities would have to evaluate it independently, Whitmore said.

"That adds a whole other social, historical hate aspect to the display, and that is embedded in the consciousness of the country," he said, adding he's not sure whether it would be a hate crime. "It would be ill-advised of anybody to speculate on that."

This sort of speaks for itself, and if you don't get it, no comment of mine will cause you to see the light.

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What's the problem? Really?

What is the real problem at Forest? The man behind ‘Through the seasons before us’ is right to sit on the fence about Colin Calderwood’s fate.

For those of you who aren’t Forest fans, here’s the background:We are were (
until last night) bottom of the Championship. On paper, it’s been a terrible start to the season, though the consensus is that – apart from a deserved drubbing at Wolves, we’ve not deserved to lose some of the games we have done. The old ‘too good to go down’ curse that has haunted Forest in the past.

Our manager has been with us for two seasons and this is the start of his third. He failed to get us promoted once, the critics say that he fluked it the second time and has had a terrible start this term. So, the predictable chorus is demanding his sacking, and the armchair tacticians are moaning about his choice of formations. I’m generally almost always against sacking football managers for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the tosser (taking an example at random) that hired Juande Ramos (sacking Martin Jol!) is the same one that has now hired Harry Redknapp. Rather unusually, the people who made the last mistake have a monopoly on the next decision.

Secondly, some of the great managers have had bad starts. Brian Clough had an unimpressive start at Forest – half a very poor season followed by a middling one before ... well, you know the rest don’t you?

Continuing the City Ground theme, it was widely understood that Alex Ferguson would have been fired back in 1989 if United had lost at Forest in the FA Cup 3rd Round as everyone expected them to. A 1-0 shock win at ours (those were the days!) kept Alex in the job, and again, the rest is history.

It can take a good few years for a manager to get a handle on a club, and there is a reasonable chance that you are cutting them off on the verge of something worthwhile if you sack them at all in the first three years. Of course, you are also postponing any stability for a further couple of years as well, because it can take managers a couple of years to get the club to a point at which it can provide judgement on their management.

And this will nearly always happen a few months after the stands have echoed to the chorus of demands for their sacking.

There is, I’m sure, much more analytically-framed evidence to support these first two contentions. I'm pretty sure I've read some of it, but you'll have to find it yourself, because I’m really writing this post to make a third point. It’s this:

You know how astrologers know that planets exist even when they haven’t ever seen them? They know they are there because calculations show that they are. The orbits of other planets are altered by ... something .... so we call it a planet or a moon or something.

There are a few of these in politics: Why are successive British governments uniformly Atlanticist? Why is the UK a fairly slavish supporter of US foreign policy? Is it because politicians all become Yankee bastards the moment they get a whiff of the Cabinet Room? Is it because the Illuminati, P2 and the Bilderberg Group have done their evil worst?

Or is it because there is a gap between what politicians feel that they can explain to the public, and what they have to do in order to avoid the kind of disasters that end political careers? Harold Wilson's need to quietly do as he was told by the US in 1964 is the nearest concrete example I've read, but I'm sure that a year or so doing an MA in Anglo-American Studies would yield up a half-decent answer.

Ditto The Big Brother State. (There is a concluding point about football here, I promise.) I know a couple of Senior Labour Politicians – and I knew them before they were SLPs. There wasn’t much by way of authoritarianism beating in any of their breasts at the time, and Labour isn’t really – at bottom – an authoritarian party. Now I doubt if anyone believes that – whatever the Hon. Member for Magnercarter and Howden* would tell you – that the Tories would be planning anything less intrusive than Labour’s current plans to kit us all out with compulsory transponder-suppositories.

So what is this gap between what they think they need to do in government to avoid being blamed for all sorts of shit, and what they feel able to explain to the public on individual policy areas?

Similarly, at Forest, there is something we don’t know about. We’ve sacked Gary Megson and Joe Kinnear because they weren’t up to getting us out of the Third Division. They are both managing Premiership Clubs now. If we sack Colin Calderwood (and I’d expect very long odds now on him lasting until Xmas, whatever reprieve he got tonight at Crystal Palace), I doubt if there is a manager in the country who will look at the job as anything other than a couple of years at a higher rate than you would expect when there is an absolute certainty of failure.

Because there is something wrong at Forest. The simplistic explanations point to the weight of expectation, the oppressive ghost of Brian, the snarky fans, and so on. But it’s something more complicated than that. When it happens in politics, a reasonably astute spectator can usually – at least – work out what the questions are. But I’ve no idea what the questions that need to be asked at The City Ground are - and I’ve not read anyone who has hinted that they know either.

One thing is for certain: If Colin Calderwood is sacked in the next few weeks, his successor will not be .... er.... a success.

*Nicked from Sadie

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Security theater

Some thoughts on the way we live now.

The most annoying part of having to take off my shoes (besides the sense that I'm taking part in a ritualistic humiliation of my entire culture, with creeping authoritarian undertones), is the reminder that I really need to buy some new ones.

And if you purchase LGM merchandise within the next 15 minutes you can make that dream a reality.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Political speeches could be getting simpler

This post suggests that the age level needed to understand political speeches is going down. Apparently, Warren Harding's speech was pitched at 16-year olds. In contrast, Obama's acceptance speech needed an age of only about 9.6 to follow and McCain's needed an age of just 7.72 to follow.

This does suggest that the 'sound bite' nature of modern reporting is making it more and more difficult to communicate complex ideas to the public.

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Run, Sarah, Run

I hate to admit it, but if I'm still living in Alaska four years from now, I sincerely hope Sarah Palin runs for the presidency, because I could really use the extra writing income. My dogs' knee surgeries aren't going to pay for themselves!

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McCain: Palin is qualified to be Preznit because her husband works at an oil facility.

Game. Over.

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Gardasil: Miracle vaccine? Part 1 of 2


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Don't Even Think of Killing Our Nominee, Twinkle Toes.

Taking Jules Crittenden's lead, Putz believes that mocking the would-be Obama assassinations as "trannies" and bisexual will somehow be an "appropriate deterrent to future imitators."

Not. Joking.

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"The Sacrifice of Truth to Power"

Melanie Phillips, UK author of Londonistan, has written an important piece on the US presidential election and how the mainstream media is hiding the real Obama from us. Things have become "Orwellian," in her words. Indeed. (Now, have enough people read Orwell to know what this adjective means?)

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Personal responsibility update.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.
Shorter Palin: it's my handlers' fault that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

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October 27: Latest at the new home of Heidi Li's Potpourri

To read:

  • The Democratic Party's honor
  • No, Professor Hutchinson, you are not only the "irreverent liberal lawyer in DC who does not want to work in a newly ensconced Democratic regime"
  • Beyond November 4: The Joy of Politics
  • An Obama supporter the Senator should be very proud to have in his camp
  • Free speech, JayZ, is definitely what is called for - will you please let Senator Obama know?
Head to the new home of Heidi Li's Potpourri.

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This is My Dream...

I Can Haz Ho Fight?

Early this afternoon, Crazy Lady Atlas Pam vowed,

If this girl is lying she should be prosecuted and if I were her mom I'd kick her ass around the block. There are so many stories about Obama thuggery and intimidation that will be disregarded or disbelieved if this story isn't true. I will personally go down and bitchslap her.

I emphasis that last part with glee. If you'll excuse me, my popcorn awaits.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nick Gillespie from ReasonTV : What A Sensible Drug Policy Might Look Like