Meltdown at Zurich

Swiss officials have warned of a serious Meltdown unfolding at the core of world football, in the FIFA (sleaze cooled) reactor. This FIFA reactor consists of a core filled with highly enriched fuel elements, drawn from a variety of international sources (corrupt club managers, nepotistic politicians, dodgy businessmen, ex-ticket touts, etc.) which are then immersed in a large vat of cash. While much of this money is typically drawn from sources such as TV rights and sponsorship deals, a good deal still needs to come from corrupt sources. This is obviously a precarious situation in which to operate, made worse by the vulnerability of said core elements to exposure to “media” reactions.

The current meltdown was indeed triggered by exposure of several core elements in the FIFA reactor to media scrutiny. Worse still the form of media in question was a combination of the British tabloid media and the BBC. “that’s the worse case scenario really” A Swiss official said. “I mean if it was the German media, we’d have seen a few articles in Der Spiegel which everyone would have ignored, if it was the Russians it would have been a long series of exposes on RT which nobody would have believed”. As a consequence of this media exposure at least one of the core elements when rogue and this led to a chain reaction that has triggered the current crisis. With sponsorship money rapidly evaporating, its seems likely the core will soon be fully exposed, already the primary fuel element has very publicly melted down, nearly exploding at one point and the crisis is expected to get worse, unless action is taken quickly.

Swiss officials are at a loss as to what to do. Some have suggested cutting off the flow of money to the core, or even expelling a couple of the damaged fuel elements, but opinions differ as to whether this will be successful or not. A complete shutdown of the FIFA reactor is one opinion. However, FIFA is a hugely important thing for the Swiss to host “I mean they’re one of the few people in the country actually paying tax don’t you know!” Another problem is the inevitable legal situation “when fuel elements as old as the one in the core gets this exposed and hot under the collar, as a natural by-product it tends to attract lawyers who quickly surround it” an expert explained “of course, these tend to decay naturally as the money dries up, plus the fact that they cannot resist the temptation to go chase after ambulances, but in the interim approaching or attempting to operate on FIFA could be hazardous”

There are also worries that the current crisis in FIFA and the increased media activity it has generated could spread to a similar plant in Lausanne, the IOC reactor. “this would be very worrying” one Swiss official was quoted as saying “there are a lot of highly enriched and highly corrupt fuel elements in that reactor too, a couple of them even dating back to the end of WW2 when they were imported from Germany and they still require heavy shielding to protect them from media exposure”

Many local officials seem to be of the opinion that opting for a low enriched fuel cycle in future maybe the way forward. Such a system would use natural fuel elements drawn from football supporters around the world. The system would be smaller, cheaper and not need the corrupt over-enriched fuel elements currently used nor would it need a large vat of money to sustain it. In the meantime officials working at the FIFA plant plan to deploy spin doctors to try and control the level of media reactions.

Deploying spin doctors is a radical move that could backfire. As one expert pointed out “it can aggravate an already bad situation”. Take for example the situation in Britain recently where the Man U reactor suffered a minor but still serious meltdown scenario. A fuel element, known for legal reasons as CTB, wound up becoming lodged in a stray Gold-digger. Local officials took the radical step of using a “super injunction” to try to control media exposure, but this just aggravated the situation and caused a runaway chain reaction leading to the jammed fuel element’s complete media exposure, largely due to a failure to understand the Streisand effect. Fortunately, its believed the damage to Man U isn’t serious and its suspected that officials may opt to simply remove the fuel element and place him in spend storage, once the natural decay cycle of lawyers has allowed things to cool down. But obviously there is a risk of a similar process now affecting the FIFA reactor.

Again local officials in Britain think that a repeat of this crisis can be averted by gradually reducing the flow rate of money into the UK football plants. They can then opt for a low-enrichment fuel cycle. “this will have numerous benefits” one boffin pointed out “the current setup is not sustainable, Britain cannot naturally produce these expensive and highly enriched footballers, we’re forced to import them from abroad, principally Brazil and Portugal, that’s not sustainable”. He added “also there is the amount of corruption the current fuel cycle generates, and the waste! Manchester and Liverpool are practically ringed by these large fenced off Mc Mansions where we’ve been forced to store the spent fuel from previous generations of teams, we’ll have to fence off half the home counties when the time comes to dispose of our current crop, that’s not sustainable!”

The GIT, the TIT, his WAG and 75,000 Twits

As you may know, the footballer who cannot be named for legal reasons, I shall refer to him henceforth as a Mr A. GIT, while “tired and emotional” wound up sleeping with some “gold digging floozy” (to quote one tweet) “whom he should have seen coming a mile away” (to quote another). And when the inevitable happened (she wanted to be paid to keep her trap shut) rather than doing the decent thing (well the decent thing would have been to keep his d!ck in his pants) and apologise to his wife, he hires Farter & Fuck and tries gets a “super injunction” imposed. Of course the internet and the twits on twitter inevitably resented the idea of being gagged. I mean, within hours of this “super injunction” being announced, a quick Google search for Footballer Imogen Thomas got you Mr A. GIT’s name.

Of course, our GIT, Farter Fuck and the high court judge (I’m not sure if I can name him, so we’ll call him Mr Senior Sentencer or SS for short) all resented this turn of events. How dare people on the other side of the world enforce they’re right to free speech. I’m mean who do they think they are passing laws allowing people to say what they like! Of course when the GIT, Farter and the SS tried to apply their rules to the internet and twitter they earned themselves a sharp lesson in the so-called Streisand effect as 75,000 twits promptly tweeted rendering their efforts all but pointless. Now you would think that the GIT, FF and the SS would realise that they were wasting everyone’s time, as the world and his mother know who Mr A. GIT is, but no the injunction stayed in place, even though Scottish newspapers had already published Ryan Giggs photo on its front cover and the Scottish government seem likely to refer any calls for prosecution to the case of Arkell v. Pressdram. Fortunately, a Lib dem MP did everyone a favour, told us what A. GIT was, yet still they haven’t given up.

We are in this situation for 2 reasons. Firstly because we have these privileged and pampered overpaid and oversexed footballers, who think they live in some sort of gilded balloon. As one MP put it, “in Thailand they’ll imprison people for criticising the King, here in Britain we do if for footballers”. The problem is that many of these GITs seem to think “ya right too” as they think they are like the Thia king, a cut above the rest of us, not just some special needs moron who kicks a ball around a park once a week. The reasons behind this pampering of these celebrity footballers is the torrent of money flowing through football. Hence, these guys are used to demanding whatever ridiculous thing they want and, much like the other privileged elite in the banking industry (also sustained by a torrent of money), they get it. Obviously both also assume this applies to the legal system too.

There is attitude permeates every level of football, from the players all the way up to FIFA, which practically exudes corruption, and yet again FIFA expects governments to bow down and do its bidding. There is a simple solution to this problem – dam the river of money. The bulk of this comes from TV rights, so we simply declare the TV rights of all football matches as public property (i.e they cannot be bought or sold for anything other than a nominal sum that must go to charitable purposes). All the TV channels get the right to broadcast any match they like, thought for the sake of a quiet life and avoiding 24 hr football they’d also be advised to sort out a means of choosing who broadcasts what (by drawing lots for example as happens between ITV and the Beeb with world cup matches). This process would cause a major downsizing of the money flows in football. Clubs would not go bankrupt, they’d just need to drastically cut players salaries and transfer fees. This of course would make for a level playing field with smaller clubs able to compete, so it won’t be the usual bore of Arsenal v Man U v Chelsea(ski). FIFA would be forced to clean up its act as the comp trip gravy train would come to an end.

There is talk now, as a result of Mr A. GIT, Farter Fuck, the TIT, the SS and the 75,000 Twits, plus a Bonker (whom I shall refer to by the alias of Scottish Holder of Indebted Titles or SHIT who was busy shagging while the bank burned) of a constitutional crisis in Britain….what constitution? That’s the problem, Britain doesn’t have a constitution and hence why we have the ridiculous and wholly undemocratic situation where judges (many of them Free masons) are making up laws that can challenge both parliament’s and the presses rights to do their jobs. Indeed it’s not just British judges, but European judges who are getting in on the act, thought at least with the EU court of human rights they are trying to stand up for the disadvantaged, not privileged and overpaid bankers and footballers.

The solution here is simple – bring in a written UK constitution, just like every other democratic country in the world. This would establish limits on the powers of both parliament and the courts and prevent a repeat of this and similar hypocrisies occurring in the future.

How was your end of the world day?

Anyone hear the one about these “Christians” :crazy:, presumably on break from their hunt for Obama’s birth certificate and Koran burning contests, who thought the world was going to come to an end over the weekend? Some spend hundreds of thousands on advertising it (as if God requires advertising! :DD) and were “disappointed” that the world in fact failed to come to an end Sunday.

Of course, this is hardly the first time a bunch of “Christians” have predicted the world would end. I would note I’m referring to them as “Christians” as I don’t want to insult actual Christians by tarring them with the same brush. I’d recommend a reading of the Book “Grand Theft Jesus” where the author points out that many of these right-wing Christian groups have about as much in common with the Christian message as Rambo has with the Peace Corps.

For starters, anyone whose even casually glanced at the bible would know that the “Rapture” is taken from the Jewish Torah, and hence it’s the Jews who are supposed to be raptured, not the Christians – i.e the followers of the false god who wind up on the raw end of divine wrath afterwards (presumably while we Agonistics, Muslims and Hindu’s watch on with ringside seats to the whole fraca). This bit of the Torah was essentially plagiarized by Christians in the early days of the church as part of a marketing campaign to give people the “hard sell” on this new religion and bring in the punters. Suggesting otherwise, when we know the Jewish Torah predates the bible by a thousands years or more, amounts to a plea of historical ignorance, applicable in 300 AD when most people couldn’t read an burning “heretics” was an acceptable means of dealing with “facts” that contradicted myth, but not applicable today.

You know, if I were god I’d have a bit more fun with these guys. Like at the appointed hour have a booming voice from the heavens ring out…in Arabic ;D! Or sending the angel Gabriel down to visit the Westboro Baptist church…along with his boyfriend Bruno :))!

Trains, delays and the Black knight of capitalism

An interesting article here from the Imeche journal as regards the end effect of privatisation of the UK railways. In the 1990’s before privatisation was introduced, it cost the UK government £1 Billion to subsidise the railways. 18 years of private ownership later and it now costs the UK government £5 Billion to subsides the railways, i.e fives times more than before privatisation 88|!

Privatisation has therefore failed as regards it principle goal, reducing the costs of the railways to the exchequer. Furthermore, not only is it costing the government more to subsidise the railway system, but ticket fares have soared since then and (going by the grumblings of passengers) the service has gotten worse on many commuter lines.

The Black knight effect
I blame the failure of Thatcher’s privatisation on what I call “The Black knight effect” (after the infamous black knight of Monty Python) as it represents a belief held by many neo-liberal cheerleaders that capitalism and free market theory “always” triumphs, even in circumstances where it is at a distinct disadvantage…much like our armless, legless black knight! Yet like him, the neo-liberals will refuse to give up, or concede that they’re economic ideology is a tiny bit flawed, even when its glaringly obvious that its failing (“tis but a flesh wound!”).

The truth is free market theory will only work in certain circumstances, notably situations where there is truly a “free” market (not a cosy cartel), where there is actual “competition” (not the illusion of it) and the economic model being promoted is actually sustainable and water tight (our numbers add up). None of these conditions applied to the UK railways at privatisation. Firstly companies had to bid to get the contracts. As a result from day one all the individual rail companies had a huge deficit on their balance sheet and lots of share holders looking for a profit to be turned in quickly to give “confidence” to the markets (else the companies would find it impossible to raise money later without going to the government).

Hence, the rail companies started off by cutting back on services, selling off land (such as maintenance yards to property developers), laying off experienced staff and otherwise cutting corners while at the same time hiking up fares. This netted big profits for investors, but in the end it was an unsustainable bubble, and a very brief one at that. It also burst any bubble in the Tory’s heads about how privatisation would see free enterprise whisk away the UK’s old dodgy railways and replace it with a cheap sleek and new, gleaming high speed alternative. Investment in new railway projects were in many cases shelved rather than new ones being put forward. Of course just to make matters worse, the various bits of BR that had actually been profitable had been sold off in the early stages of privatisation in the 1980’s.

Certain long term issues were put on the back burner, most crucially track maintenance, eventually leading to a deterioration in track condition that would several years later come back to haunt the industry in the form of a series of 4 rail crashes (Southall (1997), Ladbroke Grove (1999), Hatfield (2000) and Potters Bar (2002)). These crashes effectively ruined the industry, as Railtrack was all but forced back into public ownership and the rail companies, dependant on Railtrack and its monopoly of track maintenance, were forced to pay an increasing amount of money to use its track as it hastily began a program of track renovation to correct previous problems.

Another problem with privatisation is that, as noted, in order for capitalism to work there has to be an element of competition, and the privatised railway network has very little room for that, as most of the rail companies have a de-facto monopoly in each geographical area. Privately owner or publicly managed, any company that’s left in a position of a de-facto monopoly will evitably become bloated and in-efficient over time. The UK railway companies are a textbook example of this. They can set prices for ticket based not on what is a competitive price (i.e a price that will attract the customer away from their competitors) but on whatever they reckon they can get away with (i.e how much can we fleece the punter for without getting physically attacked!). Managers award themselves generous and unjustified bonuses, the unions (peeved at their lazy managers getting paid so well) regularly demand this and that and management just rolls over, suppliers and contractor golfing buddies of the bosses get overly generous service contracts, staff at all levels aren’t suitably motivated to perform better, etc.

Also, in fairness to the railway companies, competition will only occur when there’s a level playing field. The things the railway’s should be competing against, cars and short haul flights, are both massively subsided by the government (a lot more than the measly 5 Billion the railways get).

Its hard to believe that the train companies have to pay tax on fuel, but the UK airline industry doesn’t. Add in the costs of maintaining the UK’s airports, air traffic control, fire and emergency cover, the cost of building all those airports and support infrastructure to begin with, not to mention the costs of climate change, air travel being a 5-10 times worse (depending on who you ask, see here and here) per km travelled than trains. Taking all this into account and you can see that there are a whole set of hidden costs that you’re Ryanair £12.99 Glasgow to Stansted ticket doesn’t cover.

Similarly, all the talk you hear from the Top Gear crowd about a “war on motorists” is baloney. The UK’s car owners are the biggest receivers of state welfare in the country. Yes motor tax and petrol tax maybe high, but its not high enough to cover the true costs of motoring, i.e maintenance of roads and motorways, the huge costs of originally building these in the first place, emergency cover, policing of roads and the costs to the country of dealing with climate change (petrol heads will often try skewing the numbers to show cars are better than trains by comparing a Prius driven slowly with 4 people and no luggage v’s a half fuel diesel commuter train, while the reality of course, a large car driven fast with 1 or 2 people against an overcrowded commuter train it’s the train that winds out, car travel being about parallel to air travel for vehicle emissions ). Then there’s the other environmental costs of cars (CO2 isn’t the only think coming out of tailpipes) and the health effects of vehicle emissions. Then of course there are the costs of maintaining cheap and readily available fossil fuels (so we should really include a “war tax” surcharge on all car travel then!). Motorists don’t know what a good deal they are getting. Unfortunately, post-peak oil they’ll be getting a rude awakening.

So obviously, it’s all but impossible for the railways to compete against cars, buses and planes if the latter are being massively subsidised while the railways being heavily constrained. So its probably no surprise that by and large the railway companies haven’t even bothered to try and “compete” and have ended up degrading into the same listless inefficient behaviour seen under the latter days of BR…only now with a 25% premium on top for “profit” :no:!

Solutions? Re-nationalisation or Re-privatisation
Clearly the solution is to do one of two things. Option one is to accept the whole thing was a bad idea and re-nationalise the entire railway network. Many of the train companies now have large debts so I suspect some would actually be happy to have the whole sorry mess taken off their books. The others could be either bought out easily or nudged out as most have committed enough violations of they’re conditions of franchise to warrant it being revoked if the government decided to do so. Nationalised railways are not the first stop on the road to communism (as the Daily Mail would have to believe). Many countries have a nationalised railway network, notably the USA, Yes! you heard me correctly, the land of free enterprise has a Federally supported railway network in the form of Amtrak.

Option two is, re-privatisation, but doing it properly this time. That means the government paying companies to take the railways off its hands, and I don’t mean token sums (i.e lowest bidder like last time), I mean what it will actually cost said companies to take on the burden. We would need to allow these companies to compete against each other on routes, and more importantly pulling the welfare rug out from under motorists and budget airlines. Of course, such a project would be hugely expensive and extremely unpopular with many motorists or the Nouveau Jet Set. Unfortunately with a Tory government in power I can’t see either being done, so it will be a case of just paying £5 Billion a year, taking a regular shafting from ticket agents over fares and just putting up with it until (hopefully) the whole sorry mess collapses under it own ineffective weight.

A note to the Austrian school
And Libertarians need to accept the fact that, as the UK railway privatisation shows us (or indeed the economic train wrecks that are the UK water, gas and utility companies), capitalism isn’t Invincible (and some of them, like the Black knight, are raving lunny’s!). It not some sort of magic formula bestowed upon us by the gods (and on the 2nd day God did tell Jesus to set up a private equity firm giving-ith an annual rate of return of 15% & he dith decree that the lepers should not be healed, as that would be socialised health care…). It’s merely an economic system that allows us to maximise resource use, while minimising costs. Nothing more nothing less. It works and works well sometimes yes, but that isn’t universally true in all situations. And it certainly doesn’t work in situations where we actively prevent a free market from forming.

And then there’s the law of unintended consequences and externalities to consider. For example, the purpose of public transport isn to provide a cheap, clean and efficient way for us to move large amounts of people from their homes to their place of business (or recreation) as quickly as possible. If we don’t do this with trains, then we have to do it with road traffic, and how much more would it cost the UK taxpayer if everyone who takes the train to work suddenly got into a car Monday and drove into work instead? (hint, the UK road network would collapse if that happened) Whose going to pay the cost of those upgrades to road and car parking facilities? And how many working class people afford to drive their own car? I’m not even working class, and I can’t afford a car! and if someone doesn’t pay up then that’s a huge chuck of the UK’s work force who can’t do their jobs anymore because they can’t get to work! Who is going to pay the costs of climate change? What about the huge amount of the UK tourist industry dependant on public transport (to move punters around the country)? How are little old lady’s who can’t drive anymore (and we don’t want driving any more!) supposed to get to the shops without public transport?
There are times when capitalism works and works well, but there also things we don’t want to leave to the whims of the market.

The Queen is coming to town

Another bit of Irish news is that a certain German lady by the name of Betty Sax-Coburg Gotha is coming to visit us next week, thought she likes to be called by her nick name “Queen Elizabeth of Windsor” for some strange reason (most likely not to upset the natives…wonder if she cheers on Germany when the beat England on penalties ;D!). Also a Hawaian born American is coming over in a few weeks. Strangely enough after all the trouble he went through with Trump (who claims to be Scottish…I’d like to see HIS Birth cert and prove that |-|!) over Obama’s birth cert he’s here to check up on his Irish roots. Funny how having African roots reduces you’re votes in some Southern states and causes people their to question his genealogy while having Irish roots has the opposite effect…not that I’m suggesting the Birth-er’s are racist or anything :>>!

Of course the Republicans are kicking up a fuss about the Queen coming over. Don’t ask me to explain it, I assume they just don’t like Germans and have never got over the war and all that :lalala:!

The Queen’s even dropping in on my little home town of Cork (the real capital of Ireland B)), and she’s going to visit the English Market (a large covered market in the centre of cork with lots of stalls selling everything from fair-trade coffee, orgainic veg, to swordfish and several butchers). I’m wondering who dreamt this one up. Save a few new-age travellers you’ll find very few if any English in Cork’s English market. It’s also created a bit of security risk, what with the idea of bringing the Queen through a large room filled with lots of Irish, Polish and Chinese people many of them wielding large knifes ;D. Worst still there’s the risk of one of the hippies giving her a cuppa tae…with a little Dutch special in it (Corgi’s let go of that pink dragon down and fetch one a ten spot!). The scuttlebutt is that staff at the market have been asked to provide their drivers license, passports, fingerprints, shoe imprint, name and address (plus that of relatives living abroad & significant others) and on presumes pets and star signs (a brief security alert was triggered when it turned out one member of staff’s Chihuahua was screwing a Doberman called Osama :DD).

I’m wondering if the Queens going to bring her Husband along “The Duke” :crazy:. As inevitably he’ll put his foot in it at some point, most likely by greeting our Taioseach with “evening Paddy” then giving his coat to Obama and asking the first lady to fetch him a gin and tonic pronto. Seriously thought, if there’s a state banquet could they please put “The Duke” next to “The Baron (Gerry Adams)”. We could clear Ireland’s debts in one fell swoop by selling the TV rights to that!

The Eurozone "crisis"…what crisis?

Just got back from me hols in Ireland. Contrary to what you might read about the Emerald Isle in the Daily Mail we are not all on the bread line, nor is a great depression in full swing. Exports are up and we are currently running a trade surplus on manufactured goods. The reason why the rish economy is still stuck in the doldrums is largely due to three things (1) the Irish building industry (home and abroad) has gone from a massive boom to a complete bust with a near full stop in all construction (2) the economic costs of this, notably the effect that its had on the banks (quick summary – they’re all broke!) and (3) the effect this has had on Ireland’s national debt, after we foolishly bailed out some of the banks, which we should have left to go to the wall. It’s the fallout of this building boom and its effects on the banks that acting like a lead weight tied around Ireland’s ankles.

Of course Ireland’s sovereign debt “crisis” is part of a wider “crisis” across the Eurozone. However, what the commentators in London and New York fail to mention, is that in the grand scheme of things €200-300 Billion Euros isn’t a huge amount of money when compared to the whole of the eurozone economy (around a € 8.4 Trillion GDP). Worst case scenario the eurozone might have to perform have a minor default of some sorts. This is of course precisely what the UK and USA have been doing for the past few years with “Quantitative Easing” – or printing more money and giving it away to the banks to put it in layman’s terms. This of course makes the debts the UK and the USA owe worth less (as there are more US dollars or British pounds floating around). However it also punishes savers by reducing the value of their savings and it also amounts to a default on ones loans by the back door. It is of course somewhat Ironic that Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain’s credit rating are being cut, due to the “risk” we might default, even though the UK and the USA who are already effectively in the process of defaulting, yet they have AAA+ ratings :??:. Of course the fact that the same spiv’s and speculators who run the big US/UK banks also set the credit ratings and have everything to gain from hammering the Eurozone is just a huge big coincidence ;)!

Don’t get me wrong, several eurozone economies are in a mess of their own making (Ireland included) but it’s also clear that some of the traders in London and New York are taking the opportunity to kick the Irish while we’re down. Many of these traders bet that the Euro house would burn down back in 2009. When it didn’t they now seem determined to make sure it does, even if they have to light the fire themselves. Much of the current debts of these EU countries is a consequences of the high interest rates we’re being asked to pay, not the original debts themselves.

Casing point, as part of Ireland’s IMF bailout the Irish proposed a “hair cut” of the debts owed by Irish banks to international lenders, downgrading said debts by a rate of 2/3’s their original value. In other words the Irish were proposing that those who stupidly lent money to Irish banks in the middle of our housing boom should take some hit for such foolishness, rather than taxpayers (either Irish or Internationally through the IMF). This was also inline with Irish domestic policy which basically said the same thing (the state only puts its hands in its pockets after those who bet foolishly during the boom take a hit). For example, in setting up NAMA to take large property loans off the bank’s the Irish government imposed a 30% “hair cut” on the banks. However, such “capitalist” thinking was shot down by none other than Timothy Geithner the US Treasury Secretary who threatened to veto such a move by the IMF as it would mean US banks (including his former employer’s AIG and Goldman Sachs) taking a $17 billion or so hit. No, Geithner thought that instead governments and taxpayers (Irish, British, European and American ones) should pay the cost of Ireland’s rescue, i.e Main Street should again bailout Wall Street (or in this case Stephens Green).

This is perhaps the wider problem. Yes, the ECB could announce a program of quantitative easing in the eurozone tomorrow. A modest programme of this over several years would wipe out all of these toxic debts relatively quickly. It would also put the cat among the pigeons as far as the rating agencies in London and New York are concerned. They couldn’t cut the eurozone credit rating (which for some countries is only a notch or two above junk status anyway) when the eurozones doing exactly what the US and UK are doing. Indeed they may well have to raise the credit rating to the same level as US/UK even though the Eurozone was now defaulting on its debts via the back door!

Unfortunately the eurozone isn’t run by spiv’s and speculators and the good olde boys network, as London and New York are. It’s run by economists who can add and subtract and who don’t like the idea of burning savers to save foolish gamblers (so the low credit rating of the eurozone is more a reflection of the fact that the rating agencies fear that the eurozone ministers will act responsibly!). There is also a lack of joined up thinking. Despite having a single currency there is a failure of the EU to recognise that this is a joint problem that effects the entire eurozone area. Leaving Ireland and Greece to sort out the mess on our own in a single currency is not only unfair on these smaller countries but in the longer term risky as it means there is a danger of the problems not being fixed effectively and then spreading and growing larger in scale, possibly to the point that they could affect a much larger eurozone economy (such as Spain or Italy) and then we really would have a crisis!

As I see it some sort of “hair cut” (of banking debts) or default by default (such as quantitative easing) is the only way out of the crisis now, its really only a matter of timing. The timing being, how long it takes for the larger eurozone economies to wake up and smell the coffee. And the longer the eurozone dithers the worse the problem becomes.

Bringing back the Punt or the Drachma (as the right wing newspapers in the UK gleefully like to predict) would be silly. Neither currency would survive for very long in the current economic climate and it’s doubtful anyone with half a brain would led to Ireland or Greece if it held its debts in such a small and potentially unstable currency. I also would note that the only people seriously proposing this are far-left political parties (such as Sinn Fein) so it’s a little ironic how right wing hacks seem to like the policies of a hard-left Republican party. Any talk of this (as recently came out in Der Spiegel) is likely just a Greek ploy to wind up the Germans.

Equally the spiv’s and speculators in London and New York and their political lackies need to realise that what goes around comes around. With the very same people who caused the last banking crisis (and the dot com bubble before that… and the bubble before that…and the one before that…:no:) still in charge, all of whom show no sign of having learnt any lessons from the crisis (other than the ease at which they can persuade governments to bail them out) its almost a certainty that another economic bubble will be built up by in the Anglo-American economy (which may already be building in the form of excessively high gold and sliver prices) and burst. When it bursts, expect little sympathy from the EU. Indeed, you can expect a quiet nod from the ECB to French and German currency speculators for permission to go out and screw the UK/US over by doing onto them what they are doing onto the Euro right now (i.e by start a massive run on Sterling or the Dollar). This is a particular issue for the US, as they are making absolutely no effort to tackle their current budget deficit, even with a Democrat in charge. Inevitably once a Republican takes over (and wants to cut taxes, start a war and build a massively expensive missile defence system…or write fuck off china on the moon with a giant laser or something) there is even less chance of this problem being tackled. Obviously once the Chinese and OPEC states realise this, and the current Eurozone crisis is over (but the EU still angry about the behaviour of the US), we are looking at the makings of a perfect economic storm hitting the dollar sometime in the next few years.

Liberating the Libyans, Part IV – Stalemate

I’ve been meaning to comment on the Libyan situation for sometime, but have yet to have the opportunity and indeed the news keeps on becoming yet more depressing. The worst possible outcome now seems to have occurred, a bloody stalemate and a long drawn out conflict.
As I mentioned in a prior post there was a brief window of opportunity where a no-fly zone (or air strikes) could have worked. That window passed once Gaddafi flew in a load of mercenaries and used his airforce to halt the initial rebel advance. Since then he’s consolidated his hold on the rest of the country. Anyone in his government or military who hasn’t yet defected is unlikely to do so (in for a penny in for a pound and all that). The Libyan rebels have shown themselves to be brave but lacking in combat experience, training and above all else discipline or battlefield leadership. They are not up to the task. Even with NATO air cover its difficult to see them taking back the country.

Several options have been talked about in the press as to how this stalemate can be broken, we will investigate these one by one.

Option #1 – More air strikes. The problem here is, there’s not a lot left for them to bomb. All the really important targets (airbases, tanks, command and control facilities) have been destroyed. Going after any remaining targets will risk “collateral damage” (dead civilians). Aside from providing close air support to the rebels there’s not a lot else that NATO can do. And close air support is always a risky business, given the danger of bombing the wrong people by mistake. This has already happened and given the chaotic situation on the battlefield it’s a wonder he hasn’t happened more often.

Option #2 – Send in the SAS! Chances are they’re already there! Its likely special forces from NATO are actively working in Libya as forward air controllers to limit civilian casualties as well as maximise damage to Gaddafi’s forces from air strikes. However, aside from such cloak and dagger actions there’s not much these special forces can do. Libya is a desert country and inevitably the battlefield here is dominated by mobile warfare, i.e tanks, SPG’s, APC’s and IFV or indeed the “technicals” (a Toyota Hilux with a heavy cannon or recoilless rifle unit in the back). Names like Benghazi, Tobruk and Beda Fomm will of course be familiar to anyone who’s ever studied military history, as this was where the great tank battles of WW2 were fought, and they were fought here precisely because the Libyan desert is perfect tank country.
So it’s not so much boots on the ground that’s needed but tank threats on the ground. Deploying heavy armour is a slow and expensive process. You’d also need the support of the locals (which I don’t think would be forthcoming) and control of a port. Tanks on their own are useless (even in the desert) as they need a large body of infantry to support them (who are familiar with tank warfare and mounted in vehicles that can keep pace with the tanks). Tanks without fuel and ammunition aren’t much use, so an entire logistics and supply chain needs to be established.
Of course Gaddafi’s unlikely to bide his time waiting 4 months for the 1st cavalry to deploy their M1 Abram’s. No, he’ll throw everything he’s got at the rebels to try and win the war before NATO can build up its forces and start driving west. Thus the conflict would inevitably escalate substantially first. Also, there is no UN mandate for such a deployment, and I doubt any will be forthcoming. And I doubt the general public in the West (nevermind the Arab world) would support such a deployment, so by an large this is a non-starter.

Option #3 – Arm the rebels. This one falls down for some of the reasons mentioned above. The sort of hardware that would ultimately prove decisive, heavy weapons like tanks, APC’s and heavy artillery are not the sort of stuff you can put in the hands of amateurs, and sadly most of the Libyan rebels fall into this category. Poorly trained forces such as them wouldn’t be able to use such weaponry effectively and indeed the use of such weapons could greatly increase civilian casualties, so largely a non-starter until the rebels get a better trained army deployed, and that will take some time to organise.

Option #4 – Get Gaddafi! This option of course refers to “terminating Gaddafi’s command with extreme prejudice”……and I’m not talking the sort of “prejudice” prince Philip gets up to, no, much worse than that! Joke’s aside, the question is, would it make any difference? We’re assuming that Gaddafi’s in charge of his forces, and given that he’s clearly lost his marbles I’d argue that all the indication are that he’s not. The rest of his cronies, including his sons are likely calling the shots and they would carry on regardless in the event of his death. There is a slight chance that it could topple the regime, but its more likely it would simply inspire them to do much worse.
Meanwhile there is the legality of it. The UN resolution said nothing about assassinating head’s of state and I suspect it would not be considered legal under international law. Now for those of you who say, so what? The danger is that such an act would give the Gaddafi forces the moral high ground.

Option #5 – Muslim invasion. Another option is for the military of a neighbouring state to send its forces into the country. They could be invited in by the rebels, or use some pretext to declare war (i.e some of our citizens were killed by Gaddafi’s men). The Egyptians have a huge ground army, well trained too, and they could easily mop up and rout the Gaddafi forces within a few weeks, even without NATO air cover. The problem here of course is that nobody in Libya wants to be occupied by a foreign army, even one sent by a friendly Muslim neighbour. Also the neighbouring countries don’t want to be occupying Libya and, like the US in Iraq, spend the next 5 years refereeing roadside bombing competitions. And most of these countries have their own internal problems right now, so the chances of this happening are pretty low.

Option #6 – Smoke Gaddafi out with sanctions. This (along with the next) seems to be the only credible options left. Of course its precisely the option that nobody wants to see. It would take years for this one to take effect, meaning a long drawn out war. A long war means heavy casualties and an increased period of hardship and suffering for civilians. It means more economic disruption. Also it would require NATO to turn off the oil tap, i.e. blockade Gaddafi’s ports and prevent him shipping oil. As I pointed out in a previous post this would be fraught with problems. Not least of those one has to question whether the other OPEC countries have sufficient spare capacity to replace Libya’s output. Many would question whether this is the case (see my post here). Remember, up until now oil demand has been relatively low world wide as spring is a quiet time for oil demand. As we hit summer and the airline industry increases its demand for oil, and the US summer driving season starts up, there is a risk of a spike in oil prices and/or even oil shortages if OPEC can’t replace Libya’s output.
Also, we need to remember that it would still be possible for Gaddafi to smuggle the oil across his lengthy land borders with his neighbours. After the Iraq war Saddam was soon smuggling vast amounts of oil out of the country. Indeed the whole reason why sanctions were then lifted against Iraq is because they were becoming something of a joke and merely increasing the suffering of civilians. The same will likely apply in Libya. And even if sanctions could work Gaddafi is supposedly sitting on a vast sovereign wealth fund, more than enough to keep paying his mercenary army out his own cash/gold stockpiles for sometime to come.
And the longer the war goes on the more likely that civil government across the country will simply collapse. The worse case scenario? Another Somali, with the Libya collapsing into a perpetual cycle of tribal wars without end, right on the borders of Europe.

Option #7 – Compromise and a peace treaty. Really this seems to be one everyone is neglecting (for obvious reasons), but has to be taken seriously. While I doubt the olive branches coming out of Tripoli are anything other than a stalling tactic to buy time, and one doesn’t find it the least bit acceptable to make peace deals with loony dictators, this is the one option that could end the war tomorrow. As always the devils in the detail of any agreement. Some form of free and fair elections is likely to be asking too much, but something that prevents Gaddafi and his cronies hanging onto power indefinitely seems logical. Equally the rebels would need to accept that Gaddafi and his allies are going to not loose power anytime soon (thought a guarantee on the safety of civilians and an amnesty for all arrested would be the price for it) and will likely need to be given immunity from prosecution after ceding power. Unsavoury yes, but it’s the only option that doesn’t involve a long drawn out conflict as above.
Of course one could say that this last option is so unpalatable that the previous option is preferable. However, let’s not kid ourselves as the consequences of such a choice.

Option #8 – A Palace Coup. This option combines several of the above, thought isn’t really one anybody in the West can take, nor the rebels. Its more a case of exploiting an opportunity that arises. It would involve some of those backing up Gaddafi realising that the writings on the wall, the Rebels aren’t going to pack up and go home, Gaddafi’s not going to back down (and he’s off his tits) and the longer the war continues the worse off everybody is. So they “depose” of Gaddafi and his other cronies, cease power, then negotiate a peace treaty. Of course a messy compromise, granting said forces immunity from prosecution for example, if indeed not safe passage to a friendly country where they can live out their lives in safety comfort (via the proceeds of a large Swiss bank account). Unsavoury and distasteful, but if it ends the war quickly without the minimum of casualties, its one that might have to be accepted.
Unfortunately, the chances of this happening are currently slim. It would require an extended war (and sanctions) to push those behind Gaddafi…into pushing him over the edge of a balcony!

Either way, no satisfactory outcome, no silver bullet solution, is forthcoming. The only thing we can do is to resolve not to let this happen again. We need to take a harsher line against dictatorships, stop cosying up to them for the benefits of short term gain, and get the Chinese to realise that doing the same is bad for them in the long run too (dictators have a nasty habit of bitting the hand that fed them and when overthrown the new regime usually punishes those who supported the dictatorship). But for Libya right now, there is no clear exit strategy.

The Death of Osama

Those of you who weren’t living on Mars (I was close enough, being out camping in the Scottish Highlands) will have heard the news of Osama Bin Laden’s demise. The circumstances of his demise have created enough material to keep the conspiracy theory lot busy for years to come.

Needless to say those Tea-bagging republicans aren’t the least bit happy, this could easily have cost them the next election. I suspect Mr Ego (Trump) will still declare, as might the former major of Hicksville Alaska! (Palin), but baring some huge screw up by Obama, neither stands a chance now, of either wining the election or getting the nomination.

It is indeed interesting to discuss why Obama succeeded where the Bush adm. failed. After invading Afghanistan, Bin Laden fled across the border into Pakistan’s northern tribal areas. The Bush Adm. knew that finding Bin Laden here would have been a whole lot of hard work, and we know how averse to such things they were, so by and large they didn’t bother. The primary goal of Bush was to invade Iraq. Even before 9/11 they were discussing war strategies and pretexts for war with Saddam. Obviously going after Bin Laden would have diverted attention from this goal. Bush and neocons would also have by now realised that Bin Laden was largely a symbolic leader. The Fox News version of him sitting in a vast cave complex (tied up to a dialysis machine) checking in on a daily basis with his terrorist cells around the world, paled in comparison to the reality – A few terrorist who’d heard his speeches or DVD’s were inspired by him to take action themselves, usually without either consulting him or gaining finance for it, often in a hopelessly amateur manner. He was in essence a paper tiger, thought of course selling him as some sort of Blofeld criminal mastermind certainly helped the Bush White House immensely, especially in keeping the people distracted in the drum beat to war. Indeed it seemed that whenever they did badly in the polls, a new terror alert came out.

Also, the Bushies would have probably suspected that some factions within Pakistan, possibly within the military and intelligence wings (both allies of the US), were in some way involved in either supporting Bin Laden prior to 9/11 or indeed were actively shielding him at this stage. Also the US knew that they had after all helped Bin Laden themselves (during the soviet invasion of Afghanistan), so they had every incentive to just let him disappear.

Obama seemed much more keen on getting Bin Laden, as he didn’t of course need Bin Laden to keep scaring Americans with terror alerts every two seconds, and he was trying to get out of the Iraq war not starting another one. He also made American foreign policy a bit more palatable to the Muslim world which probably helped generate new leads. So it’s no surprise to see him succeed where Bush failed.

Given that Osama was killed in a high walled, heavily defended compound in the middle of a sizable town down the road from a military academy one has to conclude that someone within the Pakistani military or intelligence services knew he was there, or indeed were actively helping to hiding him. They had every incentive to do this, as him going on trial could be very embarrassing for the Pakistani’s if he decided to turn canary and tell all about their support of terrorist groups. The Indians have long suspected that many Islamist terror groups in India and Kashmir are actively supported by the Pakistani’s and Bin Laden could easily confirm this fact.

It is unthinkable that the US would conduct a military operation of this scale without consulting the Pakistanis before hand. Not least because the Pakistanis have a sufficiently sophisticated air defence system as to make getting helicopters to within 60 km’s of the capital without being detected (and back out again after the alarm was raised) all but impossible, even for the Americans. My guess is that the Obama Adm. figured out where Osama was and confronted the Pakistani’s with the info giving them a simple ultimatum, deal with Bin Laden or led us do it, or we’ll ask the Indians if they want to take the lead on this one. Given the political consequences of the Pakistani’s acting against him (killing him that is rather than putting him on trail) they obviously opted for the 2nd option. The lack of any serious protest by the Pakistani government over this issue (one would normally expect a few expelled diplomats, a letter of protest at the UN, etc.) suggests they had to have known beforehand. Consider how the Pakistani’s responded before to US drone attacks in their area, or the death of their soldiers due to “friendly fire” from US war planes, its unthinkable they would be so blasé about this if they didn’t know what was going on.

It is also clear that this was a “terminate with extreme prejudice” operation, i.e. an assassination, by the Americans from day one. They probably never had any serious goals of trying to capture him alive. If they were really serious about doing so, they could have done so easily. A Taser up the ar$e would have prevented him fighting back, or indeed just lobbing a few flash-bangs into his bedroom before nicking him would have all but guaranteed a compliant and placid Bin Laden. Better yet, they could have attacked while he was bathing and thus unlikely to be either armed or rigged up with a “suicide vest”, as the media suggested he was.

But then of course the US would have had to put him on trial. This would have presented obvious security risks, i.e. made that New York court house a magnet for every wannabe Jihadi on the planet. Also, while there is good evidence that Bin Laden was a terrorist, the evidence linking him to 9/11 (or indeed the Embassy bombings or the 1993 twin towers bombing) is shaky at best. It seems likely that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and various associated factions such as the Muslim Brotherhood were largely the ones who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks, and indeed many other terrorist attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden’s role was largely to provide some limited finance and inspiration and he likely had little to do with the actual planning and execution of these attacks. Indeed all the evidence against Bin Laden on 9/11 is largely circumstantial. Worse still, much of this evidence was obtained by torture by the Bush Adm. It would be relatively easy for a good lawyer to get it all thrown out and see Bin Laden acquitted of all but a few lesser offences. Finally, Bin Laden would have the right to testify on his own behalf and he could say a lot of deeply embarrassing things. Notably, how the CIA sown the seeds that became the Taliban/Al-Qaeda back in the 1980’s by supporting the Mujahdeen in Afghanistan. He could say many deeply damaging things about the US/Saudi relationship, possibly destabilising that regime too. So all in all giving Bin Laden his day in court was a step too far, even for Obama.

Of course there are conspiracy theories doing the rounds that Bin Laden wasn’t killed. That he either died many years ago from Kidney failure (and this whole operation amounted to a bit of street theatre) or that he’s in Gitmo right now being sweated down for info, or that he’s retired back to Hollywood after a good long career (and lives down the road from that other retired CIA stool pigeon Saddam). It scarcely matters. Al-Qaeda as an organised centrally run terror organisation was always a myth of the security services own making. The realty, a lot of wannabe Jihadi’s with varying degrees of (in)competence working largely independent of each other, will be barely affected by these events. It may act to inspire some of them to intensify their activity (i.e blow up a few more mosques in the Middle East, ya! that il show us Western Infidel’s) but as the Jihadi videos run out, they’ll quickly get distracted by something else.

The truth is something we will unfortunately, never likely know about the whole affair is indeed what truly did happen….at least until it appears on Wikileaks!

Election update – The Reckoning

Well the election result turned out okay(ish) in Scotland. So long as the SNP don’t let this majority go to their head and start going all “independence, independence independence :yawn:” again…largely because, like the lib dems with AV, they’ll likely be disappointed. Indeed it would be sensible for them to delay any independence referendum for as long as possible. With the threat of such a referendum hanging over them, the Tory’s down in London know they have to be on best behaviour as far as Scotland goes. While the opinion polls currently show a referendum would be lost, the one thing that could tip the scales the other way is the certain knowledge by Scots that with independence they can banish forever the spectre of nasty, penny pinching Tory governments who look on Scotland as some desolate wasteland to be exploited and forgotten about…sorry about that last line, I think I’m coming down with Culloden Fever |-|.

Either way if the SNP defer their Independence Referendum (defeat) till say 2013-14 that would mean the Scots can get away with anything for a few years with the Tories unwilling to take the budget scissors to Scotland for fear of drumming up support for independence. By 2013/14 with a general election looming around the corner and the Tories/lib dems about as popular as pig shit with the electorate, even after the Independence Referendum is defeated, they’ll be reluctant to make any serious cuts, not unless they want to get wiped out in Scotland altogether.

And speaking of getting wiped out, the Labour party and Lib dems need to assess why it was they lost and the SNP won. Its not so much Scottish independence I favour, its an independent Labour party and Liberal Democrat party in Scotland that doesn’t need permission from London to ties their own shoelaces. For example, one of the things that swung me into the SNP camp (for the FPtP seat, I voted Green with the party list) is that Labour are pro-nuclear power. While one could build a limited (and fairly weak) case for nuclear down in England, in Scotland it’s just silly. Scotland has the best renewable resources in Europe. Why build expensive nuclear reactors, dependant on fuel brought in from abroad and technical support from the French/USA, when we should be encouraging Scottish companies to exploit Scottish renewable resources? Logically, the Scottish Labour party should thus adopt an anti-nuclear position, at least in Scotland, but then they’d be challenging the hierarchy down in London.

Similarly, the only thing stopping the lib dems going into coalition with the SNP before, was the Independence issue. As individuals committed to liberal democratic values it would seem logical for the Scottish Lib dems to adopt a “neutral” stance on independence (i.e they won’t support it if it comes to a Referendum but they won’t stop the SNP proposing one). And of course if they were tactical (as the Tories clearly were when it came to AV) they could let the SNP have their bottle (and then lost the Referendum) and have gotten into government last time without much difficulty (and likely still be there right now). Again the Scottish Lib dems can’t do this because it would conflict with orders from London.

So for either of these parties to recover from this election, they need to take a leaf out of the other parties books. The Scottish Greens and Conservatives are, by and large, independent of London. They set policy appropriate to what they know will work in Scotland, rather than what the politburos down south want.

I hate being right some times, but it seems my assessment of the Socialist parties was spot on :**:. They formed themselves into 3 factions in Glasgow, split the vote and diluted one another’s support. If you look at them numbers for the Glasgow Party lists, and you add up all the socialist party votes, they could have just pipped either the Tories or Greens for the last seat. So effectively by voting Socialist (or Respect) you’d have been as well off voting Tory or Green. Well done guys! Like I said, the Socialist need to realise that they are their own worse enemies. If they could just sit down and have a sensible talk about strategy they might stand a change next time. If gorgeous George can’t get a seat in Glasgow, what chance do you think you have? Not that I’m going to complain, as the Green got in :>>!

Of course the real disappointment of the night was the failure of the AV referendum, a triumph for fear and loathing over democracy and reason :no:. We see it all the time in Ireland, inevitably both parties play the fear card, usually the one with the most to loose, as it was here with the Tories and of course their Tabloid newspaper allies do fear really well. They’ve been using fear and scare tactics to sell papers for decades by convincing a large portion of middle England that the UK is overrun with Immigrants over here to steal our jobs while live the lazy live on benefits and committing knife crime (and terrorism) in their spare time :lalala:.

An example of such scaremongering tactics, in the 1995 Irish divorce referendum (yes it took us till 1995 to pass a divorce referendum!) the way the “no” camp :crazy: went on you’d swear half the farmers wives in the country were going to be looking for a divorce the next day and taking the farm too. Of course this was complete BS. Equally, in the more recent Lisbon Treaty referendum we were told by the “no” camp that if it passed the Germans would be running the Irish economy…well okay, that one sort of happened ;D, but the rest of what the “no” lot said, about the minimum wage going down to 2 euro or us all being drafted into the EU army or being overrun with Poles and Latvians (inward migration into Ireland has since gone down not up), none of this came to pass. Indeed, the Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland is interesting because of the action of Nigel Farage of UKIP, he helped get the Lisbon treaty passed in Ireland. Yes, really! He was interviewed on TV in Ireland in the lead up to the Referendum and we all thought that if this little xenophobic “nice-but-dim” toff was against the EU, then we were in favour if it ;D. A rare moment of clarity. Cheer’s Nigel!

I would finally note thought, to any Labour party supporters who voted no against AV (you know who you are!) that if (and it’s a big if) Scotland does get independence, while the Scots will never have to worry about Tory governments again, England will be all but condemned to have them more regularly. Without AV and lacking the more generally left wing Scotland (and possibly Wales) in the UK it will be much harder, if not impossible, for the Labour/lib dems to gain power in the UK under the current voting system. Well done lads! Next time use you’re head to decide how you vote not what some right wing lackey of the Murdoch’s in the Sun says :wave:.