Monday, 30 July 2012

Manners Makyth Man

“believe me, it will be enough”. History will hold you to it, Signore. 

Twice I have taken lessons in international manners.   Once, at an international conference of sneering ultra liberals when a venomous American (so unusual, Americans are 'the essence of politeness' as my mother would have it) referred to,  'Mr Marx':

 "Dr Marx", said  the Chairperson.  Pause: "Philosophy -  Democritus and Epicurus", he added severely.

The second time was when that same person, this time being the speaker not the Chair, was referred to as,  'Herr Dr Professor Professor,' by a commenter: I glanced, and was met with an absolute stillness of expression, an acknowledgment of German courtesy I was on the verge of not offering myself. 

It is not enough to excuse rudeness, in form of address, that a user does not speak the language or have any familiarity with the culture of the addressee.  Titles - inherited, awarded or earned - matter.  The civilised form, in doubt, is to use the surname unadorned or, as do the Quakers, the full name.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard does himself no honour  in using a term of address that implies that the President of the European Central Bank is an under-qualified  office-holder with an Italian axe to grind.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Fighting On

Silver for the sabre today; and bronze for the judo.

Defending the Castle

Gold, silver and bronze to the women's fencing team: gold to the archers;  silver to the pistol shooter.

Italy keeping up with its martial arts at the Olympics yesterday. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Full Text of Mario Draghi's Speech at the Global Investment Conference Yesterday

Mario Draghi's speech at the Global Investment Conference, London, 26 July 2012. [this is how I received it. I leave it unedited. Ed.]

Drawing a Veil

In getting himself made a United nations envoy our former unelected Prime Minister has  obtained an enviable  level  of immunity from just about everything: self, wife, laissez- passer, papers,  records, communications, use of codes,  possessions of all and every kind, tax privileges,  you think of it - he's obtained it.  Now and for ever after; none of this falls away when ceasing to act, for whatever reason, for the UN.

Of course it's supposed to apply to whatever 'international work' (his term for traipsing about from freebie to freebie in holiday locations with others of his ilk) he's managed to finagle this for - education, the BBC says, always one for photos down with the school kids, our Gordon - but in truth it applies all the time.  Handy, that, when the financial shenanigans and regulatory fiascoes from 1997-2010 currently  under investigation and practised on his watch as Chancellor and Prime Minister are unfolding.

Of course Dominique Strauss-Kahn failed in his attempt to assert his immunities but only because the appropriate body refused to assert itself on his behalf.  As long as the UN Secretary General doesn't  actively lift immunity, for Gordon it's there for good.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Remember Them

Paolo Borsellino, Italian magistrate: born 19 January 1940, Palermo  -  assassinated 19 July 1992, Palermo.

    together with all five of his police escort.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Italian Film Heritage Uploaded to You Tube

The Istituto Luce - cinecitta' has uploaded its entire film archive to You Tube.

There will now be a short intermission while Angels has a look.

Investigate Wider Involvement in the Libor Rate-fixing

A commenter, JJ Forest,  in today's Telegraph, cannot be bettered for summing up the minimizing slant that is being attempted in the media over the Libor scandal.

'It's amazing to me to read this article which implicates the BOE and Whitehall in a Libor scandal that existed at least a year prior to the Barclays Libor rate-fixing and see that for whatever reason most commenters still draw the conclusion that the scandal revolves around Bob Diamond. It does not....  BD was only a small part of this. It seems to pass over most of the media heads that it is obvious the nationalized banks were rigging libor in Sept 2007 as it was impossible for them to have libor rates lower than Barclays at that time and yet they did. At least with this article it is finally becoming recognized in the mainstream.
When will the full scale firings and political massacres begin in earnest throughout the financial industry in the UK? Enough of the scapegoating of one particular individual at one bank. Bob Diamond is gone. Now lets get on with the real investigation.'

Angels would add:

If it wasn't the Chancellor or the Treasury under Darling, if it wasn't Vadera, if it wasn't Balls - and all downright deny that it was - who in government had the authority and the contacts to suggest, indeed call for, the Libor rate fixing? Diamond says it was senior figures, ie more than one.


"I don't like these names," remarked the laundry lady, accepting a bag of shirts in the already 32 degree morning.

"First we had Caronte, now we've got Minosse; mark my words - it'll be Lucifero next."

Hats off to  Italian mass state education ; it may have been instituted as late as the 1950s; it may have had a school-leaving age of 11 as late as the 1970s; but it  has never held out on the children.  What there was to be taught was taught to all until  time ran out on the years of obligatory schooling; there was no dumbing-down, no intellectual condescension; no time to waste.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Wheel Turns

The ruota degli esposti, the revolving crib that graced the walls of hospitals centuries ago, where desperate women could leave their newborn infants, was used last night in Milan.

In the 21st century once again women are reduced to this.

The boy was well cared-for, dressed in a thin white shift and wrapped in a light cover.  Beside him were three freshly laundered baby-grows and a feeding-bottle of  mother's milk.  He is a week old.

It would make Angels weep.  It does.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Two Inquiries and Not a Blade of Long Grass in Sight

So there is to be a Parliamentary inquiry and a Serious Fraud Office inquiry (the Chancellor of the  Exchequer is ensuring that there is a funding boost to the Serious Fraud Office for this, the FT reports) into the fixing of the LIBOR.

This is much more satisfactory than a judicial inquiry, their usual  purpose being to make nasty, embarrassing, even criminal stuff slip out of sight and as far into the future as possible while everybody says they can't say anything as its all in the judicial inquiry maw.

Now who might be required to come and tell Parliament and/or the SFO all about it?  Imagine prepping some likely candidates before their appearances.

The damage to the City is already done but the damage to the Labour party has barely begun; and the more the Labour party and those in the Labour administration during the first decade of this century are made to face up to the damage that they did -  which cannot be made good for years to come - the more the City will cease to be blamed for the political  purblindness and economic puerility of policy-makers seeking to join international political elites.  They hadn't the stature, they wouldn't have been Labour politicians if they had.  There is not a single Labour politician who has ever been of anything but local importance, not one.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


Boggling doesn't begin to describe the systemic effects of 'managing' the interbank rate in what is supposed to be an advanced capitalist market economy.  The redistributive effects are unquantifiable and unlimited in every market.  Contracts geared to LIBOR?  Globally?  Expectations in financial transactions falsely based?

An 'independent' central bank that seems to have been making calls co-ordinating rates?  Under pressure from Whitehall 'figures' (read politicians, not civil servants).  A point blank, full denial from the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that this pressure was coming from him or from the Treasury; not just 'not me not us' but the use of the word 'unthinkable'. 

A Cabinet Office 'figure' (political appointee) who circulates a paper on the desirability of a lower LIBOR and whose spokesperson uses merely 'does not recall' in reference to actions in all this?  The central bank that refuses any comment at all?  

The media reports that LIBOR had been manipulated in two phases: 2005-2007 upwards (that would give more private profits) and 2008 onwards downwards (that would help the economy in its awful place).  So first it's practised for private profit without intervention by regulatory authorities - this is what they meant by 'lightly regulated?,  and then it's required by the Executive in office with the active intervention of the 'independent' central bank. 

While it is perfectly acceptable, indeed the responsibility of a central bank to set the bank rate, and use any other available instruments to influence market rates, these instruments do not include direct orders.  We might as well have been in a communist centrally-planned economy - in Poland before The Fall is a good model;  (even there the Polish central bank had been made genuinely independent in 1987.)

Now who was senior, not in the Treasury after 2007, running an alternative finance ministry within Whitehall after being thwarted in choice of Chancellor, believed in the managed (right down to the micro-managed) economy,  boasted of light regulation when he was in the Treasury including 2005-7, and would have been blinded by Executive authoritarian  attitudes to the ramifications and consequences of using central planning practices in the London financial sector?


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Merkel and Monti Minuet

The instant response was a chorus of 'Bravi tutti.'  But now the 500 billion euros of the ESM are looking not just very little but inaccessible.

The German Constitutional court had already called in the legislation on the ESM that was accepted with large (more than two thirds) majorities in the German parliament last Friday, requiring that the President of Germany should not sign it into law until the Court had ruled on its constitutionality.

The arrangements are supposed to have become effective in early July but are now held, awaiting the Court ruling (pace Finland and its claims to have vetoed the agreement, they are irrelevant as they contribute too little to be in a position to be vetoing anything, not even with the Netherlands in tow) before any of last Friday's performance got under way.

This may not be of front rank interest to the UK (any more than was the other event involving Italy and Germany last Friday evening) but it illustrates vividly what is the matter with the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union. When Heath paid so excessively to join, it was under the pretence of accessing the common market;  yet not only was the British Constitution not restructured to meet the UK's wholly altered but vastly under-acknowledged constitutional status, there is no intention of ever providing the safeguards and redress systems to contested EU behaviour  that is driving the demands to leave the European Union by democratic forces in the UK.

Germany, and most other EU member-states, has functioning safeguards for its citizens against pan-European elites and pan-European policies.  It would be naive to imagine that the German Chancellor and the Italian Prime Minister are unaware of the capacity for national constitutional challenge.

They were relying on it.  Germany has gone first but Italy, and France, are fully equipped with the means to block the actual use of ESM funds - so grossly inadequate for their purposes.  Further, if any of such (relatively) small funds are called upon we can all take away (unless we are in an English primary school in which case lots of us can't.)

It was beautifully done, as was the Italian play in the semifinals but, in the end, they will dance the fandango

The Most Beautiful of Cars

A Maserati was always beyond reach.   And if ever offered the choice this would be the darling of my heart.

Sergio Pininfarina, born  in Turin,  September 1926 -  died, July 2012.