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Tories do ruthless so well...but Boris?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 14th, 2016 at 11:59:02 AM EST

With Labour stuck in what seems like an interminable leadership struggle, the Tories are wasting no time putting together a new order post Brexit.  Within days of losing the Brexit referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron is gone, replaced by Theresa May, and she has just sacked more cabinet ministers in a few hours than Cameron did in his 6 years in Office.

George Osborne, Michel Gove, Oliver Letwin, John Whittingdale, Teresa Villiers and Nicky Morgan have all been sacked while devout Christian and leadership candidate, Stephen Crabb, has resigned apparently for sexting a women who is not his wife. Presumably Johnson and Gove cold not have been expected to serve in the same Cabinet after the latter stabbed Johnson in the front...

But it is the early appointments she has made which are the more interesting: She has put three of the top Brexiteers in charge of foreign relations: Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, Liam Fox in charge of a new Department for international Trade, and David Davis in charge of the Brexit negotiations themselves. None will appeal to the Europeans. Boris Johnson is hated for his persistent lies, and his appointment has been the subject of much derision worldwide.

Read more... (51 comments, 828 words in story)

Larry Summers as hero: Que Helicopter Money?

by ARGeezer Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 10:07:28 PM EST

Is "Helicopter Money" About to Rain Upon the World? Guest Post by David Llewellyn-Smith in Naked Capitalism

Ever since the BOJ announced a new negative interest rate policy earlier this year (NIRP) the yen has stopped falling and reversed upwards. That is, despite weak Japanese growth, despite an inverted yield curve and deeply negative long bond, and despite still weak inflation, markets have bet on spectacularly easy monetary policy generating even more of all four.  This is what is know as "quantitative failure", the notion that negative interest rates will not expand the monetary base owing to such phenomenon as crushed bank margins and the hoarding of cash under mattresses, so the currency is therefore going to rise.
....
Meanwhile, in an effort to calm potential concerns about the integrity of the fiscal budget central bankers implementing such a future monetisation of infrastructure spending will doubtless be at pains to describe the process as a "one off" though, as the ever theoretical Bernanke stated in his blog: "To have its full effect, the increase in the money supply must be perceived as permanent by the public."

...a policy of "helicopter money" is only likely to work if it is done on an ongoing basis and in continuing and growing amounts. But at that point the risk of a policy mistake grows exponentially, in terms of a potentially destabilising pickup in inflation expectations and a related pickup in velocity.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (35 comments, 1135 words in story)

Irish economy grew by 26% in 2015?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 02:52:50 PM EST

The Irish Central Statistics office has just revised Ireland's GDP for 2015 up from €215 to €255n Billion. GDP growth for 2015 has been revised upwards from an already high 7.8% to 26.3% with the GNP growth rate coming in at 18.7%.  Ireland is a small, open economy and the actions of a few gigantic multinationals can throw the national accounts into total disarray. Apparently:

Crazy growth figures bear scant relationship to reality

A handful of companies in the tech sector relocated their IP assets or patents here last year amid the global clampdown on multinational tax avoidance.

This had the affect of transferring billions in capital assets to Ireland inc and boosting the measured level of investment.

These companies are also involved in contract manufacturing, whereby they engage third-party companies abroad to manufacture products on their behalf.

However, the exports which never touch down here are reflected in our trade balance. Hence the 102 per cent growth in net exports last year.

Another reason for the inflated figures relates to an aircraft leasing company, which redomicilled its entire multibillion euro balance sheet to Ireland in 2015.


Read more... (9 comments, 463 words in story)

Two Weeks Post Brexit - Is Anything Clear Yet?

by ARGeezer Tue Jul 12th, 2016 at 12:29:48 PM EST

Questions and Answers:

1. It seems clear that it is in the interests of the current government to hold onto power as long as possible. But how long is that likely to be?

2. It seems clear that the City is opposed to leaving the EU. A. But will they settle for a massive 'shock doctrine' roll back of social and labor protections? B. Will they be divided in their response, and, if so, what will be the majority response? C. And how effective will their response be?

3. It seems likely that Corbyn can hold on to the leadership of Labour. But will Labour be able to bring forth a program that is able to attract or bring back enough supporters to win by-elections and a new General Election.

4. How will legal challenges and issues impact the course of events?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (55 comments, 326 words in story)

The Rising Middle Finger

by epochepoque Mon Jul 11th, 2016 at 12:13:47 AM EST

Brexit, Populism, Inequality, and the Precariat

Since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt. It seems in both cases (Trumpism and Brexit), many voters are motivated not so much by whether they think the projects will actually work, but more by their desire to say FUCK YOU to people like me (and probably you).

Vincent Bevins - LA Times

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

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Chilcot and Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 8th, 2016 at 02:03:52 PM EST

Tony Blair and the Chilcot report

Sir, - The Chilcot report has found that the public were misled, expert warnings were ignored, and that there was inadequate planning.

Too bad its publication was delayed until after the Brexit debacle, another historic mistake that could have been avoided had warnings been heeded. - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER,

Discuss...

Comments >> (12 comments)

Charities sector in Ireland in crisis

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 7th, 2016 at 11:59:17 AM EST

Console scandal creates fresh difficulties for charities - Independent.ie

I am a director and honorary treasurer of a number of charities. I give of my time freely and without compensation. I am glad to do so and feel honoured to have the opportunity to be of assistance.

But I am also a hostage to fortune. I rely entirely on the salaried staff to provide me with accurate information so the board can make wise decisions.

One of the fall-outs of the scandals in the Central Rehabilitation Clinic, and now in Console, is that charitable donations have declined precipitously. Another less publicised consequence is that it is increasingly difficult to find anyone with suitable skills to volunteer to serve on the board of charities.

I have offered my resignation on several occasions because I feel it is time to give others the opportunity to serve, and yet there are never any replacements available. The responsibilities of directors are increasingly onerous under both company law and the Charities Act. Few people feel they have the time or expertise to take them on.

Others may feel discouraged by the prospect of finding themselves at the centre of a scandal should some irregularities be discovered in the running of their organisation.

Not many people have the skills of a forensic accountant to uncover those irregularities by themselves.

As a result, the voluntary and community sector in Ireland is in freefall. Those charities which have not closed have generally downsized substantially in recent years.

It would be a pity if our rich tradition of voluntary work were to die out substantially because of the scandals at a few major charities. I urge people not tar all charities with the same brush.

Frank Schnittger, Blessington, Co Wicklow

Read more... (5 comments, 1310 words in story)

Corbyn becomes a British and European hero...

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jul 5th, 2016 at 05:24:48 PM EST

With Michael Gove increasingly being seen as the truly loathsome creature that he is, it looks as if Andrea Leadsom may become the main challenger to Teresa May from within the Brexit campaign. She has just secured the support of no less a luminary than Boris Johnson who is very popular with the Tory Party members who will make the final choice.  If she succeeds in winning the Tory leadership, I doubt that George Osborne - who reportedly blocked her promotion to Cabinet - will agree to join her Government in any position whatsoever.  Indeed, he may well go on to lead a rebellion against an Article 50 invocation in Westminster Parliament.  

Should the new Tory Prime Minster, be it May or Leadsom, fail to secure parliamentary backing for an Article 50 invocation they may have no option but to call a general election,  which will effectively become a second referendum on Brexit, and each party will then have to set out a clear policy on the EU.

Read more... (62 comments, 629 words in story)

Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

by rifek Mon Jun 27th, 2016 at 05:20:33 AM EST

As I commented elsewhere, Labour will fracture because it just can't help itself.  And here we go.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (91 comments, 253 words in story)

Clear Leadership from the EU

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 27th, 2016 at 12:33:10 AM EST

Not so long ago any article touting the EU as an example of clear leadership would have been heading for the spike anywhere except perhaps on The Onion or the Waterford Whisperer - see current lead on "thousands of British refugees make dangerous journey across the Irish Sea"...  

However the Brexit campaign has all the trappings of a train wreck as far as the UK is concerned, and for once the EU is acting quickly, clearly, and with one voice. As Bernard has documented, EU leaders are pressing for a quick resolution. In effect, they are saying that there is only one process, Article 50, by which a member state may leave the EU, and all else is hot air and silly manoeuvring.  Without the invocation of article 50, the Brexit referendum was an entirely internal UK affair of no legal consequence within the EU.

Read more... (68 comments, 1084 words in story)

Brexit: Get on with it already?

by Bernard Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 08:46:57 PM EST

Until last Friday, when Brexit was just a possibility and European governments were drawing contingency plans, there was a consensus that, should it come to pass,  within a week or so, David Cameron, or his successor, would arrive at a special European summit to officially announce UK's intention to start the leave process and trigger the famous article 50.

At least, this is more or less what most people were expecting.
Well, it looks like the British leadership will eventually start negotiations with the EU27, but they're going to take their sweet time doing so.

David Cameron resigns after UK votes to leave European Union | Politics | The Guardian

Cameron said it would be best for his successor to negotiate the terms of Britain's exit - and to trigger article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which begins the formal process of withdrawal, adding that he had already discussed his intentions with the Queen.

The prime minister promised to stay on until the autumn, to "steady the ship"; but suggested a new leader should be in place by the start of the Conservative party's conference in October.

In October?

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (55 comments, 841 words in story)

Spain votes again

by Migeru Sun Jun 26th, 2016 at 06:01:37 PM EST

There have been two events in the last week of campaigning for Spain's repeat election that could have influenced voters. Interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz was recorded two years ago conspiring to spy on separatist politicians, and the tapes were leaked on Tuesday; and, of course, Brexit.

Read more... (67 comments, 345 words in story)

Reversing Brexit?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 25th, 2016 at 12:42:05 PM EST

With signs of buyer's remorse already becoming widespread, Simon Wren-Lewis tries to think through how the result of the Brexit referendum might be reversed:
mainly macro: Just how bad will Brexit be, and can it be undone?

But a second referendum would not be necessary if, as a result of Cameron's resignation, the UK fought a general election where the winning side explicitly campaigned not to invoke Article 50. This general election would become the second referendum.
For this to happen three rather difficult but not impossible things have to happen. The first is that the Labour leadership need to stop talking about `respecting the will of the people' and focus on how the Leave side are already owning up to their lies and false promises. The second, and perhaps most difficult, is that Labour need to form a united front on the basis of a Remain ticket, involving the LibDems, Greens and SNP. This is the only way the Conservatives and most of the tabloid press will be defeated. Third, the new Conservative leader has to be forced to hold a general election before Article 50 is invoked.

I have responded with the following comment (awaiting moderation and not yet published):

Read more... (107 comments, 610 words in story)

Brexit Open Thread - the count continues...

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 24th, 2016 at 01:37:21 AM EST

Please use this open thread to discuss the referendum results. The Guardian live results are here.

At the time of writing, 3.30am CET, the leave camp appears to be building up a slight overall lead, with large leads in areas of England outside London, and with central London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voting decisively to remain.

Sterling has just had its largest fall since the 2008 financial crisis, and the bookies have switched their odds from predicting a remain victory to backing a leave victory. The turnout appears to have been quite high, about 70%, and that is with over a million new voters registering to vote since the general election.

Will this result in new referenda in Scotland and Northern Ireland? Is Cameron toast? Let the games begin...

Comments >> (72 comments)

The UK and the EU democratic deficit

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jun 23rd, 2016 at 12:43:24 PM EST

The Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum have employed two main arguments in their campaign: The fear of uncontrolled immigration into the UK and the need to take back control from "faceless bureaucrats in Brussels". Little matter that 60% of foreign born residents of the UK are not from the EU and that the total foreign born population comes in at 13% of the total -- the same as US and Germany -- and lower than both Norway and Switzerland, which are not in the EU.

But it is to the second meme that I want to turn my attention, one conceded by many on both left and right of the Remain side: the alleged domination by faceless bureaucrats in Brussels.  Let us leave aside, for the moment, the oddity that the charges of a lack of democratic accountability are coming from the only major EU member with an entirely unelected upper chamber of parliament.

Is it true that nations joining the EU have to shed a lot of democracy in the process? A lot is made, for instance, of the three occasions on which a referendum on essentially the same Treaty was run twice "until the electorate gave the right answer"... as if this somehow undermined the democratic legitimacy of the EU. However the UK also voted, in a Referendum in 1975, on the question of EU membership.  So why is the current referendum any more legitimate?  

In fact the EU membership is the only question on which voters have been given a direct say by way of  a UK wide referendum:  all other questions having been decided by way of the "Sovereign" Westminster Parliament including the unelected House of Lords. It seems to me that membership of the EU has more democratic accountability than any other decisions made by the UK.

Read more... (45 comments, 1791 words in story)

Should I vote for Brexit?

by tyronen Wed Jun 22nd, 2016 at 03:49:02 PM EST

Last year I vowed to vote in favour of Brexit. I just could not stomach the EU anymore, and still can't.

Now find myself getting cold feet. There was the death of Jo Cox. And other issues. This article from Jacobin magazine offers a powerful left-wing case for Remain:

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (38 comments, 627 words in story)

François Hollande, Dead Man Walking

by John Redmond Fri Jun 17th, 2016 at 09:04:33 AM EST

As astute political observers have noted over the past three decades, an increasing divorce has installed itself between the French people and its political elites. There are many debates about the origin of the Gallic malaise, which despite the elite conventional wisdom has virtually nothing to do with its supposedly hidebound labor laws. And, it is true that Gallic Malaise is a common theme in French polity, dating as far back as the aftermath of the revolutionary period itself. Invocations of this malaise have often carried a revanchist tint, the supposedly terminal French decline certainly not being confirmed by a healthy demography and, until recently, a strong economy. But, it is a powerful meme, one which one sees in public discourse and in punditry, especially on the right.

It is nonetheless a meme which is quite powerful today, and is consuming the Presidency of François Hollande, whose days appear more numbered than ever, if one is to believe a recent poll indicating that only 4% of the French electorate think he should even run for re-election. Indeed, according to some polls, were he to run, he could even find himself relegated to 5th place in the first round, behind Marine Le Pen, who is in first place in most polling, Nicolas Sarkozy (if he wins the LR primary on the right), centrist candidate François Bayrou (who has indicated he will run if Nicolas Sarkozy is the candidate for LR) and Jean-Luc Mélanchon on the left. Why? Because Mr Hollande is arguably the most tone-deaf President the French elite have ever produced, once famously opining that voters are not to be trusted, as they don't really know what they want.

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (26 comments, 809 words in story)

The Killing of Jo Cox

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jun 17th, 2016 at 07:04:40 AM EST


Nigel Farage gesticulates in front of an anti-immigration poster entitled Breaking Point. Well, Thomas Mair broke all right. The question is, was he incited?

Jo Cox: an attack on humanity, idealism and democracy

The slide from civilisation to barbarism is shorter than we might like to imagine. Every violent crime taints the ideal of an orderly society, but when that crime is committed against the people who are peacefully selected to write the rules, then the affront is that much more profound.


The killing, by stabbing and repeated shooting in the street, of Jo Cox is, in the first instance, an exceptionally heinous villainy. She was the mother of two very young children, who will now have to grow up without her. It is also, however, in a very real sense, an attack on democracy.

Read more... (34 comments, 813 words in story)

The consequences of Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jun 13th, 2016 at 09:30:42 PM EST

The Pollster average of polls has just put the Brexit side ahead for the first time, which given the trend those polls have been taking, means we now have to talk about the probability of the Brexit process starting in 10 days time. In To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the question I examined the ramification of Brexit for the UK, and in A Tale of Two States I looked at the implications for Northern Ireland in particular.  In this piece I will embark on a speculative journey envisaging how a post Brexit Europe might evolve.

First of all, I am working off the assumption that the result will be tight, with Scotland and N. Ireland voting to remain in the EU but being swamped by the Brexit vote in England.  There is therefore a strong probability that Scottish nationalists will seek a new referendum on Scottish independence in order to remain within the EU, and Sinn Fein will call for a new referendum on a united Ireland to enable N. Ireland to remain within the EU.

Whether either referendum will be carried is open to conjecture, and much will depend on the timing and circumstances of the vote, but there is no doubt that the UK itself will be destabilized as a result. (The position of Wales is more ambiguous with many blaming the EU for the failure to support the Tata steel works in Port Talbot, as if any Tory led Government outside the EU would have done any different...)

Read more... (62 comments, 1952 words in story)

Long tunnels

by DoDo Sun Jun 12th, 2016 at 06:40:15 PM EST

A decade ago, I wrote a diary about long railway tunnels. The opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is a good occasion for an update.

When I was a child, there were about a dozen tunnels longer than 10 km. By the 21st century, they became so numerous that a decade ago, I restricted myself to 20+ km tunnels. This time, even that would be too much, so I'll write about the 11 rail tunnels in service, in construction or in serious planning longer than 30 km (excluding subway tunnels). About the existing ones, too, because there have been interesting developments for all of them.

Inaugural train carrying dignitaries exits the northern portal of the Gotthard Base Tunnel on 1 June 2016. Photo by Keystone / Laurent Gilleron from Neue Luzerner Zeitung

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger - a great exemplar of the train blogging genre!

Read more... (31 comments, 2268 words in story)
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News and Views

 19 - 30 September 2016

by Bjinse - Sep 20, 39 comments

Your take on today's news media

 12 - 18 September 2016

by Bjinse - Sep 12, 29 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Open Thread 1-9 October

by Bjinse - Sep 30, 8 comments

It's threads that counts. And I got threads.

 Open Thread 19 - 30 September

by Bjinse - Sep 20, 10 comments

Here's another nice thread you've gotten me into

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