Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And universal Darkness buries All.
No posting last weekend – internet problems and also simply the chaos, even through the weekend itself as everyone hosed the Greeks and eurozone finance ministers, led by the Austrian minister, got uppity with US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for suggesting they better get their act together. Briefly to recap though: the working week was bookended by the UK’s Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) or Vickers commission recommending separation of utility and investment banking in Britain and ended with a stunning example of the point of the Vickers proposals. As ICB member (and FT economics editor) Martin Wolf wrote in the FT Friday, 16 September, ‘Thank you UBS’.
As a member of the UK’s Independent Commission on Banking under Sir John Vickers I could not have asked for a better illustration of the unregulatable risks to which investment banks are exposed than Thursday’s announcement of a loss of $2bn in “unauthorised trading”. No sane country can allow taxpayers to stand behind such risks.
British bankers and their lobbyists had spent months following the publication of the Vickers group’s interim report – which presented the ring-fencing proposal in draft – pushing that hoary line that it would signal the death of the City, the end of all life inside the Square Mile – and prime minister Cameron and chancellor George Osborne seemed to be buying the argument. And then! Step forward Kweku Adoboli – and ring up $2bn plus on the UBS till.
But before that unveiling Thursday (15th) by UBS management of their little loss (clients’ funds were not affected) JPM’s Jamie Dimon stuck in his five cents-worth Monday (in an FT interview) on the evils of bank regulation: Basel III was ‘anti-American’?! And he was ‘almost’ inclined to the view that the US should fold up the tent and …
“I’m very close to thinking the United States shouldn’t be in Basel any more. I would not have agreed to rules that are blatantly anti-American,” he said. “Our regulators should go there and say: ‘If it’s not in the interests of the United States, we’re not doing it’.”
Actually it is all getting very (worryingly) xenophobic – including again this week. Everyone has their own version of the ‘Polish’ joke. The English have their ‘Paddy’ stories, the Irish have their ‘Kerry man’ tales. Kiwis and Wallabies sledge each other on and off the cricket (and rugby) field of play and so on and on. All very fine and in the nature of things but … It can get out of hand. Yes, the Greeks have problems and have brought things on their own heads but the idea that they are all beach bums, slackers and layabouts is sailing pretty close to outright racism, and no small touch of sectarianism as well, when mouthed by northern European politicians who themselves can have questions to answer. Don’t mention the Anschluss! Read the rest of this entry »
The Prehistory of ‘The Special Relationship’ – An American on Britain and its subjugation of the world (1864)
This essay was first published in the July 2011 edition of the political journal, Irish Foreign Affairs, a quarterly review published by the Irish Political Review Group in Dublin. Pat Walsh is also the author of the book The Rise and Fall of Imperial Ireland – Redmondism in the context of Britain’s conquest of South Africa and its Great War on Germany andIreland’s Great War on Turkey 1914 – 1924 both published by Athol Books, Belfast. It is republished here with the permission of Pat Walsh as it is an exploration of one stormy chapter of the theme behind the title of this blog – the Great Divergence – or the rise of Ameranglia.
After the United States had survived its civil war the Reverend Charles Brandon Boynton gave a Thanksgiving Sermon to the House of Representatives in which he pointed out that the enemy without was more dangerous than the enemy within:
“We should be thankful to God because He baffled the plot which was formed against us in Europe. With the evidence now before us, no candid man can doubt that the conspiracy against our Republic led to Europe, and that the foreign branch, then was more formidable than that on our own soil. The plot was prepared with as much care in France and England as in the Southern States. The European part of it was ready quite as soon as their accomplices here. When the moment arrived, France and England, by proclamation, and according to previous agreement, lifted the traitors to the position of lawful belligerents… England was on hand to aid in crippling a commercial and manufacturing rival, and gratify her jealousy of the United States, and get ready her Alabamas, and swift steamers to run the blockade. Nothing saved us at the outset from more active interference, but the perfect confidence of France and England that our ruin was sure through what had been done already. They watched and waited for our destruction in vain; but they thought it certain. They were ready to strike, but thought the blow not needed.” (National Thanksgiving Services held on December 7, 1865, in the House of Representatives of the United States of America by Reverend Charles Brandon Boynton, Chaplain of the House pp.10-11)
These were the days before the ‘Special Relationship’ when war between America and Britain was still a living memory (England had burned Washington in 1813) and perhaps a distinct possibility of the future. Read the rest of this entry »
I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
“Come in” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
It is now clear what the Schlieffen Merkel game-plan is – and that she has Sarkozy under her thumb in pursuing it. It is to support Greece to the hilt in the present shambles. The Greeks will get their €8bn – and soon. There will be no more quibbles or threats from the troika or any of its components and nor will there be, to the best of her ability, any more rude noises from her ministers. The next tranche will be handed over despite the fact that Greece is not currently meeting – and will not and cannot meet – the targets laid down in the memorandum of understanding and work-out plan agreed with the troika. If there is any doubting that the French have been brought to heel by Merkel, then simply look at the utterances of French government spokeswoman and budget minister Valerie Pecresse Sunday 11 September, that France would stop lending to Greece if it did not deliver on its part of the bailout program. Read the rest of this entry »
What a week – and what an end to it: the end of Jurgen Stark, at elast at the ECB, as chief economist and executive board member, with three years still to run in his term. Earlier in the week Deutsche’s Josef Ackermann summed it up on the state of European financial markets, “The ‘new normal’ is characterized by volatility and uncertainty — not only in respect to market developments, but also in consideration of the future of the financial branch”, indeed we live in new normal times – as if we needed any more proof actually.
Friday afternoon ZH reported the market chatter was of Greek default over the weekend. Things do look desperate for the Hellenes: from DJ Greek service, [A]fter the interruption of negotiations with the Troika last week, the postponement of disbursement of next €8 billion tranche is possible. Government officials note that available funds are sufficient to meet basic needs until the end of the month.
However weekending events – actual and prospective –should not be allowed to swamp our attentions from earlier developments – whether Ackerman’s from the hip or Trichet’s top-blower, not forgetting Obama’s plan and lots more. Read the rest of this entry »
Negotiations between troika officials and the Greek department of finance broke down and the troika team left Athens (2 Sept). They are not scheduled to return before mid-September at the earliest. According to a troika statement “the mission has made good progress, but has temporarily left Athens to allow the authorities to complete technical work, among other things, related to the 2012 budget and growth-enhancing structural reforms.” For which read there is a flaming row with the troika essentially deciding that Greece is again off the rails from the point of view of meeting particularly budget deficit targets set in the bail-out agreement.
As a result of the breakdown shares on the Athens exchange understandably fell sharply Friday.
In addition to the (now departed) troika there is a second team currently in Athens: the US consultants BlackRock are going through the banks’ accounts, conducting a stress test (this is the team brought into Ireland to do a similar evaluation of the Irish banks, leading to the big recap of banks there last March). Read the rest of this entry »