May 17th, 2012

Panic on the streets of Berlin. Panic on the Streets of Dusseldorf. Fuck the Germans, Fuck the Germans, Fuck the Germans (Die Schmidts)

The unpleasant truth behind the racist German rants about lazy Southerners, is that Germany is the only country that has truly benefited from the Euro. It had an overly strong currency that was killing its exports, particularly in a Europe of currencies that continually weakened against it. The Euro gave everyone else Germany’s currency and let them borrow (from Germans) to buy German goods. The currency was much weaker than the DM because of the flakes they let in, like Greece, and so exports outside Europe picked up too. This artificial enhancement of German competitiveness not only boosted Berlin’s coffers, kept debts down and employment up, it made it impossible for the rest of Europe to re-structure its industry. With the same currency but worse fundamentals and none of Germany’s headstart, how exactly was Portugal supposed to create the next Siemens or Volkswagen?

The hypocrisy of using an effective devaluation to regain competitiveness and a breathing space in which to improve productivity by imposing rules on others which forbid them the same luxury should be obvious.

So in the good times, Germany wins. And also in the bad times. Then, Germany retains its pre-Euro status as a safe haven. It has saved at least €20 billion in interest costs just since 2009 as investors have piled into its bonds. And those low borrowing costs mean it profits from any bailouts too, lending to bailout countries at 4% or 5% while borrowing at 2.5%. That lending by the way means that Greece’s debt will actually keep rising until at least 2014. So much for the good Germans forgiving debts.

At the same time as criticising ordinary Greeks, whose wages would make them paupers in Germany and whose working hours are among the longest in Europe, Germany forgets that it was the failure of France and Germany to stick to the Maastricht criteria in 2003 (as well as their wilful blindness to the state of periphery countries before Euro entry) that paved the way for others to break the rules.

As for lazy Southerners, check out the wages and working conditions of Germans. It’s easy to objectify the Spanish and the Greeks from the comfort of a luxury spa in Bad Scheisseburg.

And the falling rates that Germany bequeathed the rest of Europe and which they should be so grateful for? Well, as was predicted at the time, giving smaller, less efficient countries access to cheap debt caused rampant inflation, asset bubbles that destroyed their economies and a debt-based version of Dutch disease – the reliance on natural resource exploitation at the expense of developing the rest of the economy. If lenders do not impose fiscal discipline, then governments are free to borrow and paper over the cracks in their economies, rather than being forced into painful restructuring. Again it is hypocritical to criticise markets for lending then and refusing to now. And it is hypocritical to say that those governments should have restructured anyway: these are democracies and you don’t win power by asking the turkeys to vote for Christmas.

What now? Well, one way would be for the odd man out to fuck off. If everyone else is a profligate flake, then let’s kick Germany out of the Eurozone and have a weaker but still global currency, a bit like a new Sterling. The devaluation gives us the breathing space to restructure, and only Germany’s banks take a hit because only they now have a big currency exposure.

The other way to look at it is that the Eurozone is now like a huge poker table with a fat, sausage-eating gentleman at one end who has used sleight of hand to take everyone else’s chips. If he insists on saying he didn’t cheat, and keeps the chips, the other players will starve. What then? Well, they won’t be able to play anymore so he’ll eventually run out of money anyway. And if they starve, and he doesn’t give them enough for food, then they’ll probably kill him. Surely the sensible thing to do in that situation is to say, “I was only kidding. This is how the trick worked, funny wasn’t it? But we’re still mates, aren’t we? Here’s your money.” That way, just maybe, the other guys realise just how close they came to starving, and change their gambling ways. And the fat man stays friends with people whose goodwill and relationships he needs to survive.

So how to make that speech Merkel, you lying, hypocritical physicist, you cold, moralising, unfuckable lard arse? 

January 23rd, 2012

French horn vomit whimsy

I’m so glad you could all make it here today for our little celebration of your time at St Swithin’s School for boys. And I must say how gratifying it is to see how so many of you have succeeded in your chosen careers to become pillars of the professional communities upon which the prosperity of our society rests.

Sir Robert Bingham, as I’m sure you all know, is chairman of the Royal First Bank which, until its unfortunate encounter with some rather undesirable Americans sent it into bankruptcy, was our country’s pre-eminent financial institution. I remember young Robert well and confess to being somewhat surprised at his choice of career. From my recollection, mathematics was to him not so much a closed book as an entire library he was unable to read with even the slightest proficiency.

However his ability to juggle figures of an entirely different nature, resulting in several visits from the headmistress of Lady Eleanor’s next door, I see has been useful in his later life. It would be a grotesque injustice if his entirely understandable dalliance with his head of Human Relations – after all his wife is, if my eyes do not deceive me, a practising lesbian of the most masculine classification – were to lead to the loss of his KBE.

Jonathan Bennett, the youngest man ever to serve as foreign secretary, was, I recall, a gifted commander of our combined cadet force. His aggression and perseverance on the field were startling. His innovative use of both the school hovercraft and glider in firebombing Hampton School for the Disabled was an early indication of a man for whom the doctrine of overwhelming force was more than mere theoretical whimsy. I note with pride how this same combination of skills has been put to such good use in the theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan. We can only hope that he does not repeat the misfortune that led to his involuntary exit from the school, when his platoon claimed to have absentmindedly ‘left’ 27 loaded 303 rifles in the New Forest none of which was ever recovered.

And of course, what review of our successes would be complete without mentioning Martin Hopkins. Hopkins, you may remember, was already an alcoholic when he joined us at the age of eleven, a trait inherited from both parents and, impressively, from both grandparents on his mother’s and father’s side.

I think I can say without fear of contradiction that no-one who saw his performance on the french horn at our quatercentenary concert is likely to forget it. If he had only managed to vomit over the sponsors in the front two rows, he would scarcely merit a mention in the school magazine. But the unique combination of a three-day bender with the hi-pressure directional capabilities of the horn resulted in a jet of such severity that a number of parents were hospitalized and stomach pumped side by side with young Martin himself. I still shudder at the merest hint of gin.

Martin today edits one of our most prestigious newspapers and it is only the most unfortunate collision of coincidences, involving the misuse of a number of so-called ‘mobile telephones’, that seem destined now to lead to his lengthy incarceration.

But there are several among you who have not, I must admit, lived up to my expectations. I mention just one in passing.

Stephen Hawthorne, a youth whose personality and predilections marked him out as the vilest and most predatory rapist of his generation, has singularly failed to grace the pages of our tabloid papers. I remain astounded at his capacity for cruelty to those smaller and more vulnerable than him and his lasting obsession with the most scatalogical subjects would have shamed a stray dog. I take it as a personal failing that he has not already dismembered and eaten several members of what I believe is referred to as the oldest profession. By the time of our next reunion I expect him at the very least to have acquired a nickname of gruesome significance.

Ah, but I see one of my predictions is about to be realised. Gareth Davies was a boy whom it was impossible to like or even tolerate. He had all the endearing qualities of a mosquito and combined a whining sentimentality with an entirely ill-founded sense of victimhood given his background of extreme privilege. A petty thief and bed wetter, he deserved the unceasing bullying he received from both boys and staff and it seems only right that he is here today to fulfil my prophecy made at his graduation that he was by far and away the boy most likely to return to the school in full combat gear to execute those who made his worthless life such a misery……………….

January 18th, 2012

Information underload as Wikipedia goes down

Wikipedia, the world’s only significant source of information you can get at without doing any fucking work at all, closed for 24 hours today to protest something whose details I was going to look up on Wikipedia. Whatever it was – and there is absolutely no way of finding that out now – it was serious enough to merit the suspension of 84% of media activity in the free world, 78% of non-work-related office internet fiddling and all of my conversations about politics, sport and whether wild rice is a species of seaweed or possibly a grass that grows in brackish water.

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January 17th, 2012

Cruise ship sinking just in time to save national stereotype

You know how you believe something for years and you even say it occasionally when drunk and everyone tells you to be quiet or looks at you in horror and your partner shakes their head and then one day something happens that absolutely proves your broad-brush generalization was spot on all along?

Well that’s what the capsize of the Concordia cruise liner does for all those who’ve been watching Italy and wondering how to resurrect the national truths first revealed to us by World War II, ‘Allo ‘Allo and the latest Dolmio adverts. Forget Berlusconi: he was so over the top he made a mockery of serious stereotyping. And forget the financial crisis – we’ve all been as profligate and in denial as the Italians.

But then along comes Captain Francesco Schettino to reaffirm our core beliefs about the land of the Hesperides.

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The old order changeth, yielding place to new. And soon I suppose I shall be swept away by some vulgar little tumor. Oh, my boys. My boys, we're at the end of an age. We live in a land of weather forecasts and breakfasts that 'set in;' shat on by Tories, shoveled up by Labor. And here we are, we three, perhaps the last island of beauty in the world.