Sunday, April 28, 2013

Life imitating art. I wrote last week that the NRA in the USA were not going far enough in suggesting teachers should be armed. I felt that the kids should be too and that they should eventually be given personalised body armour. Today I read that: The pink bulletproof rucksack that 5-year-old Jaliyah wears to school every day reaches almost down to her knees and weighs 3lbs even when empty. . . Lined with ballistic material that can stop a 9mm bullet travelling at 400 metres per second, the backpack is only one of a clutch of new products making their way into US schools in the wake of Newtown school massacre. If you need it, there's more here.

Today I checked the calculation of the couple who came to persuade me to move from propane to natural gas. The source material was my bills of the last 12 months, which give the kilos of gas used to two decimal points. Ignoring this and using only rounded-up integers, I got the total to 490 kilos, compared with the 489.56 of my visitors. I cite this because it's an example of something I've mentioned a couple of times before; there seems to be no recognition here that the decimal points are, well, pointless. In newspapers, it can be worse, when numbers can be given to 3 decimal points. I've suggested this is done to give specious numbers an air of veracity. But it may be that people just don't think. Or that they're never taught to use their common sense. Other theories very welcome.

It struck me today that the Spanish press are essentially 'scandal rags'. Not because their behaviour is scandalous, like, say, the defunct News of the World, but because there's a constant procession of reports on corruption in the corporate and political worlds. The nearby city of Vigo figured in two of these today. The first was an investigation into a missing 3m euros in the port area and the second was further detail of fraudulent mis-management of the company Pescanova, whose president sold many of his shares just before the company filed for bankruptcy and saw a 99% fall in its share price. More on this here.

Needless to say, the Spanish government has now revised all its forecasts for the performance of the economy and its key elements. Growth expectations are down and taxes will rise again. Improvement in the unemployment rate has also been postponed until growth returns in 3 years time. Maybe. More here.

Gruesomely, some Spaniards are taking extreme steps to improve their financial situation. One has cut off his hand and another his lower arm, so as to make huge insurance claims. Sadly, neither of them succeeded in their cack-handed attempts to fool their insurance companies. What next? An auto-decapitation?

The EU: As I was saying, the institution has no real idea of how to defeat – or even attack – its fundamental problems. As as our Ambrose put it today: Germany’s Bundesbank has issued a devastating attack on the bond rescue policies of the European Central Bank, rendering the eurozone’s key crisis measure almost unworkable. . . . The 9m window of opportunity created by Draghi has been wasted.

Finally . . . An EU-based joke cartoon in Private Eye has Mrs Merkel addressing fellow Eurozone members and saying: A tax is ze best form of defence.

The sort of thing that makes her so popular. Another one tomorrow.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

My dear Colin,

I fear I must disagree with your view that the EU does not know what it ought to do to overcome this crisis. They are our Best and our Brightest, and really are too smart for that. By now everybody recognizes that the only feasible solution is to allow certain countries to return to a currency of their own in a strictly controlled manner, with ‘Marshall Plan’ financing from the more successful members of the Eurozone. That would be best for both creditor and debtor nations, for the suffering and the healthy, in short: for all involved.

Unfortunately, this solution is anathema to the EU, since it would imply that some of the nations that have been lured into the fish trap would be allowed to get away… And that must never happen! For, once one escapes and lives, others would rethink their membership as well. And that is not what Brussels’ policy is about. It is about power, not about growth, employment, democracy, freedom, welfare or peace.

Yours, Al

Colin said...

Failing a managed break-up of the current imbroglio, everyone seems to agree on the need for an immediate fiscal union and a proper central bank, to funnel the funds to the weaker economies. But 'immediate' seems to mean something different in Brussels from what it does elsewhere.

But do you really mean to tell me there are no idealists in Brussels who really believe in the worth of The Project?