All posts by John Band

SPV of the week

[Sorry, it's a forward so I can't link the original...]

“Munich Re has launched a bond programme under which $1.5bn in extreme mortality risk will be transferred to the capital markets…. Munich Re said that the programme would protect it against an exceptional rise in mortality after a major pandemic or similar event in the US, Canada, England & Wales, and Germany.”

I’m glad payouts are triggered by Germany as well. Still, it’s going to piss the hell out of the insurees if the bioterrorists go for Bermuda, Scotland, NI and the Netherlands…

Northern Rock again: why Granite isn’t that hard

If the Northern Rock debacle has done nothing else, it’s certainly given a lot of people a great opportunity to rant about things they don’t understand. The latest example is Granite, the name used for a collection of Special Purpose Vehicles [*] and associated companies [**] used by Northern Rock.

According to hard-left MP John McDonnell, Granite “holds approximately 40% of Northern Rock’s assets, around £40bn… where Northern Rock’s best assets sit outside the reach of taxpayers. So the bill to nationalise Northern Rock will, in fact, be nationalising only dodgy debt“.

The good folk of Commentisfree have gone even further to town, uniting socialist idiots and right-wing idiots alike in a chorus of “someone somewhere has carried out a rather large fraud and I would like that someone prosecuted“-type comments.

There’s only one tiny problem with this kind of commentary: it’s bollocks. The mortgages in Granite are exactly the same quality as the mortgages that stayed in NR, nothing untoward took place anywhere along the line (well, not involving SPVs), and NR isn’t liable for Granite’s debts.

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Photography on London Underground is permitted

There’s an occasional debate on whether photography is allowed on the Tube, generally sparked when a staff member harrasses someone for doing it.

The answer is crystal clear: photography is indeed permitted on the Tube without express permission, as long as you don’t do anything dangerous like using a flash, or sell the pictures you take.

TfL’s website confirms that photography on the Tube is allowed for personal use. This is supported by part 10 of rule Sa109 in staff’s Working Reference Manual (I don’t have a copy, but anyone hassling you should), which says:

10.1 Passengers can take photographs with small cameras for private purposes, provided
* flashlights and/or tripods are not used
* No obstruction or inconvenience is caused to staff and/or passengers.

10.2 Representatives of the media, press or photographic agencies and film companies, and other persons taking photographs for commercial purposes must first get permission from the Press Officer.

I think the only reason this is an issue is that the TfL page on commercial photography is easier to find than the one on general photography, and hence one gets mistaken for the other. Hopefully this post will help direct people to the right places…

(thanks to, and also; in response to the comments here)

Am I missing something here?

A surprisingly large number of commentators seem to believe that Northern Rock’s shareholders should be eligible for some kind of compensation, following the bank’s nationalisation. To me, this seems utterly bizarre.

According to the Merril/Citi/Blackstone plan to sell Northern Rock in October 2007 (which was leaked by Bad People, and which certainly can’t be found anywhere on the Internet these days), the bank had mortgage assets in October 2007 of just over £100bn, and liabilities to retail depositors, commercial lenders and the UK government of just under £100bn, giving the company shareholders’ equity of somewhere well south of £5bn (based on its balance sheet, not on share prices).

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…and people criticise me for *my* rhetorical style

Fine 18th century invective from Captain Christopher Middleton, directed against a random idiot who was talking rubbish on the Pamphletnet – a snip at £2,000.

A REJOINDER TO MR. DOBB’S REPLY TO CAPTAIN MIDDLETON; IN WHICH IS EXPOS’D, BOTH HIS WILFUL AND REAL IGNORANCE OF TIDES; &C. HIS JESUITICAL PREVARICATIONS, EVASIONS, FALSITIES, AND FALSE REASONING; HIS AVOIDING TAKING NOTICE OF FACTS, FORMERLY DETECTED AND CHARGED UPON HIM AS INVENTIONS OF HIS OR HIS WITNESSES; THE CHARACTER OF THE LATTER, AND THE PRESENT VIEWS OF THE FORMER, WHICH GAVE RISE TO THE PRESENT DISPUTE. IN A WORD, AN UNPARALELLED DISINGENUITY, AND (TO MAKE USE OF A VERODOBBSICAL FLOWER OF RHETORIC) A GLARING IMPUDENCE, ARE SET IN A FAIR LIGHT. LONDON

Regular readers will doubtless be unsurprised to hear that Captain Middleton turned out to be right in the end.

I tell my mum I play piano in a brothel

If someone had told my 15-year-old self that in the year 2008, I’d be a high-powered professional, up at twenty to one on a Tuesday night in the heart of the big city, eating fried chicken and exploring the innermost parts of models, then I’d’ve been quite pleased about the way my life was going to turn out.

I don’t think I’d heard of financial models when I was 15. And I liked fried chicken quite a bit more than I currently do…

How journalism works, part N

From Flat Earth News by Nick Davies:

I spoke to a man who had worked for the Daily Mail for some years as a senior news reporter. He said: ‘They phoned me early one morning and told me to drive about three hundred miles to cover a murder. It was a woman and two children who’d been killed. I got an hour and a half into the journey, and the news desk called me on my mobile and said, “Come back.” I said, “Why’s that?” They said, “They’re black.”

(via)

Question to people who are cross with Rowan Williams

Would you abolish the current right under English law of Orthodox Jews to have civil cases heard in the Beth Din with the agreement of both parties?

If so, why haven’t you protested about the Beth Din previously? If not, then why on earth don’t you think that Muslims should be granted the same rights you are happy to extend to Orthodox Jews?

Update – from dsquared in the comments, a summary of the ways in which the rights available to Orthodox Jews are currently not available to Muslims, and would not be available to Muslims without additional legislation:

[Sharia] arbitration services aren’t in general binding unless they’re recognised by the normal courts, meaning that they are absolutely rife with jurisdiction-shoppers who go to the sharia court in bad faith, with the intention of then going to a normal court if the judgement goes against them. You can’t do this with a Beth Din (or various other courts of arbitration) because they’re binding arbitration. At present there are Sharia Councils which do carry out arbitration, but in the absence of a specific pre-existing contract, it’s not binding.
[...]
When John Doe shows up to the court complaining about the deal he received at the Beth Din under arbitration, claiming he’s been made the victim of a capricious and arbitrary ruling, the courts will chuck it out because there’s a lot of history of the Beth Din working as a proper arbitration service. If Richard Roe shows up claiming that Sheikh Joe Bloggs has acted unfairly and arbitrarily in the Sharia Court of Bumsville, then the court will have to take this seriously because they’ve never heard of Sheikh Bloggs or his alleged “court” before.

It might seem reasonable to conclude that things would work a lot better if the British Islamic community could agree on a core of sharia principles that they could all live with, unify the Sharia Councils structure and work toward getting improved legal recognition of its work in arbitration.