All posts by John B

We write letters

Just sent this letter to the Observer’s readers editor:

Re: ‘Light-touch’ reforms raise fears of new bank disaster

This article from Sunday 12 June has one of the most inaccurate sentences I’ve ever seen anywhere:

“Critics point out that it was a subsidiary of Northern Rock, Granite, that contained the liabilities that led to the collapse of the bank: Granite owned £49bn of mortgages that were sold by Northern Rock and moved offshore to the tax haven of Jersey.”

1) Granite wasn’t a subsidiary of Northern Rock, it was an umbrella term used to cover several different offshore organisations that were structured as charitable trusts and that specifically weren’t owned by NR.

2) Northern Rock didn’t have any liabilities through Granite – the whole point was that NR wasn’t liable for Granite’s debts. Rather, Granite’s bonds were secured against the mortgages that it bought from NR.

3) The collapse of the bank had absolutely nothing to do with Granite – it was because NR was reliant on short-term financing to cover the mortgages that it *hadn’t* sold to Granite, and this short-term financing dried up as the crunch began.

Perhaps Nick Mathiason should read the article I wrote on Granite last February before writing any more pieces that mention Northern Rock…


John Band

I’m genuinely not sure that I’ve seen a sentence that wrong-headed in a serious newspaper before, ever

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-14

  • Can some Eurologist like @nosemonkey explain how the BNP got a seat in NW on 8% of vote, but not in E Mids or NE on more than that? #
  • RT @qwghlm In case you haven’t seen it already, B3ta sums it up best #theBNParetwats #
  • Thanks everyone. Why on earth didn’t they make the constituencies comparably sized? (8 vs 3 is just silly) #
  • It’s worth noting the BNP vote was *down* compared with the last Euro elections. They’re the same bigots as before, not new ones… #
  • Lazy eejits let Nazi in: “if 5000 more people in the NW had voted Green, Griffin wouldn’t be off to Strasbourg” #
  • “Less a putsch than a series of tschoves” #
  • ‘Inverting the lexicon of politics and history [by calling the BNP left-wing] is political correctness gone mad’ #
  • Nazi results: Stoke is Nazi-est, Barnsley second, Havering 3rd: #
  • Stoke is 93% white, Barnsley 98%, Havering 91%. ALL SWAMPED BY EVIL HORDES OF IMMIGRANTS THEY ARE, and definitely not just bigoted cunts #
  • Haha, brilliant: #istherightthingtodo #andfuckstheTories #
  • RT @charlottelydia: NickGriffin thinks immigration is ‘colonialism’. Well I’m a historian of colonialism, and I think Nick Griffin is a cunt #
  • The only time I’ll agree with the English Democrats on anything is that ‘diversity officers’ are wastes of space: #
  • What’s wrong with ‘let people from everywhere in’, ‘ban them from being fucked over’ but ‘allow & encourage satire & mockery of all by all’? #
  • Just lost at TV: endured Sex In The City, but then wasn’t allowed Ross Kemp’s Pirates in recompense. Need to cut down trees or something. #
  • RT @johnnyminkley Man Utd should buy Newcastle with the proceeds. Just for laughs. #ronaldo #
  • Do anti-EU eejits who think ‘we can’t vote for the Commission’ is a sane argument also think it’s an outrage we can’t vote for the Cabinet? #
  • Great way to waste an afternoon- all the Beatles’ songs, reviewed & ranked in reverse order of merit: #
  • Wondering if there’s really much difference in ‘Independence’ terms between the current & the potential slightly-dodgy foreign proprietor #
  • For provincial readers, electricity is a magical invisible force that can move things without the aid of horses & rope #
  • I’ve given up on data export (‘one memory stick, 4 computers, 50GB of data’ is mildly *more* unpleasant than 2girls1cup…) & drinking wine #
  • Before anyone fears for my health, I mean I’ve given up on data export and *am now* drinking wine #
  • Top Twitter Trending Topics currently appear to include “David Carradine’s Air France Flight”. Now that’s a B-movie I’d hire. #
  • RT @TACJ I am become deaf. Mishearer of words. #
  • My moderate take on BNP apologists: #
  • Fuck Prince Charles. Twunt. Can’t believe the woo-woo promoting, modern-world-hating tosser is gonna be king: #
  • New BOFH reminds me of major ‘err, IT, WTF’ point: since storage costs ~nothing, why *are* mailboxes limited to 200MB? #
  • The only way to demonstrate to the world that we see Griffin as an eggworthy disgrace is to repeatedly pelt him with eggs: #
  • RT @hungbunny I’m off my tits. (You wouldn’t like them much either, they’re quite hairy.) #
  • got – woo. #
  • I’m no Bob Crow fan, but Simon Heffer should be nailed to a plank: #

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Old Crow from the archives

I think pretty much everything in my RMT piece from last summer still applies today.

Note in particular: 1) Low turnout and non-spectacular majority indicating this is a Crow effort not grassroots; 2) Tories using the RMT’s intransigence to lobby for (even) more draconian public sector anti-strike rules; 3) DLR, Thameslink, Overground are all working (as would be ELL, extended Thameslink and Crossrail, if they were built yet); 4) absolutely no support from Aslef and TSSA, leaving many Tube lines running too; 5) reports of RMT drivers blacklegging.

Isn’t this just obvious to everyone?

Clive has a good piece up on CiF on the way that internationally, David Cameron is going to be perceived as the UK’s George W Bush, both for his buffoonery and his disdain for international agreements.

Being a CiF thread, the comments spiralled into Europhobic lunacy. However, responding to a silly-ish question there did give me the opportunity to articulate both my support for the EU in principle, and my opposition to an English parliament, more coherently than I’ve managed before:

In practice, some things work better at the level of 500m people, some things work better at the level of 50m people, some better at the level of 5m people, some at the level of 500k people, and so on down the chain.

Hence, there’s a role for the EU, the UK, the UK regions, district councils, and parish councils. At the moment, outside of Wales, NI and Scotland, everything is far too centralised at the second level (which is why an English parliament would be a waste of time – what we need are seven English parliaments, each with the power of the Welsh Assembly at least, representing a manageable number of people), with too little power delegated to regions, districts and parishes.

I’m struggling to see how anyone could sensibly disagree with that. Yes, “the EU is corrupt so we shouldn’t be in it” is a valid argument for all I disagree, but isn’t the claim the UKIP/English Democrat types are making – that the optimal area of government for us happens to correlate directly with the outcomes of a few battles between 1000 and 300 years ago – just utterly insane?

Nobody who gets anything wrong should ever be allowed to do anything again

Let’s assume you’re an excellent journalist (yes, I know for most bloggers this would be a bit of a heroic assumption, but never mind). You spend 15 years working your way up through various jobs until you’re editor of a national title. You do the job very well.

Then the chairman of the large media company that owns your title offers you a job as head of finance. You take it on; you fail to spot the risks in the strategy your predecessor was running and so continue with it; the company gets run into the ground; and you’re rightly fired.

In a reasonable and sane world, should you:
a) apply for editor jobs, and be taken seriously as a candidate because you’ve a strong proven track record in editorial, and the fact that you messed up corporate finance isn’t at all relevant
b) never be allowed to work again, save perhaps as a cub reporter or a night sub?

The sane answer is a, right? So why the hell is there such a fuss about Andy Hornby, who was an extremely good manager at Asda and running HBOS’s retail division, but didn’t understand the systemic risk of reduced liquidity or the lack of controls in HBOS’s corporate banking department, being hired to run retailer Alliance Boots…? He’s a good candidate for the job.

(more generally, I don’t get the public’s general anger against bankers, politicians, etc. Yes, they messed up. You messed up. We all mess up. We’re people, it’s what we do. The bankers didn’t kill anyone, they just cost us a bit of money. It’s only money. Nobody in the UK will ever have to starve on the streets, so the money doesn’t really matter, beyond ‘it’d be nice to have a new car this year’. So stop being such pathetic childish bitter twats about it…)