Monday, 30 November 2009

Intel. A chip off the old Bloc

My handler told me: no names. My post, the first 'intelligence blog' to appear on the web - to the best of my knowledge - won't mention pseudonyms, pet-names, pen-names or code names. I told 'Z' - not my handler's code-name, just a smokescreen - that I am more interested in what the people do than what they’re called. And 'Z' said, I can't mention what they do either.

So what is it we get up to in our 'community'? Though of course I can't say explicitly, I can hint: We follow you. We follow you, just as you follow us. How do we know you follow us? Because we see you every day, scanning, searching, logging on to certain sites – I’m not talking just intelligence websites, but also affiliates sites. We know how you think. We even know how you will think before you think. How so? Yes, how so?.

It’s what you people refer to as 'conspiracy theory'.

Right now the intelligence community is concerned that the conspiracy theory we know and love is losing traction, is out of control. Why? What do I mean by out of control? I will phrase it in a way that is not what you’d call prosaic, not literal: I say, too many conspiracy theories spoil the broth. And I hear you say, prosaic? What this guy's just given us is a mixed metaphor - pure and simple.

Perhaps. But it is a mixed metaphor that I have wanted to deploy for some time. And why? Because I know that it will distract you, just for one moment, from what I'm leading to. Have you got that? Probably not... but then again, you might've... if you happen to be that person whose IP address (starting 134.135...) vanished from my monitor just 0.93 seconds ago! Don't worry, we can trace your IP, even after its vanished!

We invented conspiracy theories and we invented them to make you afraid. You don't realise this, you probably cannot accept it, and never will. But it's true. We’ve always wanted you to think that nothing controversial happens unless a powerful organisation makes it happen. Unless a covert governmental agency planned it that way. And you have always bought the notion. But one day, my friends, you ran too far with them, these theories, and you made them your own. Now that can't be right, can it? They are not your theories, they are ours. We created them. So hey guys could you please just give us back our darned theories? (That's tongue in cheek, in case you were unaware.)

Or don't you guys just f- get it? You see, if you can get your heads round 'information overload', why can't you get them round 'conspiracy overload'? Who the hell will believe conspiracies any more if for every famous death, there are ten thousand theories? Next year, there will be a hundred thousand theories for some guy who's one tenth as big. And maybe, one day, there’ll be millions for just your average Joe. No one will believe the theories any more. They'll be meaningless. And where's the point in that?

So, cool your jets. Cut the theories. If you want anyone to believe in anything ever again, then stop dicking around with all this, 'my belief's as good as the next guy's' shit. Some things are true and some things are not - except when we insinuate that they are. And if you keep on spreading too many theories, then maybe we'll find who you are, we'll track your IP addresses, because we’re starting to think that the only reason you'd possibly want people to stop believing in them (by spreading so many theories of your own) is because you are the enemy. The real enemy. The enemy of a community that does theories good and proper.

You see this is the point: The silicon chip, the internet, the web, they were never meant to be about democratizing things like knowledge and truth... or conspiracy theories for that matter. And that's because it's no longer a case nowadays of, ye shall know truth and the truth shall set ye free. It's, ye shall know what you need to know, so that technology can set you free. But you have to learn how to use technology first. And that, as we all know, is a discipline. Right, disciples? Right.

Think about that. Because, we do. We think about it. Every day.

And ask yourself one last question - assuming that you have read this far: What did I mean earlier when I talked about my handler? Maybe, just maybe, I am the handler not the handled? And how do you know that anyone ever really told me what I could or could not say? After all, I have said quite a lot, have I not? But then, of course, that's your problem to answer, not mine.

Yours abidingly and faithfully, Colonel Kurtz (And if you want to believe that's my real name then be my guest. In actual fact, it really is. Francis F. stole it from me, not the other way round!)

PS. A friend of mine tells me this: Next year, a butterfly will flap its wings in the Brazilian rain forest and there’ll be a million theories as to why it did. But, in reality there is only one theory that's correct, guys. Only one. Think on it.

On this occasion our 'intelligence blogger' very kindly agreed to provide us with his real name on account of the fact that the Disney trademark had expired. However we are not convinced that it is out of trademark and are therefore witholding it

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Pull the other cracker

Another concerned believer, who also wisely pre-screens the content of his Christmas crackers, sadly found this joke and sent it in:

Q: What would Jesus have said had he known of the wars that would be fought in his name?
A: Which bit of 'turn the other cheek' don’t they get?

Come on guys. I like a spot of blaspheming as much as the next man, but let's remember that this is the season of goodwill!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

D'you buy? Money, sex and climate change.

So, 'K' is allowed to blog again. I can't discuss my friends and for now at least I can't even point you to my entry in wikipedia, precisely because it gives a genuine indication of who I am - and who I know. The lawyers won't even let me 'cross-reference' it.

And why? Because people could add the false information (the allusions, the pseudonyms) to the true information (the wiki entries, the real names - even first names!), and, bang, two plus minus-two equals foreplay.

The lawyers think that, through a process of deduction, readers will discover which powerful people are currently telling lies to the British public, and which rich and famous people have lost their shirts in that mirage we call Dubai. And we can't have people knowing that, can we, darlings? Well, you know what I think about Dubai? I say, what do you think happens when you try building pyramids in the sand? You end up with riddles.

So what this all means is that I can talk sex, but only blindfolded and I can talk money, but not when it's hidden in numbered bank accounts. And if there is a hint of 'attribution' the legal guys will come down on us like a ton of injunctions!

So instead I have decided to discuss something that is oh so terribly close to 'K's' heart. And that is climate change! I've been doing my bit to save the planet for near on twenty years. My good friends Bob Geldof and Silvio Berlusconi introduced me... oh dear, better not mention them. They're lovely guys. But I am now so terrified of lawyers that I dare not name real people, even in such a positive light!

But as I was saying, I have been a passionate advocate of the green agenda for twenty years. I have attended countless celebrity parties, rock concerts, television fund raising events, proving beyond any doubt my total commitment to the cause. I have argued with politicians, I have shouted at environmental vandals (You know who you are boys). And I will carry on marching, whenever I have to, in order to prove what should be obvious to everyone: Climate change is the single biggest issue threatening this planet.

So you might be able to stop 'K' talking about the powerful, you can stop her discussing the rich and famous, but you will never ever stop her talking about global warming. Because at the end of the day, all that really counts in this life is passion, all that really counts is feeling and emotion and the urge to shout and tell everybody to sit up and take note. And if you have that passion, darlings, and you are ready to shout and shout and shout about global warming, then you are on your way to conquering the world. Like me! Darlings!
By guest blogger, K!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Wiki Wakey

Friend of mine, the editor of a famous etiquette book asked me the other day why I'd left my own editing job. I told him I'd grown tired of being the 'custodian of information', in an encyclopedia supposedly 'written by the people'.

He said he thought that was the whole point. Without guys like me, how could it function? All you'd have is a free for all that no one would take seriously.

Then why bother with all this 'people' crap if ultimately the whole thing is controlled by individuals who'd otherwise be spending their time producing the old fashioned kind of encyclopedias?

It's a compromise, isn't it? Between the people and the custodians?

Not really, I said. Then I produced an example of the kind of thing I come across when I edit. Someone had added to the page on UK Nuclear Power the following comment: The government is relaxed about Monty Burns building the UK's next generation of power stations. Most people know that Montgomery Burns is the dodgy power plant operator from the Simpsons. So that helpful addition cannot be true of course. And it has to go.

I explained I'd been strangely reluctant to delete it though. It's not the stuff of encyclopedias, evidently, but it did reflect public sentiment (in some quarters at least) that the government strategy had not been properly thought through. So what the hell is this 'people's encyclopedia' supposed to be or to achieve, if the end product is what it would have been if I had just written the encyclopedia myself?

Surely not an encyclopedia of public sentiment, he said? Surely that is exactly what the wider internet is all about? There's loads of public sentiment out there. Millions of blogs etc.

And I told him that he was probably right, but that I wished that institutions - be they governmental, media, commercial, whatever - would just stop using this idiotic word: People's. No it's not the people's anything. It's just as f-ing hierarchical as any other 'great undertaking' by a great institution.

He asked what next? I said I was doing some preliminary work on a survey seeking to identify the periods in history when art has been most easy to forge. I added that there'd never been a better time to forge art than right now. All you need is bric-a-brac, tat, debris, shit and the odd dead animal. You could copy most of the crap out there right now.

Leaving aside the cynicism, he said, it sounds to me like you mean the kind of art that could be produced 'by the people', he said, rather triumphantly... and simple enough to be accessible to the people.

It's of little benefit to the people financially though, I replied. Which might be the point.
By guest blogger, Vince White

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Christmas Crackers

This was sent to me by a troubled Christian who routinely checks his crackers for profanation:
First Man : What do you think Christ would say if he saw the commercial exploitation of the religion that bears his name?
Second Man: Where are my bloody royalties?

Is this what Christmas has come to? Even the crackers play Judas?

Mens Rea

Hi, my name is Jonah and I just got out of jail. The reason I wanted to have my say today was because of something I read in an English paper recently. It was about a man who killed his wife and it’s a bit – just a little bit - like what happened to me.

Here goes: Husband and wife are sleeping in their motor home. They are tormented by a bunch of bad-ass teenagers making a racket outside. Police are nowhere to be seen, surprise surprise. Then the man dreams that the teenagers have broken in to the motor home and he is laying into one of them. But what he’s actually doing is he’s attacking his Missus. He wakes up and finds her dead.

So far, so good. He is arrested, charged and tried. But they let him go because he had a sleep disorder. It means that he kind of loses it, and loses himself in his dreams – not all the time, but some of the time. You see he didn’t mean to kill the Missus, and he couldn’t know that he was killing her either. As far as he was concerned, he was actually killing one of these teenagers. Fortunately he couldn’t be guilty of killing any of the teenagers, because there were no dead teenagers. Got that?

Anyway, I might sound like I’m not taking this totally seriously. But believe you me, I really am. And this is because I too had a little dream a few years ago. This one involved an antelope. Yep, an African antelope. I was roaming this game reserve one moment, and the next moment I was hacking at the thing with a very large machete. And I was slicing and slicing and slicing him until he was just like so many pieces of salami.

So far, so good. But this time, the cop guy turns up and when I told him that I was having a dream about being attacked by an antelope and I was only defending myself, you know what he said? Yes, sir, but how does that explain the fact that last night you slaughtered your neighbour and his entire family and you sliced up their dogs into lots of tiny little pieces? And, you know what? I couldn’t answer that and I had a really bad lawyer and so went to jail.

So my point is this: the law is a bit of a tart really. Doesn’t always do what you expect it to do. And it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. It’s not what happens, but the lawyer you happen to get that’s important - like so much in life. Mind you, life, like the law is full of all sorts of great surprises. My friend Jonno dreamt that he was murdering his wife and when he woke up, he discovered an intruder lying dead in the hall way! And he went to jail.

So I’m not sure which it is better to be nowadays: Good in your head and bad in what you do or bad in your head and good in what you do. I suppose, if I knew that I’d be running the darned country.
Posted by Jonah Wicki, of no fixed employment nor abode

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

More leaked emails emerge – this time it’s Swine Flu!

It still has not been established whether these emails were leaked by an insider or a computer hacker. Whilst authentication of the items is pending, we clearly have had to change or truncate individual names and cut some references. These and departmental titles will be revealed in subsequent releases when the email source is corroborated.

From: Siegfried P Date: November 5 2009 15.36:12
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
Forecasts were wide of the mark, I’m afraid. Came in significantly lower than expected. And those who did catch it, far less severely than originally thought.

From: Hamish R Date: November 5 2009 16.34:22
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
The projections were as useful as the ones they knocked out for AIDS, CJD, SARS, Bird Flu etc etc. Ditto credit derivatives, climate change, same old story. Hope this isn’t going be another case of throwing good money after bad. How far did they actually get with the stockpiling malarkey? Picture can’t be that bad, can it?

From: Siegfried P Date: November 5 2009 17.45:23
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
Hard to say. Apparently there's enough for a fair proportion of the population.

From: Hamish R Date: November 6 2009 10.34:23
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
Siegfried, what proportion exactly? As in the proportion we’re committed to, not what proportion that's arrived?

From: Siegfried P Date: November 6 2009 11.12:34
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
You’ve read the papers? Perhaps 80% of the population. Roughly. Probably.

From: Hamish R Date: November 6 2009 14.45:12
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
80%? And that is what we actually have now? So, how much will that cost?

From: Siegfried P Date: November 6 2009 15.02:54
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
If only I knew!

From: Hamish R Date: November 6 2009 15.21:45
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
Dear Siegfried, isn't it your job to know? Anyway, whatever it is, it’s going to be a pretty penny, isn't it? The Minister knows all about this, I assume - the new figures, I mean?

From: Siegfried P Date: November 6 2009 15.28:32
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
Oh, yes. He is definitely in the loop. No hiding it from him. He misses nothing

From: Hamish R Date: November 6 2009 16.21:02
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
Quite. For the time being, we’ll sit on this. It isn’t going to help anyone that the outbreak is milder than feared. Our role is to make people fear, eh Perkins?
Better delete this entire email thread as well. Don’t want our advance knowledge of the whole screw up to be misinterpreted at some point in the future, do we?

From: Siegfried P Date: November 6 2009 17.12:32
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
No. There will be no smoking guns in this department. And shall I even delete the email that says delete the emails?

From: Hamish R Date: November 6 2009 17.32:41
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
That’s a daft question Perkins. It’s like a lawyer asking, “Do I go for the injunction or the super injunction? Smarten up!

From: Siegfried P Date: November 6 2009 17.45:11
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
Yes, sir. Of course. Consider it done.

From: Hamish R Date: November 7 2009 17.51:34
To: Siegfried P Subject: Flu Pandemic
One last question: Don’t suppose this flu drug we’ve stockpiled can be used for anything else? You know, as was the case with Viagra? Just so that this whole fiasco won’t have proven a total waste?

From: Siegfried P Date: November 7 2009 17.57:03
To: Hamish R Subject: Flu Pandemic
Don’t quite know sir. Quite possibly. Not sure whether it would be exactly like it was with Viagra. But, will look into it.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Super ego, super ID, super injunction.

The internet is fast becoming a world of avatars, 'sock-puppets' and fakes. The material world has mutated into an electronic one over recent decades. And as a result, our day to day grasp of reality is now predicated upon our faith in the intangible electron. How can we really know that anyone is who they say they are nowadays?

Hi, I began on that rather dour note with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek! As you might know, the 'glamour model' who did yesterday's piece poked fun at boring old lawyers. And here I am, a boring old lawyer, offering you my take on the internet. (And I don't mean take in a pecuniary sense!) But the point is, I'm not actually so boring when you think about what I have to say.

And what I have to say is this: internet identity fraud is becoming a big, big issue. It has quite literally become an issue for this website, although because of a super-injunction issued last night, I cannot refer specifically to why that is. But believe me, it is.

Now, whilst I must remain silent in that respect, I can however consider a contingent issue that is not - to the best of my knowledge - the subject of any injunctions. This is the use of fake IDs and web names in the ‘comments’ sections of this and other blog sites.

It all seems like a lot of fun at the time, doesn't it readers? Popping up on different websites, posting comments under pseudonyms? You know the sort of thing: "Comment by David Cam-moron... Climate change deniers are no better than the Catholic church that crucified Galileo..." or "Comment by Maggot Thatcher... NuLiebour will never ever be trusted again and will be booted into the gutter in 2010..." We don't even need to give silly fake names, if we don't want to. I, for example, could pretend to be plain 'Gordon Brown' as I log on to Tractor Drivers Monthly, and make comments like, "Nothing gives me more pleasure than driving my tractor stark bollock naked over the hills and valleys of Buckinghamshire."

You see, the internet is fast turning into a new Wild West where anything goes. I, you or anyone else can go onto the BBC, Sky or Guardian websites and sign in as whoever we want to be (assuming someone has not taken the names we wish to assign ourselves). And it might seem very amusing at the outset, but it can cause a lot of upset, a lot of anguish and pain to the parties involved. In fact only yesterday there was a case where a number of prominent 'Daily Mail' journalists were supposedly posting foul mouthed claptrap under their 'real names' on numerous blogsites. One of them admitted getting turned on by stained underwear and another claimed regularly to enjoy shoving small, furry rodents into a place where the sun don't shine! Now that can't be right, can it readers?

Do we want a world where we no longer trust anything anyone writes? Where people, pretending to be someone or something that they're not, make allegations that they know won't generally be traced back to them? It might seem funny now readers. But one day when someone is attacking you or something that you believe in, and when your name, or that of someone you admire, is taken in vain, then you might not be laughing anymore. Oh no! You won't find it funny when someone pretending to be you says they enjoy the aroma of their partner's poo, or that they like to masterbate whilst watching old repeats of Frasier or The Vicar of Dibley!

So here is what I think people like me will be able to bring to the table in the future. We all know what copyright law and patent law are. Why not work at developing identity law that can grapple with the integrity of internet IDs? No more silly names, no more silly allegations. Because even you, you sock puppet, even you, you fake George Osborne, you fake Polly Toynbee, you fake Andrew Neil with all your 'weird little hobbies', if you carry on using those names and you are not those people that you say you are, then you will find that the only thing stuffed where the sun don't shine is the legal documentation that I serve on you, matey boy!

Anyway, these are my ruminations on where I think the internet and internet law might be heading. I really think that these changes are going to be needed. All that we lawyers now need to do is consolidate the technical expertise. And finally, I hope that this wasn't as boring as our 'glamour model' Kayla suggested it would be. Who knows, even she might find something of interest in my brief, painless, and, simply written, discourse on internet fakery!
This post was brought to you by Ferdie Doberman, Litigation Partner.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Glamour model Kayla's 'secret operation'

That Mister Ludd is not a terribly gracious man. He told me that I cannot do another post after this one because everyone has to take it in turns. This means that tomorrow it will probably be some government official or lawyer boring us all to death with his latest assessment of the MPs expenses row. That is hardly going to ‘pull in the punters’, is it?

I hope that there is no ulterior motive, however, such as Mister Ludd getting jumpy about the things I covered (or uncovered) yesterday. Maybe Mister Ludd feels threatened by the very lawyers that he is happy to feature on this website from time to time. But who knows? Maybe when he reads my post today, he will relent, however and realize that, irregardless of lawyers, I am the kind of personality that he should welcome with open arms.

Anyhow, I did not manage to tell ‘family man’ about ‘the operation’ that I mentioned in yesterday’s post. There were some photographers hanging around the Ivy last night as we approached. I can’t really believe that they were waiting for us; my vague references yesterday can’t have filtered out that quickly.

But ‘family man’ wasn’t taking any chances. He decided its better that he’s not seen with me in public. Oh, I know that his company might be purchasing the rights to my memoirs, but how often can he get away with that as an excuse? We ended up going for a discrete and relaxed Chinese. He delighted the waiter by buying the most expensive champagne on the menu. And after a few glasses of bubbly, I’d forgotten what I was going to say. Whoops!

It sometimes makes me laugh that he hasn’t found out for himself after the number of times we’ve slept together. Because, you know what he says to me? He says, “I can spot a fake from a mile off!” Of course, he says this usually when we are having intricate and meaningful conversations about celebrities. He tells me that, contrary to what some say, not all celebrities are shallow fakes. There are the fakes and the non fakes. He says that his skill in life is being able to tell the difference.

I have not yet dared to ask him how silicon should be viewed in this great celebrity charade. Does silicon make you fake? Or do people nowadays just see it as an accessory – you know, like a beautiful Fendi bag, or a pair of Jimmy Choos? Let’s hope the latter, as I have a lot of those kinds of accessories!

Hey, just a thought, darlings: If it’s possible for celebrities to reclassify the extensive repair work they've had as 'accessories', then maybe I could simply reclassify my ‘operation’ as an accessory - a bit of nip and tuck! I am sure that ‘family man’ would almost certainly expect a sixties starlet like Kayla to have had a bit of work done from time to time!

Anyway, just to let you know, a friend is coming round this afternoon to help me write my memoirs. Apparently, people call her a ‘ghost writer’, on account of the fact that she remains anonymous. When I told my theatre friend David, he roared evocatively, “Enter Ghost!” Although I do hope that my 'ghost writer' friend won’t have the kind of influence on my memoirs that the ghost did on Hamlet!

Anyway, I’ll let you know how I get on (if boring old Mister Ludd ever lets me.) Let’s hope that next time you hear from me – whenever that is – I will have some more news on the ‘family man’ as well.

Love to you all, darlings X

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Exclusive: Sixties glamour model Kayla Cayne - Sex, drugs, and R&R in UK 2009

I am currently sleeping with someone who is very, very well known. The tabloid press does not have a whiff of this. His wife, his family know absolutely nothing. No one in the media empire that my ‘family man’ owns and operates - people who would truly sell their own grandmothers to get hold of a story like this - has even the faintest idea.

It is delicious for someone like me, who has had many run-ins with journalists and paparazzi over the years, to keep a lid on a secret like this. Of course, some people would think it more delicious, and more profitable, if I did a ‘kiss and tell’. Another expose, another fortune perhaps? Well, as far as I am concerned, at this very moment in time I need neither the money nor the tabloid grief. So secret is how my affair is going to remain, darlings.

Furthermore, I think that secrets should only ever be revealed in a discrete fashion. I think secrets should be a game played by ‘consenting adults’ No, I am not trying to sound clever by writing that. What I mean is that you should never reveal secrets – not to the press, not to the world - unless all parties affected by those secrets have given their consent. Surely it is only fair?

And whilst we are on the subject of secrets, there is another one that I have to own up to. I have to tell my very, very important lover (V.V.I.L.) something about myself. My lovely ‘family man’ is totally in the dark about the ‘other me’. He is clueless. I’ve been meaning to tell him right from the first time we met (at Ascot, no less). But every time I thought about it, we were getting on so well and I was worried about ruining things.

But the prospect of writing this column made me think: now is the time to make a clean breast of things. Clean breast? That is almost funny. There is so much silicone inside me that I wouldn’t know how to make a ‘clean breast’. But yes, now is the time to tell him that back in the sixties, in the heady days before I became famous, I had a little operation. Well it was really quite a big operation - at the time. But right now it seems like nothing. I’ve been every bit ‘the woman’ for the past forty years!

So I am telling him this secret today. He will know as soon as you do, dear readers – but only if he cares about me enough to read my new scandal column! Otherwise, I will tell him this evening when we dine at the Ivy – if by then it hasn’t ultimately filtered out by some other route.

Now, going forward… In my future columns, I will be telling you a bit about what a glamour model like Kayla does after the wrinkles start to show. You know, after we retiring models have wrapped our weary bodies back up again, there is still quite a life ahead, I can tell you. Look at the enormously talented Abi Titmuss – who I understand is to play Lady Mac at Lowestoft's world famous Seagull Theatre. Poor dear Abi, she hasn’t yet worked out that real actors always call it ‘The Scottish Play’. And what about that intellectual giant, Jordan, with her valiant attempts to be a woman of (big) letters? I suppose that there’s a bit of George Eliot in all of us, eh, girls?

Anyway that is what the future holds after the photographers have switched off their flash guns and gone to find the next hottest thing on two legs. Oh yes, Kayla has been doing a lot more than simply dabbling with Very Important Persons (VIPs) – or should I say Very Important Media Persons (VIMPs). She has been quite a media mover and shaker herself. Kayla is no slouch. I will reveal all - I hope starting tomorrow. And this time I will not spare anyone’s blushes, I promise!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

It never rains but it warms

This week there was another serious outbreak of global warming. We know that it has happened many, many times this year; it has happened in the past; and it will sadly happen again next year and the year after. Ah! I hear you ask. How do we know that what occurred over the past few days (the storms, I mean) was really an outbreak of global warming and not just a case of torrential rain? Good question! Well, you only had to turn on your television last night to see the reports on the news channels that heavy flooding was connected to global warming. This was unequivocally supported by a massive array of graphs, charts and widespread numbers to prove it. Even the BBC’s flagship news programme, Newsnight, took this line. So it is definitely true.

Hi there, my name is Sven Johnnson. My good friend Didier de Clerck put me in touch with the very decent owner of this website, a Mr. Ned Ludd and suggested that Mr Ludd might be open to a contribution from one of Europe’s leading climate change specialists – that’s me, folks. I rang Mr Ludd and he generously responded with the words, “Not another one.” And after a deep breath, he continued, “Fuckit” – which I gather is British for the affirmative! So here we are. I am today’s guest blogger!

Now, I, Sven Johnnson, am the man who lives for numbers. I live, breath, eat, sleep and most important of all, dream numbers. When I was younger my fellow students used to think that I was really mental about numbers. They’d say, “Sven – he’s the guy who goes around thinking that he hears strange numbers in his head.” And how strange is that, folks? But you know what? They were right.

Now, this post is just an introduction to Sven Johnnson. But let me tell you what you can expect from my blog in the coming weeks, months and years (let’s hope it will be years, eh, guys?!) I will be showing to all of you how numbers shaped my life. And when I say numbers, it’s not just numbers. It is graphs and charts and computer models. I will also be showing you how those numbers (and graphs, charts and computer models) have shaped your lives and will increasingly shape your lives as we go forward.

This is a great moment in history for you readers to be following my blog. This is because we are starting to see the emergence of people like me getting more and more involved in government studies, news production and major, major research projects. This, I can tell you guys, is going to be the era when numbers not only changed all of our lives, but changed the world we live in, that changed the way we think. Oh, and finally, that changed all our futures, yours and mine!

So, I will tell you this now: You will obey those numbers. That is an order!! (Only joking! It is what we in the European Commission call a Euro-Joke!!)

Posted by EU Climate Change Advisor – Sven Johnnson.

Friday, 20 November 2009

An EU Policy Advisor writes

I have been following this website with its guest bloggers for some time now. Some of the posts can be quite clever. Occasionally they are poignant. From time to time, I even detect a note of humour. What is clear though is a consistent bias in the posts and that bias is anti-establishment in tone. I have sent countless emails to Mr Ludd pointing this out and have asked on many, many occasions if I might offer the opposing view. To date his responses have been really quite unhelpful. In instances they have included the ill-considered use of words that some would deem offensive. However, after the recent arrest of two of his ‘bloggers’, Mr Ludd is in a spot of bother.

I sent him another email yesterday, when I read of that arrest and I asked him what he intended to do. Would it be conceivable, I asked, that I could offer my opinion on current affairs? This time he has responded in the affirmative, and with the following encouraging words, “If it will stop you bugging me, you tit.” And so it is that I will take today’s slot and offer you a few words of wisdom. I am glad that Mr Ludd has at last demonstrated that he is eminently willing to publish the other side of the argument.

Now there are some of you, possibly many, many of you who think that I am British. Very entertaining! But sorry, nothing could be further from the truth. I might have a grasp of English that is as firm as, and in many instances, firmer than that of British people. But it might surprise you to discover that I am in fact Belgian. Like our Prime Minister, and now President of Europe, Mr. Rompuy, I speak all the languages of the EU. And like Mr Rompuy, it is through the use of these languages that I hope to spread harmony, understanding and, most important of all, unity.

Now, you might have enjoyed the anti-establishment posts on this website. You might have felt some sympathy for the Lord and Lady who ‘innocently’ supplied drugs to elderly people. But can I say that you are terribly mistaken if that is indeed your viewpoint? For how indeed do you intend to achieve unity in this little country of yours, if you can criticize the drug taking habits of some in your community whilst ignoring those of others? The law must be rigorously applied across all communities if it is to work and to work efficiently. The law is not something that you can pick up at the time of your choosing and reject like some cheap and dirty wench when you no longer have need of her (which incidentally I have never done, however dirty she was at the time.) Just because Lord and Lady Trencherman are of noble provenance it does not mean that they are above the law.

And in no less a degree is this the truth for the European Union that it is currently my honour to serve. Now that we have our new President, Mr. Van Rompuy we finally have the opportunity to spread unity across the member states and to ensure that this unity is rigorously enforced by the application of the law.

It is truly a great day for democracy. It is truly a great day for all the nations of Europe and for all the people of all of those nations. For whilst Mr Van Rompuy was elected by a few grand men and women, he – and those men and women – will work tirelessly for the many. And I can delight you now with the news that it will be good people like myself who will spread the word – or rather the words - of the EU. It will be people like me with my twenty six languages, who will tirelessly teach the skeptics and the cynics amongst you of the great benefits of this community. It will be people like me who will show you how to reject the eccentric behaviour of your Lords and Ladys who pursue simply their own ends. And finally it will be fellows like me who will teach you how to act within the law and for the good of all people – even those people who are not clever enough to recognize that good!
Thank you.
By guest blogger Didier de Clerck, EU Policy Advisor

Thursday, 19 November 2009


I have been asked at short notice to stand in for my brother Reggie. Last night he and dear Ivana received a visit from the local constabulary. A number of men, some in uniform, some in jeans or tracksuits, turned up on their doorstep and questioned them about certain crops that they believed were being grown on their land. Lady Ivana, I am told, was willing to divulge the whereabouts of these crops and led the men to a greenhouse full of healthy, flourishing bushes. She and Reggie were duly arrested and are right now being questioned about their involvement in a major drugs growing operation.

I feel that their treatment has been unfair, unwarranted. Somebody availed themselves of information posted by Ivana on this very website and decided to 'look into it'. A contemptible little 'investigator' broke into their greenhouse under the cover of darkness and subsequently confirmed to his superiors that this was a major cannabis operation. Because of the quantity of the drugs involved, Reggie and Ivana are now viewed as the Mr. and Mrs. Big of a major narcotics empire.

The truth is that my brother and sister-in-law have been supplying a growing number of old people with treatments for conditions that haven't responded to prescription drugs - MS, Sciatica, Migraine, chronic back pain to name but a few. The ‘supply chain’ has been manned by men and women of perfectly decent standing whose purpose has not been to exacerbate broken Britain but rather to assist people who find genuine relief through using these drugs.

It is characteristic of this country’s current administration that having done so much through its own socio-economic policies to foster broken Britain, it still feels that it has to penalize those who only wish to make the lives of others more bearable. Publicity conscious politicians, preferring to pander to the ill-informed views of middle England, are concerned not that justice is actually done, but rather that it is seen to be done.

These are the folk currently running this country of ours and writing its laws. They are sacking their own experts and making up policy on the hoof. If harmless eccentrics like Reggie and Ivana continue to get banged up whilst politicians mercilessly champion the ‘court of public opinion’ but subsequently take up well paid jobs with major pharmaceutical companies, then we might as well give up right now and spend our lives smoking crack and shooting up heroin and burning effigies - whenever it so pleases us - of the very politicians that we are meant to respect but never will.
(Hope this was not too much of a rant Ned, regards Algie.)
By guest blogger Algernon Trencherman

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

An apology

I see that my lawyer Mr. Doberman used yesterday’s post primarily to blow his own trumpet and showcase some of the cunning new legal tools that he is developing at Scheister’s. I had thought that he was supposed to be discussing Lady Ivana’s new blog and the legal ramifications of talking openly about ‘film people’. In fact I was rather perplexed that his only real point on the subject was that I appeared to be ‘in the dark’. Well, I will readily admit that the kind of fellows that populate Burbank and Beverly Hills are indeed a mystery to me as indeed are Lady Ivana’s past relations with them. So quite why he mentioned this, I am not sure.

I suppose that I really should not complain about Ferdinand’s contribution, though. As long as her Ladyship doesn’t come out with any howlers in her forthcoming literary undertakings, then he will indeed have helped me out and quite possibly earned his case of Mouton. Not sure whether it will be the 1989 though.

On another matter altogether, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to make an apology. There has been a lot in the news lately about the investment bank on whose board I sat for twenty years. It transpires that the founders of the bank ran a lucrative business funding eighteenth century slave traders. It therefore appears that the noble institution was founded upon the suffering of others.

Now whilst I have never engaged in the slave trade personally, it appears to be all the rage nowadays to apologise for acts in which one has played absolutely no part. Yes, I did indeed earn a living from the descendents of slave traders, but I never actually perpetuated the ghastly trade myself – unless one considers the long hours some of our dealing room staff have worked over the years.

But I rather like this idea of making an apology that is in no way heartfelt, meaningful or genuine. It is very fitting for a senior investment banker. And it allows me to overlook some of the hideous things that the bank really has done, such as, heavy speculation in food commodities markets that brought higher prices and greater hardship to the developing world… In addition, the massive bailouts that the taxpayer had to fund when the bank’s ventures into the mortgage backed securities market went spectacularly wrong. Much easier to apologise about something that doesn’t eat you all up inside, eh?

Good, well now that I have got that off my chest, I can inform you that her Ladyship’s ‘Burbank’ blog will still be only one of many appearing on this site in the future. The owners of this site would like it to maintain its ‘bio-diversity’ and continue the guest blogging concept. There will be regular contributions from politicians, bankers, lawyers, and presumably even strumpets.

I cannot yet tell you who will be guesting tomorrow. But I am sure that whoever it is, it will be informative and quite possibly contain an element of shock. If not, it’ll probably just be the usual rant that one is used to seeing elsewhere in the blogosphere. Good luck. Or maybe hard luck.
Toodle pip, as Ferdie says.
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Super-Duper Injunction – A lawyer writes

My friend Lord Trencherman has asked a favour of me. He tells me that his charming wife, Ivana has taken to blogging and has told him that she wants to take the genre (for want of a better word) to places that this publicity-hungry strumpet, ‘Belle de Jour’ couldn’t begin to imagine. Apparently Lady Ivana spent a number of years hanging out in Burbank, California, before she met his Lordship and has some rather interesting stories to tell.

He has asked me to check on some of the legal ramifications of describing persons living or dead whom her Ladyship encountered over the years. He says that he cannot fathom why this is really necessary, as he assumes her revelations will be good natured and congenial. But apparently she is really quite insistent. I suspect that he is somewhat in the dark as to the true nature of her Ladyship’s relations and sadly has not twigged why this “Belle de Jour” has fired her up in the first place. But then Reggie always was charmingly naïve about these things.

As an old mate of Reggie’s, I have of course said that I am happy to oblige. Although I did point out to him that I normally ‘act for the other side’. My firm is one of those that has pioneered the use of the ‘super-injunction’ recently and I have to say that in general the application of this exciting new legal tool has been really rather encouraging to date.

Oh, I know that there was a spot of bother recently when one of our competitors tried to muzzle some turbulent parliamentarians. But I say that any fool know; the only way to get members of either Lords or Commons to do your bidding is to wave handfuls of cash under their porcine little snouts. We all know that piggies far prefer carrots to sticks. So yours truly will not be thrusting super-injunctions in the direction of the Mother of all Parliaments any time soon.

One more thing that I will add, before I scarper off to do my home work for dear old Reggie, is that my firm is working on an even more exciting legal tool as I write. This, we are (provisionally at least) giving the ‘working title’ of the Super-Duper Injunction. I know this sounds frivolous, but who knows, for that very reason it perhaps also sounds reassuringly unthreatening.

What we hope to do is go one stage further than the super-injunction. You see, one of the problems in the case of the Guardian super-injunction was the role that the internet played. The law firm that attempted to muzzle the press kicked up a storm in trying to do so. Or to put it another way: The shit hit the Twitter. The news of the injunction and the case that they were trying to suppress spread like wildfire over the World Wide Web, undoing all the good work that the super-injunction had initially done.

So what we are hoping to do now is find a way to shut down entire networks of communication next time we find ourselves in this kind of situation. We would hope to be able to go direct to the operators of, say, Twitter and ensure that any particular strands or threads that violated the terms of the super-injunction would be blocked. Obviously we are hoping to glean some useful information from our friends in the People’s Republic of China and one or two of the Islamic nations, as they already have form in this area. But it would all be rather jolly if we could ensure – through the rule of British law - that certain words or conversation threads were entirely blocked from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and some of the other squalid little social networking sites.

Anyway, I hope to be able to let you how we are getting on with the technical aspects of this exciting new development in the near future. In the meantime, it is back to investigating and steering Lady Ivana’s lurid excursions into the world of the blogosphere. Let’s hope that I get a case of Reggie’s Mouton 89 for my efforts!
Toodle pip!
The guest blogger today is a partner at the law firm Sheister Ganif and Sheister.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Job vacancy No.197: Religious Leader – Men Only

All of a sudden my wife considers herself to be a seasoned blogger. I gather that her post on Saturday achieved double my average 'hit rate'. As a result she has now concluded that she might have found her new ‘calling’.

I cannot begin to describe the fuss she made on Saturday morning when I begged her to stand in for me. I was a little indisposed after a reunion dinner at my old Cambridge College. And I genuinely thought it might entertain Lady Ivana to do something other than tend her flowers for once. She grudgingly accepted and rattled off an article that in no way adequately addressed the concerns that I’d hoped to raise about ‘broken Britain’. She practically exonerated the wretched Messrs. Cowell and Hirst for their degenerate output and fell back on that old chestnut of ‘human nature’.

Anyway, I thought that this was the end of it. But no, come this morning, she wanted to do another post. I probed her sudden enthusiasm for blogging, and she told me that it was to do with the revelation in the Sunday newspapers of the identity of some strumpet who goes by the name of ‘Belle du Jour’. Lady Trencherman has decided that this might be a good time to start blogging about her own past, and she would like to focus primarily on the years that she spent in Hollywood, California. She thinks that she might capitalize on this Belle girl’s publicity and use the blog to depict some of the matinee idols and film producers with whom she became intimate during her years there. Quite what this has got to do with anything at all in the world of blogging, I am really rather uncertain. It is all terribly, terribly perplexing as I had no idea whatsoever that she’d hung out with ‘film people’, or that she had anything remotely interesting to reveal about her past.

Anyway, in the end I put my foot down and told her that I had plans of my own today. Her revelations would have to wait. I had far weightier issues to consider.

You see, there is a question that I have wanted to pose for quite some time - and one that few people appear terribly bothered about right now. That is: Why is it that religious organizations – be they Catholic, CofE, Jewish or Muslim - in this egalitarian nation of ours are exempt from the 1975 sex discrimination act? Why, after all these years, after all the debates about sexual discrimination over the past decades, are they still allowed to bar women from becoming religious leaders: priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis… or God forbid, Bishops?

I will not dwell on this point for too long as I am told by the people who run this website that nothing is more likely to turn readers off than a post on religion and religious practice. But I will ask this: Why is it, when the Church of England has voluntarily walked away from this exemption is it deemed appropriate for other religious groups to carry on this discrimination?

And equally important, given that we have a Labour government that includes supposed egalitarian firebrands such as the delightful and fragrant Harriet Harperson, why are not more women MPs up in arms, literally shouting from the rooftops of Westminster about this last bastion of discriminatory practices? Why isn’t this great, progressive Labour party of ours currently considering legislation to ensure that everyone, man and woman, has access to every available job in any given organization, commercial, public sector, charity or faith orientated?

My wife, Lady Ivana, who claims to be the grand-daughter of a suffragette no less, may wish to carry on about her baffling experiences in LA-LA land or whatever it is she calls it. But I feel that it is incumbent upon me to consider the questions that are of real import to women here and anywhere else where hypocrisy and humbug do prevail. I hope that this will spark some debate. And if the owners of this blog site truly find that their ‘site stats’ have gone down as a result of my very brief and not irrelevant question, then I do indeed apologize. Maybe they can then ask Lady Ivana to return to the helm in order to get ‘em up again. (The site stats, that is.)
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Her Ladyship is standing in...

My errant husband, Reggie, tells me that he will not be posting today. He attended a dinner at his old college last night and ended up with friends at their house near the village of Madingley. They offered to put him up for the night, but he was having none of it. He demanded a cab explaining that he had a blog to do - or so I am told. Then he swiped a bottle of Grahams 63 port from a cabinet and managed to polish it off in the back of the taxi whilst sporadically poking his head through the window and shouting at passers by, "Have any of you lot seen my blog?" The frazzled cabbie set him down outside at half past four in the morning and demanded a hundred pounds, plus tip, which yours truly had to pay.

Apart from the fact that I no longer find such behaviour attractive in a gentleman of Reggie's years, I fail to see what this obsession with 'blogging' is nowadays. I am only writing this 'post' because he begged me at five o' clock in the morning not to 'let the side down'. However, I can honestly say that it is the first and last time that I will engage in this activity. And I really rather wish that he had stayed put in Madingley - I could quite easily have fulfilled his request without all the early morning jiggery pokery. But then I suppose, boys will be boys.

I took a peek at some of Reggie's notes earlier this morning to see whether I could 'stick to the spirit of the blogeology' (another one of his sozzled requests). But from what I can tell, he was determined simply to write another one of his articles slating 'this shallow and pointless nation of ours' - which he refers to as 'Fool Britannia'. It seems that his post was going to focus on what he terms the 'twin nematodes' of British Arts and Media - Simon Cowell and Damien Hirst. He claims that no parasites have done more to lower the tone in Britain circa C20 than these two.

Whilst, I am bound to agree with the sentiment, were I writing this article myself I should want to go a step further and consider why these chaps have been so successful. Their work has undeniably gripped the nation. Simon C has everyone glued to their seats, whilst Damien H has 'art-lovers' glued to his perpex. I know that one could claim that these two impressarios are engaged in nothing more than a cynical branding exercise. But then again, what branding!

So my view of it all? Well, as the old saying goes, twenty million dung-loving insects cannot all be wrong... Where there's a swarm, there must be form... Flies always know the 'coolest places to hang out'... I could go on. But I won't, for fear of boring Reggie's regular readers. (Does he have regular readers...? Any readers?)

But anyway, the point is this: These 'ghastly parvenus' as Reggie labels them, have identified how to part stupid people from their cash. And let's face it, if that means plumbing the depths of human nature, if that means 'dumbing down' then all you can say is: Where there's muck, there's brass! Cheesy fellows like Simon Foul and Damien Cursed are definitely on to something.

There's another well known saying that people use to define shallow, soulless showmen like Mr Cowell and Mr Hirst...They are laughing all the way to the bank! That is something that one most definitely cannot deny. They have cleaned up (metaphorically speaking.) Although of course whenever I repeat this 'laughing all the way' saying to Reggie, he always responds: And they are crying all the way to the banks of Hades, my love! (One of his Classical allusions, I suspect.)

Anyway, back to my usual Saturday morning chores: Cultivating the female flowering heads on the cannabis plants! Her Ladyship's work is never done... When he was in his cups earlier, Reggie mentioned something about Boris Johnson coming to dinner this evening. I think that this is rather unlikely. The poor fellow is far too busy nowadays managing London. But who knows? Reggie is always springing such surprises on me.
By guest blogger Lady Trencherman

Friday, 13 November 2009

Consider the hippies...

Free what?
It is not unknown for a peer of the realm to curse and blaspheme. Indeed my own recent use of expletives has not gone unnoticed, I see. Some wags and scamps have attempted to link this with the shortcomings of my physician, who in actual fact has never once hesitated to renew my prescriptions for diazepam and vicodin, whilst turning a blind eye to my predilection for poppy pod tea. So nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to my cussing. The reality is that there are certain things that even a former Cambridge Classics Don like me can only express in words of one syllable (or four letters – whichever shorter). And chief amongst these is profound disbelief. So, it should come as no surprise to readers when I pose the question, “The free market? What the fuck?”

It is not my intention here to question belief in the free market, rather belief that there is a free market… or that there ever could or will be such a thing. It seems almost laughable when one beholds the developed world to make this claim. The lion’s share of global business is conducted by a relatively small number of corporations.

These ‘multinationals’, so to speak, have been around for rather a long time, but in recent years have achieved supremacy with the latest installment of 'globalization'. They may offer society a net gain, or they might ultimately only benefit the few – i.e. wealthy businessmen and the revolving-door class of politician. That is not what I am asking here though. The real question is this: can you ever have a truly free market when these behemoths dominate the industrialized world? And can you ever have a free market when the barriers to entry for newcomers – global or otherwise - are absurdly high?

Clearly not, I would argue. For what would a free market – for better or for worse - really mean? For a start it would probably mean not destroying the opium crops of foreign farmers, it would mean allowing them to engage in whatever enterprise they wished. This is not to argue in favour of the opium trade. It is simply to say that Western governments will only ever allow a free market, free trade when it correlates with their own political and economic self interest(s).

This drugs example is obviously at the extreme end of the debate – and involves a subject close to my heart! But a truly global free market would also mean a sea change for many much loved industries and a spot of downsizing for their glorious chiefs and proprietors. Amongst them: Multinational news corporations, major computer and software providers, food manufacturers, pharmaceuticals concerns, operators of utilities, leading retailers (to name but a few). For you and me, and anyone with an ounce of entrepreneurial spirit, access to these industries right now is rather like access to the law and private education – open to everybody.

Yes, yes, yes. The World Wide Web has presented and continues to present lower barriers to entry. Many new entrants have indeed achieved success in cyberspace. But, as with all new territories, we are already seeing a consolidation of the major players. The guys from Google came from nowhere, we all know. But how free is the market in search engines nowadays? And it is not just ‘optimisation’ that the firm dominates any more. Youtube, anyone?

Furthermore many of the ‘old economy’ corporations are starting to clean up, as it is a darned sight easier to storm a new territory with resources, with a well stocked army already behind you. For a start look at who dominates the news agenda nowadays. Don’t want to mention names but… er hem… Beeb… Guardian… etc etc... Who knows? Maybe this humble blogsite will one day be a behemoth. Ho ho.

Anyway as you readers will have gathered from the outset, this post is really nothing more than an excuse to use more expletives. And so I will conclude it by saying this: When people ask me whether I believe in the free market I always respond by saying, “Free market? What the fuck's that then?”
(Is that profane enough for you, Ned?)
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Thursday, 12 November 2009

... able face of capitalism...

Now, let’s be honest. What do we really think of capitalism?
Perhaps that is an unfair question, because it sounds as though the response should be either ‘love it’ or hate it’. And of course it is not that simple.

The thing is: can you view capitalism as a single entity that you support or oppose, that you take or leave? Is it a philosophy? Is it a faith? Is it a system, a way of life? (Is it a bird, is it a plane?) Or is it simply a catch-all phrase that covers a multitude of sins, of activities, of practices? This is a relevant question in an age like ours, in an age that has tested to the limits our ‘faith’ in ‘the system’.

We believe in enterprise. We know that the flow of capital facilitates the efficient functioning of our society. We believe that competition is good, in that it by and large ensures low prices. So in that respect at least, we could call ourselves capitalists.

But the other side of believing in capitalism, or any system at all for that matter, is having faith in those who claim to be its stewards, its custodians. And that is where the problem lies right now. We’ve bugger-all trust in said custodians.

2008 and 2009 were the years in which our trust in business and businessmen reached an all time low. It wasn’t just the reckless bankers and the shady mortgage brokers. It was insurance companies (ruthlessly avoiding payouts) energy companies (high prices), telecoms (slow broadband, poor customer relations), national rail (poor service, overpriced), television companies (faking phone polls and competitions.)

And those other supposed custodians – the ministers of state – were nowhere to be seen. Or at least they only ever appeared to act when scandals were highlighted in the media, and they realized that they better move or else lose the support of the beloved voter. But even then their response was somewhat muted. There were a lot of bold initiatives. But the lobbyists soon went into overdrive and made ministers aware that if they generated too much regulation, they would turn Britain into an economic wilderness. And anyway, how could these ministers really act ingenuously when they had their own dodgy dealings (expenses) to handle?

So, people are indeed trying to get on with their lives, through thick and thin, amid whatever the recession might throw at them. They have little choice but to continue relying upon the system that is still just managing to keep them fed and clothed and housed. But when one is asked whether the custodians - after all that has passed, after all that has been said and done - have done enough to restore people’s faith in that very system that they are supposed to safeguard, one can but reply, in the most humble, restrained and modest terms possible: “Have they fuck?”
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Idea Porn

Question: When do ideas become shallow and worthless? Answer: When they become fashionable.

It has been brought to my attention that the ‘chattering classes’ are developing a penchant for non-fiction, devouring ghastly little books that analyse modern cultural trends. It appears that a number of self-styled ‘public intellectuals’ have been doing very nicely producing books on everything from understanding children through to deciphering politicians (same thing no doubt.) Apparently the aspirational middle classes, desperate not to appear lacking in the erudition stakes, are lapping it up.

Self help manuals – which is essentially what these wretched books are – have previously been the preserve of the poorly educated and the socially insecure. Works like How to Influence People have sold in their millions to ambitious working folk who believed that a pot of gold awaited them at the end of the final chapter. But the sad thing about the latest crop of manuals is that they appeal to a supposedly better educated class of citizen, the ones who went to decent Universities. So what exactly has brought this about?

Well, one thing that became apparent during the Thatcher / Blair decades was that conspicuous consumption not only infected the vulgar nouveau riches, but also spread to those that had spent three years in higher education, studying subjects normally considered pretty highbrow. I, for one have been to countless dinner parties where to a man (and woman) the guests have been Oxbridge educated – with perhaps the occasional red-brick gooseberry. And yet for most of the evening these couples have banged on about their five star holidays or their dinners at the Ivy or rising house prices, as though there were nothing else to life.

I have often wondered what people get out of University, Oxbridge included. But when you discover that some of the most vacuous public figures attended the most revered institutions - including a raft of bland, blond newsreaders and witless television personalities – you realize that for many they are simply a stepping stone to ‘the most enviable jobs in society.’

Problem is that a lot of these BA Hons. lightweights are now facing intellectual mid-life crisis. It is dawning on them that the viewing public doesn’t consider them any wiser than the stars of X-factor or Come Dancing. Similarly, my old dinner party set look back on what they have achieved and discover that there is little more than material wealth – houses, cars, designer clothing.

They all know that they cannot return to college, so they have decided that a crash course in some fashionable, pseudo-intellectual topic is just the ticket. They can cherry pick ideas from easy-to-read paperbacks and regurgitate them in front of their peers (who are doing the same thing). Then they can hold their heads up high, and no doubt sleep nights, confident that their formative years at college weren’t all pissed down the drain in the pursuit of shallow materialism and keeping up with the X-factor generation.
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Monday, 9 November 2009

Here today, gone tomorrow revolution

When you reach my age, the nearest and dearest occasionally find it entertaining to discuss Alzheimer’s in front of you. Of course we all know that alongside mad professors and eccentric aristocrats, the people most associated with battiness are the old and the ageing. Now I will admit that I have been known to leave the odd ham and cheese roll in the sock drawer, and have bored the grandchildren to tears by endlessly reminding them how Great Aunt Milly used to make opium tea. (One would have thought they’d be grateful.) But I rather feel that such events are small beer beside the collective Alzheimer’s one finds amongst the young, the relatively young, and even the middle aged nowadays.

What a year it has been, what a memorable year. In the space of roughly twelve months ordinary folk have learnt an awful lot about money and wealth generation and greed; about the haves and the have-nots, about the users and the used. A number of ne’er-do-wells spewed forth during the meltdown – they always do - and we saw businessmen and ‘role models’ and elected representatives cast in a new light.

Remember how taxpayers felt when the bankers who’d been coining it for years required a bailout? In the old days we might have seen ruined investors standing on window ledges and humbled bankrupts pleading ‘buddy can you spare a dime?’ Now it was ‘Stand and deliver. Give us everything you’ve got, or else the economy gets it.” Being understanding folk, the British people responded: “Of course, if it’s an offer that our beloved Prime Minister cannot refuse, then grudgingly, here, take everything.”

Soon after this, people learnt that the beloved Prime Minister and his ilk in the Houses of Parliament had also been taking everything and had been doing so for quite some time thank you very much. During the ‘boom years’ many MPs had evidently decided, ‘We’ll have some of that.’ Some of them, it emerged, were earning more money from their flipped homes than many ordinary folk do from their salaries.

Remember the resentment that was felt towards these greedy fellows – the politicians, the bankers, the businessmen – who, whilst feigning stewardship of the economy, had actually been cynically plundering it? Remember the sense that this could not be allowed to happen again? That the reprobates must go?

Well that was a long time ago (albeit only a year). Bankers are trading exactly as they were before the meltdown – and coining it - and the politicians are looking for new ways to water down expenses reform. So why are people not up in arms anymore?

Of course at the beginning of this article I referred casually to collective amnesia (or Alzheimer's to be precise). But I do realize that people still have access to newspapers and television, however bad their memories might be. The information is all there, laid out, day by day in the media. It is not subject to totalitarian blackout. The truth, let’s face it, is still accessible. So you will no doubt ask, what is it exactly that people have forgotten?

It appears that the people have forgotten how to feel, how to behave, how to react, that’s what. They live in a world of fleeting experience, of passing sensation, of instant gratification. Nothing lasts, nothing matters for long. Consumer goods, their possessions are obsolescent at point of purchase, and, as for what they find on the internet? Well, nothing could be more ephemeral.

And such is their mindset, when they contemplate the nefarious deeds committed in trading houses, or mortgage brokers, or the Mother of all Parliaments. The information will always be there at their fingertips, ready to access, ready to digest, ready to outrage. But it will always be – and will always feel – rather like all the other information that overloads their weary, strung out little brains: electronic, ephemeral, fleeting… hard to fathom, impossible to care about... at least for longer than it takes to re-boot your Dell computer... Bit like blogging really
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Farewell to the vacuous noughties!

At long last! An end to the absurd illusion of meritocracy. What a wretched couple of decades it has been under these ghastly career politicians and their embrace of popular culture. Did anyone believe that you could achieve equality by snipping off the old school tie, by filling The Commons benches and the bourgeois haunts of the arts and the media with women and the lower orders? Did they really think that they could find equality with Big Brother… the X factor? Jonathan Ross?

Sadly, that is exactly what they believed, it seems. During the early nineties, when the ‘people’s party’ was rooting around for new ways to captivate folk, as the Tories had done in the eighties with share ownership, they found inspiration in celebrity culture. Here was an arena where you didn’t have to be aristocratic to stand a chance of being rich, famous and admired. In fact you could come from anywhere and have little education… or talent. What could be more egalitarian than that? What could be more meritocratic, more aspirational? Soon, all we heard was People’s this and People’s that.

Shame nobody told the proponents of meritocracy that the children of meritocrats are effectively aristocrats, born with silver spoons in their mouths, despite having even less talent than their X-Factor parents. Of course, these young ‘aristocrats’ go one further, bearing horrid names like Peaches and Brooklyn. You see, meritocracy really is a one dimensional concept. All that really happened under Labour was a farewell to the old old order and the embrace of a new old order. Except that where the previous bunch had grace and style and, quite often, erudition, this new celebrity lot have shown themselves to be vacuous and vulgar and really rather witless.

However it now looks as though the middle classes, the chattering classes, are vehemently rejecting the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ class of politician. Of course we all know that nobody trusts MPs nowadays. But they particularly don’t trust those who want celebrity stardust to rub off on them. They cringe when they see the likes of our tedious little PM hanging out with pop singers and the stars of reality TV, pretending to be a man of the people.

So it looks increasingly like Old Etonians will be making a bit of a comeback at the next election, courtesy of David Cameron. If the Conservatives have their way, the government benches will be rather more Macmillan than Thatcher, come 2010. It leaves one wondering where the next bunch of Labour strategists and spin doctors will find their future role models. Maybe YouTube or Twitter... or, wherever they expect 'the people' to be hanging out a decade from now.
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Old Orders

Lord Trencherman, whose banking career was forged pre Big Bang, will be guest blogging this weekend. He will consider how disillusion with career politics and politicians has brought about the re-emergence of the old orders. Will old values follow?

Friday, 6 November 2009

10:10 Vision

I recently learnt that a couple of the spods who’d been developing financial forecasts at FTP Bank - the rocket scientists, so to speak - had gone over to the ‘dark side’. Driven by their 'consciences' (no less) they’d decided to channel the mathematical expertise once tailored to predicting market movements into the building of climate change models.

Presumably they intend to exploit the very mathematical methods that didn't foresee impending market catastrophe to prove that another catastrophe - an environmental one - is in fact inevitable. Does that make sense?

Now, I know that it’s not the done thing to question climate change. Like Islam, it is the one area that we lovers of free speech approach with trepidation. I’m by no means faint hearted. I’m a Cambridge boxing blue. But in a room full of tree huggers, even I might be reluctant to question these climate dogmas. Eco-folk throw bottles and custard pies and launch verbal abuse at anyone who is less than convinced that the world is eco-buggered.

But I have to ask: Why does the bourgeoisie reject the bad old computer models used in market trading, claiming them to be esoteric and misleading, but readily accept those of climate science, though they are no less impenetrable?

Of course the Monbiots of this world claim that climate change ‘deniers’ have room temperature IQs. So what are we to make of the likes of Heather Mills, or Gwen Stefani or Cindy Crawford who are eco-fanatics? Perhaps these celebs have hidden genius; perhaps they knock out bucket loads of statistical models before breakfast… on their computers. Maybe they spend their free time discussing quantum mechanics and astro-physics. (Of course, such is their respect for the big names of science that they maintain their copies of ‘Brief History of Time’ in mint condition!).

The fact is that many simple folk, celebs included, accept science as unquestioningly as worshipers do religion. Quote a bundle of incomprehensible stats, bombard people with equations and they will stare at them with fascination, scratch their chins and say, “Ooh… really, that’s amazing. I had no idea.” (They still don't.)

Indeed science, like faith, is rather a useful marketing tool. Put it another way, where there’s science there’s brass. Those rocket scientists that left FTP to join the green movement did so I suspect because they really thought: that’s where the money is right now. Of course with the financial markets turning round, these spods might well return to the ‘golden goose’. We’ll see.

It all rather leaves me wondering whether the scientists that juggle such numbers have any more insight into 'saving the planet' than the vacuous little brand consultants that produced that inane 10:10 logo… Another attempt, it appears, to whip up unbending support for some shallow new green initiative that the public does not understand and that a bunch of politicians cynically rally behind to show they care. 10:10? Always makes me think of Herge’s boy reporter.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Nothing to fear from the Shallow Chancellor

I don't understand why the chaps in the city get hot and bothered about young Osborne. I know that he keeps making noises about curbing bonuses and bringing bankers to book. But I seem to remember a young MP called Gordon Brown railing against greed in the city back in the early nineties. And look at him now.

You see, no one really cares for these 'golden geese' - unless they happen to own one. And when they own one, they do not understand how selfish it is to let goosey feed on common land, whilst keeping all the gold themselves.

And so it is with investment banking. The opposition accuses the government of failing to regulate the bankers, and promises that they will not repeat the error. Then once in office, surprise surprise, they conveniently forget the promise and become buddy buddy with the 'big swinging dicks'.

We must not choke off the entrepreneurial spirit of the bankers, they now stress. We must not burden them with red tape, tax their hard earned bonuses into oblivion as did Wilson and Healey in the seventies. Do we want to cause a brain drain? Do we want our most successful operators to flee to that little place where they eat fondue and yodel day and night? No, we, the public, must make them feel welcome and show gratitude for their much needed 'trickle down' (horrible phrase - sounds like they're pissing all over us.)

Of course, what the government is really saying is, "We want some of your lovely lolly... They're saying: FTP Bank? Third quarter profits of three billion? We'll have some of that. They’re saying: Trillions of dollars flowing through London each year? Yes please. Two million pound donation to the Tory / Labour / Liberal party... er, maybe it is unwise to stray into the area of party donations right now. As a prospective Conservative candidate, I don't want to unsettle our generous sponsors.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, once you are in government the rules of the game change. You suddenly have to make ‘tough decisions’. You have to think about revenue, cashflows, growth, employment. What fool could honestly wish to alienate our blessed wealth generators?

No, my chums in Moorgate can sleep tight, I'd say. Old Harrovian Boy George might be labeled an oik by his Etonian front bench colleagues. But when it comes to the city of London, he won't look a gift horse in the mouth. Governments, all governments are humbled by the flows of capital, and always will be. There's no escaping that.

The best way to react to George's grumbles is to hold tight and accept that once the boy's in No.11, reality, pragmatism, will rule. And at this point he will do whatever he can to encourage a new age of exuberance, to stimulate a new period of growth, of prosperity, of speculation, of accumulation, of... anyway, you get the idea.

If an old Presbyterian socialist like Gordon Brown can beat a path to mammon, then how hard can it be for ingenious George?
Posted by guest blogger Burgoyne

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Once more unto the breech...

Last night I bumped into a chap who used to work at FTP. I was staggering, slightly blotto I admit, out of Julie's Wine Bar in Holland Park when I spotted a cheesy Oriental grin that I'd seen somewhere before. I realised that it was the Chinese fellow who'd headed our analytics unit. He was what they call a 'rocket scientist'. His team built weird and wonderful computer models that predicted where the market might 'boldly go' and that gave us some insight into how we might fleece the competition.

After these computer models proved themselves to be positively 'toxic' and after the market collapsed, he soon pissed off back to China and began working for one of the state banks. Maybe he felt a little guilty about the part he'd played in the meltdown... or then again, maybe not. I don't know, perhaps he'd decided that the rich pickings had gone for good and there was no point sticking around.

Anyway, this fellow was trying to woo a pretty Eurasian lady whom, it transpired, he had abandoned when he'd buggered off back to Peking or Beijing, or whatever they call it nowadays. She was heavily pregnant, one could clearly see. Was it the Chinaman's baby, I wondered? Anyway, I offered to buy them both espresso Martinis (she hesitated naturally) and began picking his brains.

Now... he soon confessed that he was trying to get back into the European financial markets. His departure had been premature, he'd decided. And he had realised that people (in the banking world at least) were no longer blaming rocket scientists and their funky derivatives models. He'd actually heard from a friend still working at FTP that the banks were hiring like crazy, and that this hiring included the 'rocket scientists'.

I offered to put him in touch with my old chums in the city and you should have seen the look on his face. All of a sudden he got down on his hands and knees and confirmed that his charming companion was indeed carrying his baby and that the little fellow was expected to sally forth any day now. He was desperate to do the right thing by her. He was terrified that he couldn't support her unless he returned to the land of plenty.

Of course I reminded him that the UK (in general) was not the land of plenty it once was. I added though that the bankers were coining it again thank you very much. And if he played his cards right he might be able to secure a post offering a modest bonus guarantee. He might even scoop up a cut price property in a decent school catchment area that would allow him one day to provide his little blighter with a half reasonable education.

"You mean state school?" he asked.
"Yes" I replied. "Since the market collapsed last year, these catchment areas have become much more affordable. Good time to buy, while the middle classes are tightening their belts."
"No. I do not want to buy advantage like all these middle classes do, sir. I just want to send boy to private school just like honorable investment bankers."

"I like that," I replied, somewhat confused by his logic. "A man who has no prejudices, no resentment, no envy... who doesn't want more than his fair share... who will work, work, work for what he wants and needs in life... who just wants what is best for his children."

"Thank you, sir," he replied and he bowed and scraped for a while longer.

"By the way," I asked. "How do you know that it's a boy? The baby, I mean."

I don't actually remember whether the fellow gave me a convincing answer to this question. He gave me some spiel about lucky numbers. But I'd had enough of this chit-chat by then, and decided to cab it home. Funny people the Chinese.
By guest blogger, Burgoyne.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Into the valley...

I know that I have not ‘blogged’ for a couple of days, as I promised I would. But when a chap leads as hectic a social life as I, it’s irksome having to sneak away to rattle off a post. Also it might not be appropriate to blog on my exploits this weekend. It might appear a trifle rude if I revealed that I have something going with the Baroness who invited me to dinner on Saturday night, or that her husband – the CEO of a certain multi national media corporation - knows nothing of our affair. It might be amusing, but it is nevertheless inappropriate to divulge that, as a non-exec director of his company, I'll be sitting very close to him at a board meeting later this week.
Oh, no. I told the fellows that run this site that I wasn't going to blab about my private life, however fascinating it might be. Instead I’d like to give you the benefit of my wisdom, my broad knowledge of the finance and investment industry and my take on the bozos who currently pack the Commons benches. And on that very point, I recently picked up an interesting insight into what is currently happening in the banking world. It says a lot about this government’s approach to the investment banking community. It is clear that despite the public outcry about bonuses, Messrs Brown and Darling are effectively turning a blind eye to what is actually happening on the trading desks.
You see, the other day I was chatting to a fellow who used to run the credit derivatives desk at FTP. The bank wasn’t as heavily involved in dodgy asset-backed securities as some of the players, but nevertheless had to 'hold out its begging bowl' at the time of the meltdown. This fellow, we’ll call him ‘Henry’ for now, recently moved to one of the big US institutions that are coining it all of a sudden.
Henry says that these big players are not just creaming it by trading the bonds that the government has been issuing to revive the economy. They have even returned to dabbling in the credit products we have all grown to know and love.
What is happening, unbeknownst to Joe Public, is that these clever bankers are developing brand new structured credit products on their derivatives desks – and appear to be making a mint out of them. But even more amusing, they are now actually wheeler-dealing the very distressed asset backed securities that were the root cause of the catastrophe in the first place. Apparently they can do this because they have ring fenced the dodgy stuff - they call it ‘legacy trades’ - and have reported them as losses. But they are still allowed to knock those same products out to punters at bargain basement prices – say at ten pence in the pound. They trade these products freely, as though the events of a year ago never happened. They call it ‘learning to move on’.
Brown and Darling clearly know that this is happening – or else they are as ignorant as they were a couple of years back. But they have decided that it is wise to turn a blind eye. After all, new tax revenue will flood in to the Treasury on any profits made. Plus ‘economic activity’ will appear to be returning (to London at least).
Sometimes I wonder whether I should return to the old square mile and make a few more bucks whilst the sun still shines. But then I recall my vow: Time to give something back to the community. Yes indeed, it is time to do my old mates a good turn by entering Parliament, God-willing by entering government. Because in years to come it will be my turn to do what Brown and Darling are doing right now: To encourage once more the exuberance of the trading desks of London; to restore unquestioning public faith in the markets; reignite the ‘get rich quick’ mindset of the British people; turn a blind eye to anything that ultimately wins votes; focus on jam, jam, jam today.
I feel that this is my calling: To lead my people as the General leads his troops. For it is the role of the politician, indeed the role of the General, whether times are good or times are bad, to summon those troops out of the trenches, to exhort them to sally forth, and to pursue those glorious spoils that await them up ahead.
By guest blogger Burgoyne