Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Trojan Piggy Bank - A Greek Comedy

The Trojan War dragged on; neither side could deliver the knock-out blow. The Greeks came up with a cunning plan. They made the Trojans a "peace offering" - a giant, hollowed out wooden horse. Little did the Trojans know, inside this equine gift lay scores of Greek soldiers. Despite some initial doubts, the Trojans eventually took delivery of the horse and in the dead of night the soldiers jumped out and opened the gates, allowing the Greek army to flood in and sack the city.

Some time later - a lot later in fact - the Trojans came up with a cunning plan of their own: They called it the Trojan piggy bank. This was an ingenious hi-tech counting machine that could make people believe that they had more money than they really had. The royal adviser explained it to the King:-

"You see, boss, these Greeks, they love their money. And not only that, they love anybody that deals in money - the guys they call the bankers."

"No kidding?"

"Yeah, these guys, the bankers, can't get enough of them, the Greeks. Treat 'em like Gods."

"Like Gods, eh?"

"You better believe it, boss. See, these guys, these bankers make a packet. They're the richest guys around, most powerful guys around. And that's because people depend on them, depend on them for everything."


"Like everything. They borrow from them, they lend to them. They entrust their life savings to them, they borrow fortunes from them. If they want to go shopping, it's the banks that let them do it. If they want to buy property, it's the banks they need to get the funds. Every single aspect of their daily lives depends on bankers and banking. Without them their whole world would fall apart."

"Interesting... Okay, so what's the deal?"

"Okay, so here's the deal: Way I see it is, if we could somehow convince these Greeks that this money they love could go for ever, convince them there was an inexhaustible supply of it, then they'd keep on burning this money up like there was no tomorrow. They'd keep on shopping. They'd keep on building and buying houses. They'd keep on spending, spending, spending. They'd become addicted to money like it was some kind of a drug or something. With me so far?"

"Think so. But how exactly do we convince them of that?"

"Okay, so here's the clever bit. We offer them this Trojan piggy bank I was talking about earlier. Don't ask how it works exactly. It's technical, full of algorithms and stuff."


"Greek word, boss."

"Greek word, eh? What does it mean?"

"Basically it's a clever piece of mathematical chicanery - gadgetry if you like - contained in this Trojan piggy bank. It allows these bankers to believe they can go on borrowing money, go on lending money. It allows ordinary folk to believe they can go on spending money. It allows politicians to tell people that these happy days, they'll never end."

"Right. Think I'm with you so far. And, then what?"

"Okay. The point is, it's chicanery, and that's all it is. It allows people to think happy days are here, but - and this is a big but - only if they keep on believing happy days are here. However if they start doubting happy days are here, then the whole Trojan piggy bank starts to crumble."

"I see. And then what?"

"Well, by then, everybody's so addicted to this so-called inexhaustible supply of money, and everybody has borrowed and lent so much of it, that if it runs dry, the whole of this Greek society of theirs, it implodes. They cannot function anymore. It's night night, sweet dreams."

"Or not such sweet dreams as the case may be."


"Okay, okay... I think I like it, this idea of yours."

"Thanks, boss. But, just one sec, here's the other clever bit."

"There's more?"

"Oh, yeah, there's more. See, in the meantime, while this Trojan piggy bank is working its magic, what we in Troy are doing is, we're building up our reserves of money. We're saving, saving, saving, not like these Greek guys who are spending, spending, spending. We'll be working hard to earn it I grant you - it'll be no picnic. But, at least at the end of it, we'll have something to show for it. And so, by the time these guys have wrecked their society with their addiction to money, we'll have a stack of new money ready to offer them."

"Okey dokey. And then what?"

"Well, then we march in there, not with soldiers but with our money, with our largesse, and we clean up."

"What if they don't want to sell?"

"They'll have no choice, boss. They'll need our money."

"Yeah, I like it. I really like it. But this all depends on their bankers and their politicians buying this Trojan piggy bank idea, right?


"And, do you think they will?"

"I'm sure of it."

"How so?"

"You see, it's all about greed, boss. In the early days, these bankers will make a packet out of all this chicanery. The politicians will be more popular than they've ever been - at least for a while. And by the time everyone realises what a pile of horsecrap this piggy bank is, it''ll be too late."

"Too late."

"Too late."

"You know what? I love it. Really love it."

"Thought you would, boss. It's a beaut, ain't it?"

"Sure is. And I think we should run with it."

"Great, boss."

"Although, there's one thing I still don't understand."

"What's that, boss?"

"The Greeks called their horse the Trojan horse, because they were offering it to Troy. By that account, shouldn't we call our piggy bank the Greek piggy bank?"

"Nah, boss. The word "Trojan" is common currency these days. It's a way of describing any piece of chicanery of the kind we're discussing."

"Okay, I'm with."

"Thought you would be."

"So, Trojan piggy bank it is."

"Yeah, boss. Trojan piggy bank it is."

(to be continued...)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Conspiracy theories... from the crypt

It's summer, season of repeats - for television, at least. Maybe the blogosphere should adopt a similar approach and re-post archive material. What's sauce for the Beeb can be sauce for the blogger? Surely?

Now, that much-loved quasi-meta-post-neo-con journalist David Aaronovitch has recently written a book debunking conspiracy theories. And he may be on to something. The old conspiracy marketplace is chocka right now, so it probably makes sound economic sense to promote an alternative viewpoint.

And with that in mind, here's a re-post of an old item about conspiracy theories...

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, cover-names, pet-names, pen-names or code names. I told 'Z' - not my handler's real "code-name", simply a smokescreen - that I'm more interested in what people do than what they’re called. And 'Z' told me, I can't mention what they do either.

So anyway, what is it we get up to in our 'community'? Though of course I can't tell you the precise details, I can hint: We follow people. We follow you. We follow you, just as you follow us. Yes, we know 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 (intelligence or other). 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 the conspiracy theories we know and love are losing traction, they're out of control. Why's that? What do I mean by "out of control"? I'll phrase it in a way that's not what you’d call prosaic, not literal: But what I mean (if you'll allow me to mean something) is, too many conspiracy theories spoil the broth. And I hear you say, literal? Prosaic? What this guy's just given us is a mixed metaphor - pure and simple.

Perhaps. But it is a mixed metaphor that I wanted to deploy for quite some time. And why? Because I know it'll distract you, just for one moment, from what I'm leading on to. Have you got that? Probably not... but then again, you might've just about got it, I think, and you might be afraid... 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 follow your IP, even after its vanished!

Anyway, so here we go: We invented conspiracy theories and we invented them to make you afraid. You don't realise this, you probably cannot accept it right now, and you probably never will. But it's true. We always wanted you to think that nothing - no thing - controversial happens unless a powerful organisation makes it happen... Unless a covert governmental agency, or a foreign terrorist cell, planned it that way. And you've always bought that notion. But one day, my friends, you ran too far with that notion, these theories, and you made them your own, your own theories. Now that cannot be right, can it? They are not your theories, they're ours. We created them. So hey guys, could you please just give us back our darned theories? (Okay - that's somewhat tongue in cheek, in case you didn't capiche.)

Or... don't you guys just f- get it? You see, if you can get all your heads round 'information overload', why can't you get them round 'conspiracy overload'? Who the hell will believe these 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 John Doe. No one will believe these theories any more. They'll be meaningless. And where's the point in that?

So, cool your jets, boys and girls. 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, and only we, insinuate that they are. And if you keep on spreading too many of your own goddam 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 our theories (by spreading so many of your own) is because you are the enemy. The real enemy. The enemy of a community that does theories good and proper.

See, that's 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 these days of, ye shall know truth and the truth shall set ye free. It's, ye shall know what you need to know, and technology can set you free. But first you have to learn how to use technology. And that, as we all know, is a discipline. Right, disciples? Right.

Think about that. We do. We think about it. Every day.

And ask yourself one last question - assuming you've read thus far: What did I mean earlier when I talked about my handler? Maybe, just maybe, I'm the handler, not the handled? And how do you know that anyone ever really told me what I could or couldn't say? After all, I've said quite a lot, have I not? But you'll have to answer that one yourselves, guys.

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. Yep. Francis F. (the other 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 so. But, in reality there's only one theory that's correct, guys. Only one. Think about it.

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

Thursday, 23 June 2011

From the archives: Redemption

The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne claimed Labour won't win the next election unless it admits mistakes and learns lessons. "Oppositions that stay in opposition for a long time are the parties that fail to confront the weaknesses the public see in them," he says.

Of course redemption is always to be welcomed. There's precious little of it about these days. And it's not just politicians who are to blame. Think of the high profile bankers, celebs, footballers and their poodle judges for whom redemption is inconceivable. And often when public figures do embrace it, they are criticised for being weak or vacillating.

Anyway, here's an old post from way back in 2009 that addressed the issue. Not much chance of redemption back in them days... (Apologies to Yes, Minister.)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hacker... Humphrey... 20 Years on...?

Hacker:  Do you know what, Humphrey? When I look back and I remember the frustration I used to feel when the likes of you and Bernard blocked or stalled what I was trying to do... And when I eventually decided that the only way to make things really happen was to clip the wings of civil servants like yourself, and the wings, for that matter, of the other individuals and institutions that wanted to keep things just as they were... And when I then consider how we placed certain special advisers above civil servants and concentrated power in No.10 - because we were elected politicians - When I think about how we used that power to force through certain policies, to respond swiftly, more dynamically to certain events, to act decisively, to act sometimes ruthlessly... when I think about all of that, and I then weigh up what it actually achieved, what it made better, versus how corrosive, how divisive it might have sometimes been, and when I see that politicians did not become better people, but they actually became worse... greedy, duplicitous, sleazy... When I consider all of those things, and recall the rows that you and I had back then, in the good old days, about change and intransigence... You know, I do rather find myself thinking from time to time that... this change we introduced, this sweeping away of the old orders, without creating a more moral, or even a more pluralistic environment... well, Humphrey... perhaps I wonder whether, just perhaps... it wasn't quite such a good thing after all...

Sir Humphrey:  No... Prime Minister.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Avoid "Snog Marry Avoid"

BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten came in for criticism after he suggested money could be siphoned from BBC3 to make up the shortfall in BBC World Service funding. The Corporation as a whole is facing twenty per cent cutbacks, and difficult decisions will have to be made. Bearing in mind the Beeb is a public service broadcaster (PSB), where should our priorities lie?

Let's take a look at a typical Monday night schedule and decide which station best fulfils the PSB remit.

7.00pm - World Briefing or Don't Tell The Bride?

8.00pm - Americana (US news) ... or Snog Marry Avoid?

10.00pm - The Strand (arts review)... or Eastenders (repeat)?

11.45pm -  From Our Own Correspondent... or Young Rich And Househunting?

(Readers can work out for themselves which of the above are World Service programmes and which BBC3)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Breaking News - Archbishop shock!

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has stunned politicians and Christian congregations alike by claiming the Church of England is not and has never been the Conservative party at prayer. In a lengthy article in today's New Statesman, in which he attacks coalition policies, he also distances the CofE from Labour. He goes on to suggest that political parties travel less upon prayer as such, more upon a wing and a prayer...

(More on this breaking news later)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A word from our (esteemed) sponsor, Rene Silverstone

"I would like to make it clear that our decision to hold the Tripoli Grand Prix is in no way influenced by financial considerations in any way, shape or form. I myself and my fellow executives have given all of the relevant factors due consideration and have decided that the best way of reaching out to the Libyan people in their time of need is quite evidently to give them a Grand Prix they will remember.

"Colonel Gaddafi has assured me that his country will have a brand new circuit built in time for the race this October (assuming it isn't bombed to smithereens by NATO forces in the interim). He has also promised me that throughout the entire period of the race, he will suspend all tortures, shootings, executions (mock or otherwise), beheadings (full and partial), beatings and other generalised forms of repression.

"This is indeed a very great result and is very much in keeping with the spirit of our wonderful sport. If I, Rene Silverstone, through my humanitarian efforts can halt, or even postpone the forcible amputation of a single limb from being conducted by the Colonel's security forces then I will have indeed achieved my aim.

"For is it not true that the lion can lie down with the lamb? Of course it is! And if, after their brief period of reconciliation, the lion subsequently decides that the lamb would make an excellent supper (because he hasn't had time to go shopping or hunting that day) then who are we to judge? Reconciliation is above such considerations.

"And so is the race we know and love as the Grand Prix. It is above all of these worldly, trivial considerations - pecuniary considerations included!

"I hope that this clears matters up. Thank you.

Thursday, 2 June 2011


Against all odds, Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of Fifa today. Those who voted for him were, of course, democrats to a man. After all, they have dedicated their lives to understanding the intricacies of voting. They know when, how, why and where to vote. You could say that they're professionals - professional voters, that is.

Although no one stood against Sepp Blatter, his victory was still decisive. That is because he was elected unopposed. And an unopposed election, it has to be said, is no less an election for all that. And that is what counts.

Now, this point is crucial. For football is the peoples' game. And the people are interested in nothing more than the game itself, a game many refer to as the "beautiful game". Do these "people", these lovers of the (beautiful) game really care whether some distant oligarch - a democratically elected oligarch, I should add - is filling his boots at the expense of the (beautiful) game and thereby making the game (indirectly) more expensive to enjoy?

Of course not! The people simply want to enjoy, they want to enjoy the (beautiful) game.

Do these people complain when the bread-maker mixes his flour with sawdust in order to increase his profits? Do the people complain when the circus comes to town and parents pay through the nose for an act their children forget within hours - assuming they like it in the first place?

No! Of course they don't. They just want to be fed, to enjoy, to draw in the richness of life.

So, before we all get on our high horses and start moaning about the bundles of cash that Fifa officials (allegedly) receive for casting their votes, should we not ask this simple question: What difference does it actually make to that game that we call the peoples' game, the beautiful game?

Nothing, I would wager. For, the people actually like, they enjoy paying through the nose for something they have not only learnt to love, but have learnt that they should pay through the nose precisely in order to love.

And who are we to judge? Who is anybody to judge?