Thursday, 13 October 2011

Parish pump planetary politics

For both my local and international readers, I offer up this slice of our local elections for Senators – the senior position in our government. I can’t pretend I have much respect for most politicians in bigger countries either – few are that much better at understanding the true reality of the situation we face – but let’s have a despairing laugh at the sheer irresponsibly ignorant ineptitude of most who seek to be our leaders locally.

The Jersey Evening Post did not report on all the questions asked at the St Lawrence Senatorial hustings in last night's paper. I asked what I consider to be one of the most comprehensive questions by far, yet reporter Ben Queree's piece reduced it to two words in one sentence.

"with a full parish hall hearing the 13 candidates' views on economic growth, fishing rights and the Island's international image"

He chose to solely highlight candidates' views on the relatively trivial subject of Jersey's image. Quite staggeringly inept reporting – or sub-editing by his “superiors”.

To be fair, Ben might not have understood the question. The Connetable, when passing it over to the candidates wondered if they would understand it. This was partially down to the Connetable herself who, at the start, had warned that questions should be brief, which is fair enough if people are trying to find candidates' views on speeding or drains but sometimes questions about the really big issues, that have the longest lasting most dramatic consequences, cannot be squeezed into a soundbite. I will give the full scene-setting here (plus a bit more) that I was unable to last night.

I initially pointed out that Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, last week suggested that the current financial crisis could be the worst ever (which obviously includes the great depression of the '30s).

Although Jersey's economy is in better shape than most it is very vulnerable to external events - the finance industry depends on a healthy international economy and the continued tolerance of offshore activities. The current external threat to the fulfilment industry is an example of Jersey's serious vulnerability.

Conventional economic thought, such as Ozouf and co rely on to formulate their policies, can only offer ideas to try and grow the economy to get us out of this hole but, as I pointed out last night, wanting further growth in the economy is neither desirable, possible or even rational.

The United Nations Environment programme has identified that we are living beyond our environmental means - globally we are using up planetary resources and energy 1.4 times faster than the planet can supply them sustainably. Anyone who spends more than their income should know what the eventual result of that foolishness is - unending misery.

In the developed world (USA/Western Europe) the demands that our economies make pro rata would need between 3-10 planets to satisfy sustainably.
So, obviously, we are damned if we try to grow our economy further and damned to stay stuck in this recession/depression if we don't - or at least that is what conventional economists would think.

I then asked if the candidates were fully aware of the different economic schools of thought that not only expected the giant crunch but also offer a way out to achieve a long term sustainable steady state economy that not only stabilises employment, social welfare, investment and industry but simultaneously protects our local and global environment. I further asked if they would seek out these alternative economic methods and apply them, if elected.

Well! You would have thought I had asked them how they would run a space exploration programme back in the days when the great and the good thought that the Sun revolved around the Earth and a few more enlightened people were pointing out that they were flat out wrong! Their familiar ideas, based upon a massive misconception, are simply doomed to fail and take the rest of us down with them. With two or three obvious exceptions, four at the most, they simply blustered and rabbited on with their pet ideas. The former Bailiff and highest of the high in Jersey society, Sir Philip Bailhache, was not even aware of the reality of what Mervyn King said which was, according to that hotbed of revolutionary thought The Telegraph:

“The world is facing the worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s “if not ever”, the Governor of the Bank of England said last night”

Sir Philip believed that Mervyn King had said the crisis was the most serious since the second World War.The majority of the candidates seemed to have no comprehension whatsoever of the situation we are in, not only economically but also, and more fundamentally and dangerously, environmentally too nor the vital strategy we need to urgently embark on to have a hope of rescuing our futures from the pit, and yet they are offering themselves up to lead a new States into the future. However, unfortunately the audience did not howl down their foolishness, which is explicable because probably they too did not understand the ramifications of the question either, so may not have appreciated its full significance but since when has the blind leading the blind ever been a sensible strategy? Now, more than ever, we need the democratic majority to vote for those who know what is really happening and at least have an inkling of what to do about it.


Monday, 3 October 2011

They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more

There is an interesting “peoples’ protest” growing in the US called “Occupy Wallstreet”. It was started in July on the Adbusters website (click here for the origin of the idea), and seems to be exponentially growing. New groups are forming rapidly across the States and, having spread across America, it is starting to crossover to Europe, Australia, Central America and Asia.

Taking their cue from the “Arab Spring” movement, which started in Tunisia then exploded when Egyptians occupied Tahrir Square in the  2011 “Egyptian Revolution”, the idea is just to occupy an area associated with bankers and sing, chant etc. The new bit is that it is not just for one day but just carries on, possibly indefinitely.

The basis of Occupy Wallstreet is that “the 99%” of ordinary people in the USA who are losing their jobs, healthcare and getting their homes foreclosed by the “1%” of bankers and financiers, have had enough - they’re mad as hell and their not going to take it any more – the previous words borrowed from the classic 1976 film Network (excerpt of the famous bit follows). It’s interesting to contrast what was worrying people back then in 1976 with today…

The  Wallstreet occupiers are mad as hell that the “1%” are getting bailed out while the “99%” are getting screwed. Here is a link to the facebook page organising the Occupy the London Stock Exchange action. Click this link for the worldwide actions page.

Here is the introduction from the  “We are the 99%” site

Who are we? Well, who are you? If you’re reading this, there’s a 99 percent chance that you’re one of us.

You’re someone who doesn’t know whether there’s going to be enough money to make this month’s rent. You’re someone who gets sick and toughs it out because you’ll never afford the hospital bills. You’re someone who’s trying to move a mountain of debt that never seems to get any smaller no matter how hard you try. You do all the things you’re supposed to do. You buy store brands. You get a second job. You take classes to improve your skills. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The anxiety, the frustration, the powerlessness is still there, hovering like a storm crow. Every month you make it is a victory, but a Pyrrhic one — once you’re over the hump, all you can do is think about the next one and how much harder it’s all going to be.

They say it’s because you’re lazy. They say it’s because you make poor choices. They say it’s because you’re spoiled. If you’d only apply yourself a little more, worked a little harder, planned a little better, things would go well for you. Why do you need more help? Haven’t they helped you enough? They say you have no one to blame but yourself. They say it’s all your fault.

They are the 1 percent. They are the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry. They are the important ones. They need help and get bailed out and are praised as job creators. We need help and get nothing and are called entitled. We live in a society made for them, not for us. It’s their world, not ours. If we’re lucky, they’ll let us work in it so long as we don’t question the extent of their charity.

We are the 99 percent. We are everyone else. And we will no longer be silent. It’s time the 1 percent got to know us a little better. On Sept. 17, 2011, the 99 percent will converge on Wall Street to let the 1 percent know just how frustrated they are with living in a world made for someone else. Let us know why you’ll be there. Let us know how you are the 99 percent.”

Bankers and international financiers are set to get a whole lot more unpopular shortly as the run on French banks that are exposed to Greek debt continues, which is likely to take down Morgan Stanley in due course which might then set off an avalanche of finance institution failures like the one that started in 2008 with Lehman Brothers. This time, governments have got little or no ammunition left to do bailouts by expanding debt yet further and putting the burden on to taxpayer’s shoulders.

As I’ve said before, the normal response of conventional economists, which is to attempt to restart business-as-usual “growth”, is like the problem with trying to kill the Alien, who’s blood is so acid that it is a danger to anyone trying to kill it.

It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.

Similarly, this recession/depression has a great defence mechanism that should cause governments in general and, as far as we are concerned, Philip Ozouf’s Treasury Ministry in particular, to ponder the wisdom of trying conventional remedies.

Trying to solve the current global economic problems with more of the economic expansionism that caused the problems in the first place is just barking. Included within this are the problems of attempting to restore the type of economic growth that has led to us using planetary resources up almost 50% faster than the planet can supply them, and destabilising the climate faster than has ever been done before by Nature. This is not a rational option because it was the previous economic expansion that caused the mountains of debt that is likely to take down the whole system when the cracks proliferate.


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Risky strategies

Part of the economic growth strategy mooted for Jersey, which is designed to save our sorry skins – finance down 12%!!! – involves e-gaming i.e. gambling for money online. It has been regretted by some that places like Alderney have stolen a lead over us. Not reported very well at all by the mainstream media locally (how do those so called journalists look at themselves in the mirror?) was the following which was from  the New York Times (click for original article).

“LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gambling regulators on Thursday revoked the license of Full Tilt Poker, a popular Web site that once offered gambling to thousands of players around the world, saying the site had misled officials about its financial operations.

The revocation was made by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission on the British Channel Islands. The move, according to Full Tilt, put in jeopardy a plan outlined by a lawyer for Full Tilt to repay millions of dollars in player funds that had been in limbo since the site was first shut down to Americans in April, when its executives were indicted in the United States

While our local politicians still cling to highly dubiously ethical get rich quick fantasies like this without regard to their “firework” nature, we are doomed. Politicians need to wake up to the unsustainable nature of their current policies and the even worse solutions put forward by their flat earth economist advisers.