Thursday, 30 October 2008


Everyone I've spoken to agrees that it's sad that Russell Brand felt obliged to resign from his Radio 2 show. We'd much have preferred to see him nailed screaming to the wall through his own entrails, begging to be allowed to confess. As for Ross, if he does eventually get the boot after his twelve-week spell in purgatory (which let's not forget will include the entire Festive Season, ha) - well, his reported £18m salary, shared out among the BBC licence payers, comes to about 50p each . Not a lot. Hand that saving over to everyone who is prepared, under sworn affidavit, to opt out of ever seeing or hearing him again in their life - still not a lot. BUT: charge the £18m out to those who think he's worth it, on some kind of 'pay-as-you-puke' tariff - now I can see my licence fee tumbling!

The escalation of complaints, from the two people who actually listened on the day (I'm recklessly equating number of complainants to number of listeners here, seems reasonable to me) to the 35 million or whatever it's come to who read about it in the Mail, and then saw the reports of the Mail's report, then heard and saw the hand-wringing analysis on every TV/radio channel yet invented (and, for all I know a few billion websites, blogs and twitter streams), is, well, interestingly amusing.

But the real point has been missed. The real offence was to Andrew Sachs - the leaving of this filth on his answering machine. This really offensive action had been committed some time before the programme was broadcast, and days before the Mail and their hounddogs picked up the rancid scent - damage already done. Andrew has graciously, sensibly, waved this off. To my mind, that makes it a private concern.

As an update, Sunday 2 November, having spent the weekend talking to a broad cross-section, I can report the following:
The age divide, mooted by the press (kids vs. older people) - it doesn't exist. People from 18 to 75 are unanimous that this was plain objectionable, not funny.
Having said that, there seems to be a convergence between 'funny' and 'shocking'. I raised the scene in 'Pulp Fiction' where Marvin gets his head blown off by Vincent, and we laugh. Laughter is a convulsive response to the unexpected; that doesn't make the event funny, never mind humorous. We probably all remember incidents of bullying and mild torture, at school or later, which end in 'only having a laugh, mate'.
The 25 year old editor who allowed this locker-room bullying episode to be broadcast in the first place - has he/she been sacked yet? And how come the bumbling Mark Thompson allowed Lesley Douglas to walk the plank on his behalf? If 'drop from the top' is still the BBC culture, then he should have jumped. But that's stupid in every respect, even the Mail's.
Nobody now likes (or watches) Ross, a spent squib whose broadcasts are more and more tediously about himself, less and less about his guests (wouldn't know, haven't watched chatshows for years, not since Meg Ryan fabulously deconstructed the format against the corpse of Parkie ...)
Everyone hates Russell Brand.
Where did that video of Wossie and his smirky zomby come from? Must have been somewhere in the BEEB. Who videos Radio 2 programmes, FFSake??

Monday, 6 October 2008

The financial crisis

a) It's not financial, it's psychological. We're told by the media that the markets zig-zag up and down due to things called 'confidence', 'uncertainty' and sometimes 'panic'. Other nouns and adjectives are sometimes used, but not to labour the point, we are never, ever, given units of measurement. Aside from some commentator's opinion, how am I to tell whether these operands (confidence, panic, etc) have in fact risen or fallen over a significant period of time (confidinans? uncertainometers? panicons?), and what is the algorithm, precisely, which links these unmeasurable determinants to the value of my bank account and shareholdings and the price or availability of bread or cheese in the shop? Precisely, please, anyone who knows. Until anyone can quantify and define the logic of this stuff, I'm sticking with my theory, which is that the people whose decisions determine these outcomes - financial market traders - are in fact mad. In other words, they conduct their daily activities according to a pattern (behaviours determined by perceived information within an assumed framework of logic) which bears no relationship at all to the real world, such as you or me going down the shop to spend some money.
b) The mechanisms. No-one has commented on this yet. The liquidity crisis, i.e. the ability of banks to lend to each other to cover short-term positions, at LIBOR, is governed by the real time gross settlement (RTGS) system imposed by the Bank of England in the late 90s to protect against intraday bank failures like the Herstaddt case back in the seventies. In the UK (I assume similar set-ups exist elsewhere) each member of the inter-bank network (CHAPS) for wholesale payments has to demonstrate, per payment and within defined limits, that they have sufficient liquidity (cash or collateral) to cover that payment, right now. If not, the payment gets scheduled back and has to be resubmitted later.

I'm a long-retired ex-banker who hasn't kept up with this stuff at all; but it does cross my mind that an easy way for the BoE to kick-start the liquidity freeze would be simply to raise the RTGS threshold to infinity (minus one). That way, every interbank payment, for whatever reason, would be guaranteed, and the money would start to move around again.