Things I love about America, right now.
(Some of them are dead.)
So You’re Staying Up To Watch The US Election.
Of course, we may not know the results til next October. Or not for years. (Jill Stein will not win, but if Obama loses, is as likely to be blamed for Romney’s “victory” as Ralph Nader was blamed for George W. Bush’s “win”.)
It might be President Obama’s biggest broken promise: closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
But it might be former President Obama’s biggest regret: not cleaning up US elections in 2009.
Would I vote for independence? I don’t know. (Fortunately, I don’t have to make up my mind till autumn 2014.) Whichever way the vote goes then – for independence or for the status quo, devolution within the UK – the future is clear.
The Scottish Parliament was based on the work done by the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and two years of solid legislative work in Westminster by Donald Dewar and other Scottish Labour MPs. Though Tony Blair was apt to pat himself on the back for it, his main contribution appears to have been a rather grubby deal carving up what would be Scotland’s territorial waters to give a claim on the oil to the rest of the UK, and removing Scotland’s right to space travel. (Dammit.)
I don’t think there should be a devomax option in the independence ballot for two reasons.
In conversation with American friends, they often identify a paper as “The Times of London” or even “the London Times” and sometimes I correct them – since its name actually is The Times and has been since 1st January 1788, and since officially it is a UK-wide paper, sold from Campbelltown to Norwich. And sometimes I don’t, because as a practical matter of fact all of the papers published from London are London papers – the rest of the country (let alone the rest of the UK) is not regarded as of particular interest – the same line of thinking that leads David Dimbleby, in Edinburgh, to squelch Nicola Sturgeon when she responds to a question that requires an explanation of Scottish election law, on the grounds that Scottish elections are of no interest to Question Time’s audience.
This attitude in the UK-national media that Scottish politics are not something they should have to care about has been to Alex Salmond’s benefit on a few occasions – most notably over his MP expenses. Or rather most non-notably. But Salmond’s courtship of Murdoch is an extraordinary piece of chutzpah – a certainty that while the Scottish papers may take note, this won’t turn into a thing in the UK-national ones – and it is the UK-national papers that are focussing their attention on the Leveson revelations about Rupert Murdoch and News International.
Bear Stearns was founded in 1923, but although Paula Daly’s Mouse to Minx sells vintage fashion of that era, quite probably when the 85-year-old bank went under on 6th March 2008, Paula Daly didn’t notice – between running her own small business and being a successful self-employed communications and marketing consultant, she says “Life was exhausting, and not without its stresses, but good.”
But in the US the collapse of Bear Stearns is seen as the beginning of the financial crisis of 2008, while in the UK, we date it from the collapse of Northern Rock, three weeks earlier. Both Northern Rock and Bear Stearns had become heavily involved in the sub-prime mortgages: Northern Rock’s business plan was to borrow heavily, extend mortgages based on the loans, and then re-sell these mortgages on international capital markets. This is known as “securitisation”.
Who got the idea for this risky business? In the UK, John Ritblat, former British Land chairman (described as “a charming old rogue, a bit of an old-fashioned spiv” by someone who likes him)
takes much of the credit for the revolution in property financing that has occurred over the past two decades. The industry used to be financed with fixed-rate borrowings secured on the property portfolio, but he pioneered techniques like securitisation of assets which, he believes, has transformed the industry into one financed by long-term, unsecured, borrowings. (The Observer, Sunday 16 July 2006)
Ritblat retired just over a year before August 2007, when Northern Rock first began to feel the chill. A self-confessed workaholic, he evidently knew the right time to retire from the “securitisation” business he pioneered – with an estimated net worth of £100m.
Once the fifth-largest investment bank in the United States, Bear Stearns collapsed in March 2008 under the weight of toxic hedge fund accounts backed heavily by subprime mortgages. The company was quickly sold to J.P. MorganChase (another financial giant and OpenSecrets.org Heavy Hitter) but the bank’s spectacular fall — and the federal government’s failure to stop it — is now seen as the first wave of the epic financial meltdown that created the global recession of 2008 and 2009. (Open Secrets)