Business as usual

It really is quite extraordinary at times to watch – as we head towards Old Slaphead’s New Normal – how those involved at the sharp end of privilege creation manage to carry on cheating, rigging, lying, upcovering and back-scratching as if there was nothing unpleasant about to happen.

The shenanigans on Wall Street are easily the best example of this. There is a Wasp banker there just about to leave his post as a Vice Chair at the Federal Reserve. I say “Wasp” because he’s Old GOP, called Randal Quarles and his alma mater is Yale. Randal (right) is the lucky guy with the ‘Supervision’ portfolio – a word which, when used in connection to banks, is kind of oxymoronic.

Not that he’s without detractors. The Senate Committee Chair overseeing RQ’s idea of ‘regulation’ had these valedictory words to say:

“When Vice Chair Quarles was confirmed to his position, banking lobbyists cheered. Not only did he immediately set out a plan to shift post-crisis rules to benefiting industry interests over protecting working families, he dutifully continued his deregulatory efforts even as the economy was shaken by a global pandemic..”

Even many Wall Street staffers think Randal should have demanded the removal of Jamie Dimon in 2020 (following the London Whale scandal). But it might have been better overall if Congress had insisted on Quarles himself being decommissioned at that point.

Anyway, now he has “stepped away” from his post – although the general media consensus is that he was fired. So it’s up to Joe the Hologram to decide whether Jerome Powell should stay. Of course it isn’t really up to Biden at all, who probably thinks Federal Reserves is a Second XI soccer team. And to think we used to see Dubbya as a dummy.

Equally amazing is the professional ‘business as usual’ denialism still apparent among those proffering tailor-made or media-based advice about investments. When I read, for instance, opinions that suggest “it does look as though some form of stock market correction could be on the cards”, my jaw drops. It reminds me of the time my physics teacher at Grammar School related to me how he’d had a holiday company summer job on leaving University in 1939, and how – as late as August that year – Brits were still booking skiing holidays in the Bavarian Alps.

To continue talking inanely about “the technicals” in a world where every Western Treasury has been raped, demand is falling as taxes are set to rise, not a single bank has offered a decent return on money deposited for thirteen years, and there’s a Dow Jones index at 35,000 based almost entirely on corporate share purchases made with loose, cheap money….let’s face it, that has to be like telling a rabbit to invest in greyhound racing.

In a similar manner on the hitech plane (albeit not on quite such an Earth-shattering scale) the old freeware download scam is still ploughing its crooked furrow. I love the way they call these things ‘suites’, because if you apply the hotel analogy, it’s remarkably good at explaining the contrick. Imagine you book a hotel suite because there’s a special once-only-buy-now offer of $20 for a night’s stay; you arrive at the hotel, you check in, you put your key in the door, and it opens onto a shower unit. To get into the rest of the bathroom you have to feed plastic into another lock, and perform the same trick to get into the bedroom. By the time you reach the TV control in the sitting room, you’re a thousand bucks worse off.

Well, that’s the way freeware suites work: if you want to do anything beyond looking confused about what it does, it rapidly becomes not terribly free. Download FreeStudio, for example, and it let’s you watch the news in any language you like: what you can’t do, however, is convert, record or edit without throwing a wheelbarrow full of cash at it.

If you’ve hired a car lately, you’ll know what I’m on about here. ‘Car hire from just £15 for the weekend’ is a common sight on search engines. However, fifteen quid gets you a Trabant 3-wheeler, and the weekend mysteriously doesn’t start until 5 pm Saturday. Each question you’re then asked (or even worse, you ask) involves escalating investment. It goes something like this:

“About the wheels. Yes? I assume you want four, right? That’d be preferable….is there a sunroof? Not as such, no. Why’s that? There’s no roof. Roofs and doors are optional. Do you want accident waiver? No thanks. You have to have it. By law. OK, I’ll have it. Is there a mileage maximum? Only above twenty miles…”

The flipside of this coin is that – down at natural science ground level – things are carrying on in blissful ignorance of what Homo Snakeiens is up to. I have a pair of Alpine Marmots here with a nesting place just by the informally arranged pond. They usually produce three or four young a year, and are very visible at the minute because of the amount of free windfall fruit lying in the garden. When it comes to primary senses, however, they’re not especially well endowed: they have 4F eyesight, and could do with some kind of hearing aid assistance. They have an excellent sense of smell, but when there’s no wind (or if you stay downwind) they’re far too busy shovelling apples into their express-chomper mouths to pay much attention.

This means the keen amateur wild animal lover can sit entranced for hours watching their antics – and in particular, the inattentive excitement of the pups as they gorge upon unexpected prunes, or flinching as mum and dad occasionally give them a clip around the ear for not paying attention when called home. Their whiskers too are something to behold: almost anthropomorphic in their resemblance to a Colonel Blimp moustache. Indeed, when Marmots stand upright, one almost expects them to adopt a nineteenth century English syntax, as in “Oh bother oh blow – I need a holiday!”

Up in the Wings, no amount of Covidophobia or collapsing Chinese property leviathans is going to stop the geese flying south for the winter. They honk loudly and point their bills toward the sky when they’re ready for the off, having as they do an acute temperature gauge in their heads.

But it’s the joining of the flocks thing that has always fascinated me. It’s not just that single families of geese, or flocks of several families together, take off and head south. It’s also this mysterious “meeting point” thing whereby Flocks join with other flocks. As the places change from year to year, how on Earth do they know where this year’s departure lounge is going to be?

The female has a special call which involves a form of snoring. Perhaps it used along with the “Not tonight dear, I’ve got a headache” excuse when rumpy-pumpy might be on the agenda, but both this and the 13 other calls can only work over short distances. The science about all this is about as unsettled as it gets, but it’s widely accepted that geese can detect the Earth’s magnetic field. This means that their spectrum of consciousness is different to ours….thus holding out the intriguing possibility that they can use ESP for longer-distance messaging.

No doubt, as I write, some pointy-head in the Pentagon is working on the weaponisation possibilities.