Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cosmopolitan- Drink of the week

Now don't be snooty until you've tried it. Easy to make and tastes great.

The Cosmopolitan is usually served in a large cocktail glass, also called a martini glass.

Mix 2 (30ml) or 3 parts vodka (citrus is best), 2 parts cranberry juice, 1 part triple sec (Cointreau is best), 1 part lime juice.

The cranberry mainly adds colour and should not excessively dilute the drink.

A lemon twist is sometimes used to garnish.

That's it you're good to go.


Next up I reckon has to be the Mojito.

The Donkey

The Donkey - G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Top 40 hedge fund managers earn $16.7bn in 2012

Yes that's right. According to Forbes magazine just 40 hedgies earn $16.7 billion in 2012. That is unbelievable. Just the top 40. Never mind the rest. While I am sure they know their onions they do seem to be awarded a lot.

It's also fair to note that lots of hedge funds go bust regularly so they really are good at the job but still - wow.

Here is the the top 10 List to get you started - As compiled by Forbes - 2012 Earnings in $million

1) David Tepper - $2.2 billion - Appaloosa Management
2) Carl Icahn - $1.9 billion - Icahn Capital
3) Steve Cohen - $1.3 billion SAC Capital Advisors
4) James Simons - $1.3 billion - Renaissance Technologies Corp.
5) George Soros - $1.1 billion - Soros Fund Management LLC
6) Ken Griffin - $900 million - Citadel LLC
7) Ray Dalio - $800 million - Bridgewater Associates
8) David Shaw - $625 million - D. E. Shaw & Co., L.P.
9) Leon Cooperman - $470 million - Omega Advisors, Inc.
10) Daniel Loeb - $425 million - Third Point

The rest can be found here on the Forbes website.

The Prawn Cocktail classic is back!

I say this mainly because I just made it for lunch but only because it does seem to be back on restaurant menus.

It's damn good too.

There are loads of variations which all work, just try a few and mix and match until you find one you like.

I just tried this recipe from Heston and if I can do it anyone can.

Prawn cocktail

(Serve 4)

110g tomato ketchup
100g mayonnaise
¼tsp cayenne pepper
12 drops Worcestershire sauce
10g lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
400g cooked shelled prawns
1 iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
1 avocado, peeled and diced


Combine the tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Add the prawns to the sauce and stir to coat.
Place the shredded lettuce on the bottom of four glasses or glass bowls, followed by the avocado, then a generous spoonful of prawns and sauce.

You're done and its great.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

If you’re opposed to drones, then think again says Paddy in the Times

Article from The Times online

"The arguments against them collapse under scrutiny – and they are the most ‘democratic’ weapon ever invented" says
Paddy Ashdown.

"A Royal Marine I once knew would, in any given tactical situation, come up to me, a worried frown on his face, and say: “But Sir, what if a tank comes along?” My answer was always the same: “Marine Snodgrass, if a tank comes along, we’re f****ed. All right?” Satisfied, he would then cheerfully go off upon his duty. I eventually concluded that his question was asked not out of fear but from a desire to be helpful by checking that I had spotted the danger he had spotted.

The current debate about drones is, no doubt fired by the same intention — and with good reason. Drones have become the weapon of choice of President Obama and — perhaps especially — of his new CIA Director, the rather scary-looking Mr John Brennan. This is now a controversial issue on both sides of the Atlantic. Some call for constraints; others for clear guidelines; others still for a new international treaty governing their use, as we had for cluster bombs.

Given that drones are (relatively) new and offer commanders new choices, this debate is perfectly healthy — provided it is properly rational. So far it has not been. The result is that misunderstanding, even perhaps deliberate misrepresentation, is clouding the real issues involved.
First a health warning: war is a revolting practice and cannot be discussed without using revolting words. So the squeamish and those morally offended by all violence should look away now.
The first point may appear semantic, but it is not: it is fundamental. Drones are not weapons like cluster bombs — they are a delivery system. They do not, like cluster bombs, scatter themselves indiscriminately over large areas or lie there unexploded for children to step on later. The weapon they deliver is a so-called “smart” bomb that has the same purpose, effect and horrible result, wherever and however it is launched.

If this is what offends because it leads to “extra-judicial executions” (and that does indeed raise serious moral questions), then it should offend whether the weapon is launched from a drone, a nearby Special Forces team, a helicopter at 10,000ft, an aircraft at 25,000ft, a satellite at the edge of space or even nowadays with their accuracy, a submarine-launched Cruise missile from hundreds of miles away.

Of course if it’s the “smart” bombs we don’t like, fine; then let’s ban them. Then we can all go back to good old indiscriminate high explosive — not “smart”, not trying to be selective (“smart” bombs do not always succeed in being selective, but they are at least an attempt at it) and of course not at all pleasant for the inadvertent innocent who, in much larger numbers, will get killed and maimed along with the intended target. To say nothing of our own servicemen, more of whom will also have to die in the use of it.
We don’t want to do that, do we? Of course not. So if it is not the “smart” bomb we object to, it must be the drone itself.

But why?
A peer who ought to know better said in the House of Lords the other day that the drone was especially dangerous since it “kills people remotely from some leafy suburb in the middle of one’s own country” — as though this was somehow happening in a garden shed close to you.
But of course it is not. Yes, these decisions are being controlled from thousands of miles away. But is that more thousands of miles away than the decision to send in a stealth fighter? Or give the order to launch a missile from a nearby Special Forces team? Or a Cruise missile from a submarine? And — and here’s the point — thousands of miles from the battlefield is thousands of miles closer to the politicians who have to be accountable.
It is said that every week President Obama sits down with his advisers and personally decides how drones will be used in the week ahead. Can we imagine what that must be like for a democratically elected politician? No taking shelter behind a command chain that reaches right down to the judgment of the poor bloody soldier on the ground. This time the President is personally involved — personally accountable; perhaps even in a way that could, theoretically at least, be open to challenge before an international court of law.

So if we want political accountability for the violent actions of war taken in our name — and presumably we do — then we get more of it, not less, from a decision by a politician to launch a “smart” bomb from a drone than one taken, for instance by a pilot in a split second, in the heat of conflict, 25,000ft above the battlefield.

For some, the worry about drones is the way they are being used extraterritorially — in other nation’s jurisdictions. That too is a proper concern, but it’s not a new one.

In the Borneo jungle conflict of the early 1960s I was ordered to take my unit across the Indonesian border to carry the war to “terrorists” sheltering in Indonesian territory. The operation was secret, sanctioned by the Cabinet and never came to light at the time. But if it had become public I am sure that the Government would have claimed that the action was consistent with the well-established practice of “hot pursuit” and a country’s legal right to take “self defensive” action where its security is threatened from the territory of another nation. Of course such action is always highly debatable and often used as a pretext for something much more sinister.
But the point is that this is not a new practice: it’s a very old one and there is an established body of law to cover it. And that law is neither less valid nor less applicable because the instrument is a drone today, rather than my Royal Marines colleagues and me in the 1960s.
Drones may be new, but they come from a long line that goes back to the Roman trebuchet. In contemplating their use we should doubtless carefully consider how the old laws and practices apply. But we do not need new ones.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon is a former leader of the Liberal Democrats and UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2002-06".

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Pope to retire

Well what a refreshing change. A man of 85 who has a high powered, pressured job deciding to call it a day shouldn't come as a surprise yet it's the first time it's happened since the Middle Ages.

I think it's a sensible decision and avoids years of power vacuum as everyone waits for the Pop to pass on and speculate on a successor.

In a statement the Pope said -

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


Tory Death Tax 2013

In 2007 or so the Tories ran a huge campaign against Labours "death tax". They got over a 5% bump in the polls. George Osborne led the charge.

Now we are told by George Osborne that he is to freeze inheritance tax until 2019. Thereby doing the same thing he objected to Labour doing. George is doing it to avoid spending cuts required to cover social care reform.

The death tax is back and it's a Tory tax after all.

This will be seen as another dagger in the heart of the blue rinse brigade, who are just coming to terms with gay marriage, hugging hoodies, hugging huskies, forgiving bankers etc etc.

Don't forget it's the blue rinse brigade who actually vote Tory so why Cameron and Osborne insist on attacking them along with the aspiring classes is perplexing.

There must be a better reason than being bullied by the Lib Dems. Surely!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Lambeth Labour Council

"On benefit?

The government are making cuts to benefits. If you claim benefits, it is likely you will receive less and may have to find work ... We can help."

The above message is today on the front page of Lambeth Councils website. You couldn't make it up.

I mean people might have to find work because of benefit cuts. People having to work ehh. Outrageous.

I am sure they didn't mean it like that but really what a politically biased and wholly revealing paragraph.

It would have to be Lambeth Labour Council. Wasting taxpayers money with self promotion is one of their prime aims.

Monday, 4 February 2013

The sword of Damocles

Damocles (literally means "Fame of the People") is a figure featured in a single moral anecdote commonly referred to as "the Sword of Damocles", which was a late addition to classical Greek culture. The figure belongs properly to legend rather than Greek myth. The anecdote apparently figured in the lost history of Sicily by Timaeus of Tauromenium (c. 356–260 BC). The Roman orator Cicero may have read it in Diodorus Siculus. He made use of it in his Tusculan Disputations, V. 61–2, by which means it passed into the European cultural mainstream.

The Damocles of the anecdote was an obsequious courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, a 4th century BC tyrant of Syracuse, Italy. Pandering to his king, Damocles exclaimed that, as a great man of power and authority surrounded by magnificence, Dionysius was truly extremely fortunate.

Dionysius then offered to switch places with Damocles, so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king's proposal. Damocles sat down in the king's throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail. Damocles finally begged the tyrant that he be allowed to depart, because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate.

Dionysius had successfully conveyed a sense of the constant fear in which the great man lives. Cicero uses this story as the last in a series of contrasting examples for reaching the conclusion he had been moving towards in this fifth Disputation, in which the theme is that virtue is sufficient for living a happy life.

Cicero asks:

Does not Dionysius seem to have made it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms?

Thanks Wikipedia!

Huhne, Eastleigh and the by election

The full Eastleigh election result from May 2010

So all to play for really. Will Lib Dems be annihilated as punishment for Huhnes misdeeds? Will the Tories be punished as is the norm in mid term by elections and there is plenty to go on at present? Will Cameron throw himself in to the campaign?

Will Farage stand? Will UKIP flourish? Will Labour sneakily bump up their vote or be squeezed out?

It will all be mildly interesting as by elections go but hardly as life changing as the Westminster hacks seem prone to believe.

The Chinese crunch point approaches

My old economist teacher (a Jesuit) was always of the view that China would suffer severe economic, social and political problems by 2020.

Well if the details in this Telegraph article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard are true then he might be proved correct.

See the article in full here and also laid out below. It's interesting stuff.

-Telegraph online 03/02/13 - China’s vast reserve of cheap workers in the hinterland is vanishing at a vertiginous pace.

We can now discern more or less when the catch-up growth miracle will sputter out. Another seven years or so - enough to bouy global coal, crude, and copper prices for a while - but then it will all be over. China’s demographic dividend will be exhausted.

Beijing revealed last week that the country’s working age population has already begun to shrink, sooner than expected. It will soon go into “precipitous decline”, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Japan hit this inflexion point fourteen years ago, but by then it was already rich, with $3 trillion of net savings overseas. China has hit the wall a quarter century earlier in its development path.

The ageing crisis is well-known. It is already six years since a Chinese demographer shocked Davos with a warning that his country might have to resort to mass suicide in the end, shoving pensioners onto the ice.

Less known is the parallel - and linked - labour drain in the countryside. A new IMF paper - “Chronicle of a Decline Foretold: Has China Reached the Lewis Turning Point?” - says the reserve army of peasants looking for work peaked in 2010 at around 150 million. The numbers are now collapsing.

The surplus will disappear soon after 2020. A decade after that China will face a labour shortage of almost 140m workers, surely the greatest jobs crunch ever seen. “This will have far-reaching implications for both China and the rest of the world,” said the IMF.

These farm workers are the footloose migrants that pour into the cities from the interior, the raw material of China’s manufacturing workshops They are carefully regulated by the semi-feudal Hukuo system to keep their families tied to villages at home, and to keep the lid on social revolt.

There is little Beijing can do to head off the shock. The effects of low fertility rates - and the one child policy - are already baked into the pie. It would take half a century to turn around the demographic supertanker.

The Lewis Point, named after St Lucia's Nobel economist Sir Arthur Lewis, is when the supply of workers dries up and city wages soar. It is when labour turns the tables on capital, and profits crash.

You could argue that such a process already well under way, and is why Chinese equities are trading at a third of their 2007 peak in real terms. Manufacturing pay has risen 16pc a year over the last decade in the East Coast hubs of Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin, though this slowed sharply in 2012.

Boston Consulting Group says that “productivity-adjusted wages” were just 22pc of US levels as recently as 2005. They will reach 43pc by 2015, or 61pc for the American South.

It is a key reason why General Electric, Ford, Caterpillar and others are “re-shoring” from China back to the US, though cheap shale gas, a weaker dollar, and shipping costs all play their part.

This is no bad thing. The world economy is rebalancing. China’s current account surplus has fallen from 10pc of GDP to just 2.5pc.

China’s corrosive gap between rich and poor should narrow. The GINI coefficient measuring inequality should come down from stratospheric levels, 0.61 according to researchers at Chengdu University.

Yet it is also a dangerous moment for Beijing. The Lewis Point is the great test for catch-up economies, when they can no longer rely on cheap labour, copied technology, and export-led growth to keep the game going.

The air is thinner at the technology frontier. Success depends on such intangibles as the rule of law and the free flow of ideas. Those that fail to adapt in time slide into the `middle income trap’, and most do fail.

The Soviet Union failed. The Philippines -- richer than Korea in the 1950 -- failed. Most of the Mid-East failed. So did most of Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, and it is far from clear that Argentina and Brazil will break free this time.

We still do not know which way China is going to go under Xi Jinping. Vested interests - aligned with Maoist nostalgics - are putting up a formidable fight against reformers. It is worth reading an investigative series by Caixin showing how close hardliners came at different times to reversing Deng Xiaoping’s free-market drive. Nothing is set in stone.

What we see so far is that the Politburo has turned on the credit spigot again, and the reforms are mostly talk. Railway investment almost doubled in the second half of last year. The authorities at all levels have pledged stimulus worth $2 trillion dollars since the economy swooned last year. Some of it is a fictional wish-list, but some is real.

The shares of construction firms have surged since premier Li Keqiang uttered the magic words: “unleashing urbanisation as the most important growth engine”. Cynics suspect that China’s leaders are reverting to bad old ways: manic over-investment, more steel and concrete

George Magnus from UBS said investment made up 55pc of all growth in 2012, and will soon have to reach 60pc to keep up the pace. It is becoming unhinged, a sort of Ponzi scheme.

The boom is rotating, of course, which makes it harder to read. The epicentre is moving West, deep into the Upper Yangtze and heartland regions holding 700m people.

The Sichuan capital of Chengdu is completing the world’s biggest building, a glass and steel pagoda. This will soon be eclipsed for sheer chutzpa by the world’s tallest tower in Changsha, to be erected in three months flat.

Standard Chartered has just upgraded its China growth forecast to 8.3pc year and 8.2pc next, and others are doing much the same. They are probably right, but one watches this latest spree with a mixture of awe and alarm.

The balance sheets of China’s banks have been growing by over 30pc of GDP a year since the Lehman crisis and are still growing at a 20pc, wildly exceeding the safe speed limit.

Fitch Ratings said fresh credit added to the Chinese economy over the last four years has reached $14 trillion, if you include shadow banking, trusts, letters of credit and off-shore vehicles. This extra blast of loan stimulus is roughly equal to the entire US commercial banking system.

The law of diminishing returns is setting in. The output generated by each extra yuan of lending has fallen from 0.8 to 0.35, according to Fitch.

Mr Magnus said credit has reached 210pc of GDP - far higher than other developing countries - and only half of new loans are “plain vanilla” under the full control of regulators.

How and when this will end is anybody’s guess. He fears a “Minsky Moment” when the investment bubble pops, as such bubbles always do.

My guess is that there is one last cycle of Chinese fever to enjoy -- if that is right word -- before the aging crunch and the credit hangover combine with toxic effect. One thing is for sure: a middle-income country with a shrinking work force is not about to displace the United States as global hegemon.