Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Thought of the Week- Love, Hate and BP

Hatred is the easiest of emotions. Unlike love, compassion, sympathy, charity or knowledge, it requires no application. Furthermore, it is infectious and inspires powerful group morale amongst the haters. In its more extreme forms think of the Reformation and indeed the sectarian differences which sadly persist to this day; the French and Russian revolutions, where a hatred of the middle class and aristocracy provided a common bond; Nazi Germany, where anti-Semitism and contempt for other “inferior people” provided a glue to hold the vile state together and other examples ranging from Balkan ethnic cleansing to Mao’s Cultural Revolution or Pol Pot. At a more modest level, school children find camaraderie in turning on the most unpopular child in the playground. It is particularly disappointing that President Obama should have deployed the cheap weapon of hatred in his response to the disaster at the BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.


Kassius absolutely does not prejudge what went wrong. Were problems with the blow-out preventer ignored? Was it wise to drill such a deep well without a relief well? At the worst there may have been “gross negligence” but not wilful default or aggressive action. Subsequent inquiries and the courts will rule on this. One notes, however, that BP appears to have been accident prone compared with the other oil majors. Despite an appalling public relations failure at board level, the BP technicians are to be applauded on their handling of the crisis, which has been at the cutting edge of technology. At the time of writing, God willing, it seems that the well has been plugged. Yet President Obama has severely criticised BP, emphasizing its Britishness, but according to a correspondent in America failing to stimulate any broader anti-British sentiment. Perhaps he needs to deploy the weapon of hatred in order to improve his prospects at the mid-term elections and to demonstrate his superiority over his predecessor in reacting to Hurricane Katrina, although the response to this tragedy was organized at a state not a federal level. Obama is considered to have handled the oil spill poorly and questions need to be answered as to why the standard procedure of burning off surface oil was not adopted earlier.

Source: gstatic

Playing the hatred card is in marked contrast to global reaction to the financial crisis which struck in 2007, which continues to cause infinitely greater damage than the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Blame for the crisis has been variously allocated to President Carter’s misguided “Communities Rehabilitation Act” which was the genesis of sub-prime lending; reckless borrowers; sleepy regulators; feckless central bankers (the BIS thinking that mortgages were risk free) or complicit rating agencies who were paid to give favorable ratings to packages of debt, some of which were toxic. But the real culprits were the American investment banks, which packaged the sub-prime debt, in some instances as we now learn specifically so that it was designed to fail for the benefit of the packager and a particular client and to the detriment of the purchasing client. Yet there has never been a word of anti-Americanism. Total, the French oil company, has just been fined for Europe’s largest ever peace time explosion at the oil dump at Buncefield. But not a word has been spoken against the French. Of the negative emotions contempt, disdain and scorn are occasionally permissible. Amongst the positive we are told that charity ranks before faith and hope. But to see the hatred card played is not worthy of the President of the world’s leading nation.

Chirag Shah
Director, Kassius Ltd

Friday, 6 August 2010

Thought of the Week- Inflation

The German inflation of the early 1920's and the extreme difficulty of closing the inflationary Pandora's Box, once the money supply has been allowed to ride out of control and when velocity of circulation accelerates.

This week's chart shows the extraordinary expansion of the
US monetary base during the financial crisis/recession.
Note that both the Fed. and the Bank of England now appeared
to be more concerned about a double dip than inflation.
If the concerns are justified, expect another dose of
monetary laxity. It is as though our Faustian central
bankers have signed a cunning pact with inflation permanently
to ward off a stagnant economy, which may well be the price
that should be paid for previous debt- fuelled excesses.

Chirag Shah
Director, Kassius Ltd