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Archive for December 2nd, 2009

While I can paint, after a fashion, I was told many years ago, by my Warden (They called the Headmaster a Warden) at the detention centre in Scotland where I was consigned on the Perthshire Archipelago,   that there was no money in art. He was wrong about that.  Damien Hirst has been taking the piss for years, relieving rich lawyers, bankers and magnates, industrial and advertising, of their money… in substantial amounts… and good on him!

As a ‘homage’ to BritArt and inspired by @infobunny and her recent paintings, I decided to amuse myself last night and late this afternoon. The works reveal absolutely no subtlety of colour, tone, design or, indeed, talent.  This is as it should be in ‘The FuckArt’ School’ which I founded late last night after dipping into a second bottle of the Bourbon King’s finest Rioja.  Typical of the Fuckart school is the use of spray paint used for repairing scratches on motorcars.  Charonaletto is the leading proponent of the ‘let’s get completely pissed and paint’ technique and he told the director of a Gallery in Chelsea (who has expressed interest in these two seminal works) “Vandals and Goths brought Rome down.  I’d like to have a crack at a bit of that as well and spray cans of paint as a base seemed an appropriate metaphor.”

There are two works in the ‘Fuckerflies” series

Fuckerflies I (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 1 December 2009
In the Collection of @infobunny (Click here for an enlarged view)

Fuckerflies II – ‘Dogging‘ (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 2 December 2009
In the Collection of @Sianz (Click here for an enlarged view)

Fuckerflies III (I shall be getting pissed again soon)  can be customised with diamonds at the request of the purchaser

The Final painting in the Fuckerflies series

Fuckerflies III – ‘You do not mess with these guys‘ (2009) Acrylic and car paint on board: Charonaletto 3 December 2009
In the collection of @colinsamuels (Click here for an enlarged view)


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The Billion Dollar Bonus

The Billion Dollar Bonus

By Tonto Papadopoulos

Exactly what has all this financial “talent” from The City done in 2009 to deserve such vast rewards?

First there’s another question of elephantine proportions sitting on our chests, and it’s not if City and Wall Street bonuses are merited or not, it’s why did they spiral so high in the first place?

A decade or so ago, 50 out of a total of 50,000 City workers received bonuses above £1,000,000. Today 4,000 ‘workers’ will be handed over £1,000,000, many well over this figure.

Apparently we now have at least 4,000 geniuses working in London, which makes me feel I’m in great company.

OK, I used the term ‘workers’ cautiously, because a few of these guys actually did do some work, but I’ll get to that in a second.

The most telling and interesting comparison between back then and now is that large bonuses were once the preserve of only the most exclusive houses of the time: Salomon, Goldman, and the Morgans. Even within these firms extraordinary bonuses were only awarded under extraordinary profit scenarios, and only to a select few who were directly instrumental in creating those extraordinary profits. The operative word here being, extraordinary.

Of course these days everybody’s a special breed of cat, everybody is part of the select few, and when you have virtually free money through stupidly low interest rates year after year, well, every day is pretty much a windfall.

Irritatingly – really irritatingly – now every financial institution is claiming to possess the aura of excellence reserved for the capstone of the industry pyramid.

You say, “Hang on, you can’t all squeeze on to the pinnacle”, and the banks retort,

“Like hell we can’t! We pay Big Bonuses!,

“I see… so it’s a bit like all the contestants winning the same X-Factor show?”,

“That’s exactly right. We’re all extraordinary. I could explain, but you wouldn’t understand”.

What we have here is a ridiculous game of one-upmanship, as second- and third-tier institutions scramble to redefine themselves by aping their betters, just as Victorian arrivists sought to emulate the aristocracy with fake Elizabethan beams on their terraced houses.

If we weren’t all footing the bill for this extravagant aspirational therapy with our bailout money, the saga might be amusing. In a really pathetic way.

However, in all honesty, some of the bonuses are well deserved this year. In fact some of the players don’t just deserve bonuses, they deserve a friggin’ Nobel Prize. In fact I’m writing to the Nobel Prize Committee, right now.

An Open Letter to the Nobel Prize Committee from Tonto Papadopoulos

Sirs,

I’m astounded. A grave error has been committed this year in awarding the Physics Prize to Charles K. Kao, “for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibres for optical communication”, and to Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith for, “… the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”. As enlightening as these achievements are I believe they pale to insignificance by comparison to developments in the financial arena.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics should be awarded collectively to the merry band of brothers has taken us far beyond the frontiers of weird science. With sweat and toil they have defied gravity and lifted world stock markets by more 60% from their lows this year.  They have reversed the Laws of Physics.

Your Prize should have gone to the Brokers. Yes, right down at the lower end of the City food chain. Why ordinary little Brokers and not the ‘rock star’ fund managers? After all it was their unrelenting buying spree that pushed up the market this year, was it not? Well, yes and no. I know these guys are amazing, but they didn’t do much of the work (that’s what makes them so amazing!).

It helps to remember the two distinct sectors, or roles, in to which the financial industry is divided: the Buy Side and the Sell Side. I don’t mean, bids and offers, I mean those people who manage funds, the Buy Side, as opposed to those who broker and advise on transaction and investment flows and execute the trades, the Sell Side.

When the Buy Side panics and loses its bladder, as it did in the big sell-off a year ago, money managers turn into the startled Bambi caught in a car’s headlights. They freeze in their tracks. They do nothing, and you could hear the sound of a P-45 drop on Threadneedle Street. That’s when the whips start cracking in the brokerage office, that’s when the manager starts running up and down the desks throwing staplers at people heads screaming things like,“Smile & dial, bitches! If you can’t write tickets I got a hundred guys younger, more aggressive, and better-looking than you who want your job. Hit the phones, NOW! Or your ass is grass and I’m a f***ing lawnmower!”, and offering other inspiring calls to excellence.

The brokers not only got Bambi moving again, they have her charging head down towards the oncoming vehicle at full gallop. And that is one heck of a difficult task, probably much harder than splitting muons. Respect!

Yours most sincere and humble admirer,

Tonto P., xox

But guess what, for all their hard work, the brokers aren’t the guys and gals getting a lion’s share of the bonus pie.

The people getting the fat checks this Christmas will be the Buy-side Bambis who were coaxed back into the market thanks to the sheer dint of effort by their lowly brokers. The same Buy-side Bambis who failed to notice the 172-font-size neon sign flashing on the wall from the beginning of serious subprime defaults in early 2007 all the way up to the day Lehman imploded.

Yes, Respect, and many thanks, brokers, but sorry, not that much cash to give you chaps. Unless, like investment banks, you’re not just a pure intermediary but also heavily involved in leveraging and managing the firm’s own capital then you simply cannot afford or self-justify paying out millions. No, the big money goes to the position runners who receive wedges of the profits from the funds they run. When ‘performance’ is up 60% because of such low valuations at the beginning of the year – well, you do the maths.

Most of these Buy-siders, with hardly any exception, are exactly the same people who loaded their portfolios with toxic waste year after year. These are the same people who collapsed the system. More cheap money and hardly any recriminations have allowed the party to resume in full swing with all the same dancers. Central banks and policy makers have turned the music up, and now we can complain about the racket all we like, but the party is still in full swing.

Never mind all the noise, the whole point is this: if you have savings or money to manage you have to be asking yourself one ultimate question –  Do you think it’s smart to buy stock in financial institutions that gratuitously spend crazy sums on remuneration, often signed off by the very people receiving those bonuses?

I’ll say that again in Italic. Do you think it’s smart to buy stock in financial institutions that gratuitously spend crazy sums on remuneration, often signed off by the very people receiving those bonuses?

“Well do ya’… punk?”

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Two important principles of law

The High Court handed down an important judgment yesterday and a further reminder to the government that it must act within the law.

The Guardian reports:

Two men suspected of terrorism-related activities won a landmark high court battle today when judges ruled a person could not be denied bail solely on the basis of secret evidence.

Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Owen, said bail applications should be treated the same as control order cases, where terror suspects must be given sufficient material to enable them to answer effectively the case made against them.

The ruling, which could have wider implications for the use of secret evidence, was described as a “historic” victory by the human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce. The home secretary, Alan Johnson, said he was “surprised and disappointed”.

The two judges said it was “impossible” to conclude “that in bail cases a less stringent procedural standard is required [than in control order cases]”.

The court also rejected the claim that the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which deals with terror suspect cases, are immune from judicial review.

Lord Justice Laws said judicial review was “a principal engine of the rule of law”.

The government seems unwilling to deal with a basic principle of our law and the right to a fair trial.  It is not so much the decision of the High Court that is ‘disappointing’ it is the approach taken by the Home Office which is ‘disappointing.’

The Guardian notes: “Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said it had taken a senior judge “to point out what most people already know – if the government is going to lock you up, it needs to tell you why”.

Mr Justice Eady comes under fire.

The Guardian reports: “In a rare public speech, Mr Justice David Eady – who was accused last year of “moral and social nihilism” and “arrogance” by the Daily Mail, said there was an increasing tendency for judges to become the target of anger from the media. “The media have nowhere to vent their frustrations other than through personal abuse of the particular judge who happens to have made the decision,” Eady said. “It has become fashionable to label judges not as independent but rather as ‘unaccountable’, and as hostile to freedom of speech.”

Mr Justice Eady may well be out of step with current thinking on libel tourism and the developing law of privacy but I do agree that members of the judiciary should not be subject to vulgar abuse or uninformed ranting, whether by newspapers of others. The Daily Mail has been banging on about Mr Justice Eady for some time.  I don’t, personally, feel that Mr D’Acre’ s more severe statements are particularly helpful but, of course, we must defend his right and freedom to make them – even if we then solemnly go on and ignore his views in favour of deeper analysis elsewhere.

However, that being said – I can see absolutely no reason why judicial decisions should not be subject to very close inspection and analysis and, indeed, this seems to be very much the official view these days with the Supreme Court preparing summaries for the Press so that important judgments are clearly explained.  Academic and practitioners for many years have analysed decisions with great care in the press, in leading journals and in texts and, no doubt, this very fact raises the bar for the judiciary as much as it helpful in explaining and developing our common law.

Not surprisingly, given my own leanings, I agree with Mark Stephens.  The Guardian notes: “In the face of Max Mosley, all the newspapers lost their bottle and settled everything because they recognised that there was a change in law,” said Mark Stephens, a media lawyer. Eady’s comments today, at a conference by the human rights organisation Justice and legal publishers Sweet and Maxwell, are his first since last year’s criticisms.He is described by friends as “profoundly hurt” by the attacks. His remarks come amid claims by media lawyers that the court system for dealing with cases of privacy and libel needs reform.

“The problem is that the common law is meant to be a commonality of judicial voices,” said Stephens. “There is a system flaw in that we have historically concentrated libel and now privacy law into the hands of only a handful of judges – because of the dearth of cases that has meant we have effectively had Eady doing them full-time.”

Let’s hope that Jack Straw’s review of libel law actually leads to a change in the law and the current law on libel (and privacy?) is put on a rather more equable, balanced, reasoned and fair footing.

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