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Will Charlotte Church Avert Global Economic Armageddon and Save the World?

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Did you know that 52 percent of American Evangelicals have a foot fetish (it’s not known if that includes children or, if not, what precisely the other 48 percent are up to)? Or, here’s another one: did you know that a full 76 percent of podiatrists are well practised at the art of erotic asphyxiation (I guess having a foot fetish would be a little too much like work), or, that when asked, a full 5 percent of readers of this article will think the author is funny? (Ed. Can you fact check this? It seems a bit high to me). The reason I know these facts to be the case is because the ever-so-malleable Bureau of Made Up Statistics has just told me so. And, having a name that sounds like its a government agency means it must be trustworthy, right?

Now, all joking aside, I am sure all you readers being educated sorts, know all about Quantitative Easing or, as it is known in economically literate circles the “money does grow on trees after all” theory. The theory of QE, roughly stated, is thus: A government is in debt and needs money. The government wants the banks to lend the government money but, alas, the poor banks are broke (hmm) and so don’t have any spare pocket change to give to the government, otherwise they would doubtless be the paragon of charity. Deflated (geddit?), the government has a brainwave: it can let the banks create lots of new money out of thin air and then use the money to lend to the government (via bonds). The banks are still poor, for theirs is a meager existence, but they have a future income as bonds are repaid and the government is suddenly flush with cash. To quote Aleksandr Orlov, “simples.”

If the Jubilee Debt Campaign is to be believed, it appears that someone in the recesses of the Department for International Development has been paying close attention to the machinations in Her Majesty’s Treasury Department. Here is Jubilee’s version of the story (with some literary embellishment on my part):

  1. Once in the distant past, the UK lent Sudan some money which it could spent on anything it so desired, as long as what it wanted was British goods; and
  2. The exact terms of the loan are not known (presumably, the documents were lost in the great floods of 1967, to quote Yes Minister); and
  3. In 1984 Sudan stopped paying off the loan. Perhaps they thought it was all paid off or the cheque got lost in the post; and
  4. When it stopped paying, it owed £173m; it is now £678m; and
  5. DFID have just found the IOU down the back of a departmental sofa or have just uncovered a long lost in-box and thought they’d better do something about this windfall treasure.

So, in sum, Sudan owes the UK money but the UK doesn’t have any of the paperwork on the loan, does not know what the loans were for, but has, nevertheless, still managed to almost quadruple the allegedly outstanding debt. In the UK the financial services industry is constrained in law, preventing it from enforcing repayment of any debts which have been unpaid and unacknowledged for six or more years; there is, it seems, no such reasonable limit on international loans, even if the contracts “got lost in the post.”

Of course, Sudan will not pay this debt and it is certainly debatable whether they should, but that has not, according to Jubilee, prevented some aspiring chaps at the Department for International Development (DFID) from developing a plan as cunning as a fox that has just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University. The plan is this: 1. the UK has a target to meet on international aid spending; and 2. The UK is owed a lot of money by Sudan who are not actually paying any back; and 3. Sudan needs aid; therefore, if the UK writes off the debt it can say it has given money to a country in need and chalk up that as a multimillion pound boost towards meeting the international aid spending target. That, despite the fact that Sudan will not have received a penny of extra aid nor will be spending a penny less in debt repayments.

Is this actually being contemplated? I don’t know. The evasive correspondence from DFID to which Jubilee refers may be a sign that such a plan is in the offing or it may be that there’s no one around in DFID between Christmas and New Year to make policy decisions and some underpaid junior official was just being careful, avoiding committing anything to paper. I have a feeling though that before long questions will, quite rightly be asked. We will discover if DFID will join HM Treasury in a new Quango, perhaps the United Kingdom Blank Cheque Bank; the bank which likes to say “can I add an imaginary zero or two to you deposit today, sir?”

In other news, recent research has suggested that Mary Tudor once lent a shilling to a Welshman who defaulted on the loan. The Welsh National Assembly is reported to have entered a Debt Management Plan to pay off the £15 trillion it owes in accrued interest; either that or Rupert Murdoch has offered to pay if Charlotte Church will do a couple more pro bono gigs for him. If that happens Charlotte Church may well have saved not only Sudan from the bailiff, but also single-handedly revitalised the world economy. She can sing too.

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  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    “…a plan as cunning as a fox that has just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University.” It was that. There is no limit to the make-believe good that make-believe money can do.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    That cunning remark sounds like a quote from the mighty Blackadder, which is arguably one of the best television comedy series ever.

  • http://www.nicodemist.wordpress.com Casper

    Arguably?

    And yes, it was.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    if you are quoting Blackadder, I am almost certain the writers would have appreciated giving them credit within the article rather than making it look like it was your own

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Perhaps not in America, El B, but in Casper’s native UK that quote is well enough known that the average reader would immediately recognize it as such.

  • http://www.nicodemist.wordpress.com Casper

    El B, You’re probably right – I sometimes forget my readers are not all British.

    There’s some more serious background to my story here, The Financial Times also covered it on their front page a couple of days ago.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    So in the UK, people don’t use quotation marks, Doc? Odd practice. No wonder the Empire fell

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Hic!cup.

  • Cannonshop

    Makes sense to me-in a certain mad way. By forgiving the debt that’s been de-facto-defaulted on, Sudan benefits by showing the World Bank that their national debt has dropped-it’s good for the ole credit rating.

    Meanwhile, on-paper, like U.S. “Debt Reduction Agreements” that got the debt ceiling raised last year, the British Government can write off the unpaid loan as having given money after all.

    There’s a sick sort of symmetry to that, and as Irene said in comment 1, the money’s effectively “make Believe” anyway-the Crown carried that unpaid debt as an “asset”…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Concerning El Bicho-Dreadful controversy:

    It’s an accepted literary practice to drop quotation marks around phrases too well-known to anyone but a philistine.

    “Virtue is its own reward” — notice, I’m not violating the aforementioned principle in this instance, as this is an instance of mentioning — is an example.

    Now, whether Rome fell because some Romans writers failed to acknowledge Seneca’s authorship while trying to motivate their countrymen to take a stance against general moral decline already so prevalent in Seneca’s time — well, that is debatable and an interesting question in its own right. It’s doubtful, however, that the phrase in question has reached the kind of notoriety even in the country of its origin, let alone the literary universe at large.

  • http://www.nicodemist.wordpress.com Casper

    Excellent, I’ve caused a controversy!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Exactly, Roger. Not to mention that we use unattributed phrases from Shakespeare and the Bible, among others, all the time.

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    I think many of the phrases that originated in Shakespeare or The Book are used without any awareness of the source and have just become part of the language.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    LOL. Roger. If it is a Philistine who does not recognize the source of “”…a plan as cunning as a fox that has just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University,” Then I must admit to being a Philistine. (I at LEAST thought it was funny though, as was the rest of the article, though it dealt with a serious subject.)

    Blackadder* as I have now learned, has been accepted into the Canon of British lit, so yes there was nothing amiss in Caspar’s omission of apostrophes.

    *I watched it for the first time with my son yesterday, and neither of us could understand a dang thing they were saying. I was on the lookout for “Professor of Cunning,” too.

  • http://cinemasentries.com El Bicho

    “It’s doubtful, however, that the phrase in question has reached the kind of notoriety even in the country of its origin, let alone the literary universe at large.”

    Exactly, Roger

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    What, El Bicho? Ridden on a dead horse?
    Yes!
    You’re using coconuts!
    What?
    You’ve got two empty halves of coconut and you’re bangin’ ‘em together.
    So?

  • zingzing

    now you’re just trying to get his goat, irene… of course, i’d better put that phrase in quotes, as it originated from the mind of “number 1500,” a prisoner at sing sing. ah, phrases. where to start?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Yikes! You know my life a dang book, Zingzing. He was in the cell next to mine How’d you know that’s where I’d heard it? Creepy!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Oh you were talking about the GOAT quote. I was talking about the HORSE quote. Pretty prolific guy, that number 1500.

  • zingzing

    the horse quote… if the king of the britons calls it a horse, then a pair of coconuts is a goddamn horse.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    No, that wasn’t from “number 1500.” He became a jailhouse convert before he started writing comedy.

    Oh GOD! How I need this comic relief right now!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    @14

    You were just enamored with the inflection and diction, Irene, the power of the spoken word as it was meant to be spoken, admit it, or forever hold your peace.

    And it matters not one bit you didn’t understand a bloody world. Let’s face it, you just enjoyed the music.

    All told, you’re still a philistine for all your protestations. And so am I, for not in a million years I could possibly replicate the language of Shakespeare.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    a bloody word …

    My defects are more than apparent

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Naw, Roger, nothing like that. I’d heard something about Hugh Laurie being in it. That guy from House.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Waited for him, too, but, like the Professor of Cunning, he never showed up.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Nothing personal, hope you understand, just felt the need to unload and expose my deficiencies.

    Gonna watch a Steven Seagal movie for the rest of the night to dumb my mind.

    Till next time. Don’t forget the Murdoch reference, however. I’m counting on you.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    I understand. And I had a good laugh, which I needed. I think we all did.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    And I don’t watch TV anyway. Haven’t seen even one episode of Seinfeld until it was discontinued. Now I can really appreciate it for the genius it was.

    But Waiting for Godot?

    Sorry, not my cup of tea.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I composed my rather lame post for the express purpose of providing you with comic relief. That’s what you asked for, haven’t you?

    Well, I’m done with my duty and now it’s Steven Seagal time, and I’m disconnecting my phone.

    Asta la vista.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    See ya later Rog. Enjoy your movie.