Talk about Newsnight

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Friday, 10 August, 2007

  • Kirsty Wark
  • 10 Aug 07, 06:06 PM

British soldiers in BasraGagging order?
The Ministry of Defence has updated its guidelines which some say effectively "gags" soldiers and others in the armed forces. Tonight we'll be asking if this is a reasonable restriction or not.

The latest guidelines specifically say soldiers cannot blog, email or post photographs or videos which relate to defence matters without specific permission. We know a lot about the problems they've faced in Iraq and Afghanistan through the anonymous postings of British and US soldiers - and I imagine the MOD doesn't like it.

The clarification follows the row over the selling of interviews by two of the Royal Navy personnel held captive in Iran, and the report into media communications that followed. But with two more British soldiers killed yesterday and casualties mounting - will there be online mutiny in the ranks? Join the debate here.

Market turmoil
Why did the European Central Bank have to pour jacuzzis of cash into the financial markets to ease a sudden liquidity squeeze? Our Economics Editor, Stephanie Flanders will make it all crystal clear and explain what the "credit crunch" is all about.

The Political Brain
And people engage their emotions more than their powers of reason when they decide who to vote for, according to a fascinating new book - The Political Brain - about the science and practice of persuasion in US politics which will be in many politicians' beach bag.

Drew Weston is a professor of psychology and psychiatry who has examined 50 years of American politics - the campaigns that worked and those which didn't. He discovered that a politician can have a perfectly sound raft of policies and facts and figures to back them up - but if there's no emotional connection between he or she and the voter - they are toast.

He demonstrates Clinton's appeal, but why Democrats then voted for Bush and not Kerry. So what would that analysis reveal here? Does Gordon Brown offer reason, whereas David Cameron's appeal might be emotional - who connects best with the voters? Does Gordon Brown engender the emotion of relief among Labour supporters? Do we make our political judgements in a different way from our American cousins? We'll be speaking to Drew Weston, and with him Rick Nye from Populus.

And Drew Westen's book is the latest addition to the Newsnight Book Club. Read an excerpt and leave your thoughts and reviews here.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:19 PM on 10 Aug 2007,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

The British armed forces are the best in the World, tougher and more highly trained than any other by a mile, capable of beating anyone, able, physically and mentally as tough as they come.

Now regarding the order not to say anything, I dont really think that if a soldier or someone in the armed forces really want to say something, that something like this will stop them, particulary as they ask the question - Who is behind this, army officers ....or politicians?

My instinct that this may rub people up the wrong way and may have the opposite effect to that intended, blogging and speaking out may actually increase as a result, rather than the reverse,

best wishes and a big thank you to everyone in the armed forces fighting for our country


it is absolutely nonsense,even anonymous people blog.Please allow them to went out thier emotions,You can not throttle,the freedom of expression,whether it is poetry,memoirs or blogs.
ashok puranik india

My old gran used to tell me " Never a lender nor a borrower be"... Seems to make sense now.


In crowd pleasing, charisma wins. We are animals most of the time and charisma is an animal appeal. Then there is coercion, by tricking the mind with words; Tony and Gordon are just different styles in this arena. It all ends in tears because the current system selects aspiring MPs for ambition, and amorality. The only antidote it to instil competence into each, individual voter and outlaw the party system. Sadly, “politics” (not democracy) is self perpetuating and carefully guarded by the feral, braying mobsters we see at PMQs. These turkeys will never vote for punter-Christmas.
Ironically, if Blair’s “education X 3” had worked, it might have brought him down! But more by default than cunning we educate for brassicasity rather than perspicacity, and the cabbages do as they are told. I address this issue on my website.

  • 5.
  • At 09:52 PM on 10 Aug 2007,
  • csharp wrote:

Democracy as every platonist knows is one step above the bottom rung which is tyranny. it is the rule of the mob. the mob mindset is a psychosis based on irrational desires. Therefore the people elected from such a mindset are not likely to be the best rulers or guardians but those willing to pander to the psychosis and the irrational and may themselves be by degree psychotic and irrational.

e.g The BBC is not a democracy although by determining according to ratings alone means what? The rule of the mob and what does the mob want? irrationality.

The true ruler or guardian does not pander to the mob but for what is their good which is why the bbc should be run by philospher kings? So Auntie really should know what is best? :)

  • 6.
  • At 11:25 PM on 10 Aug 2007,
  • Allen J. wrote:

Just wanted to say Stephanie was great tonight, I wonder if she'd agree to do the friday 'book or film review'. There is always a surplus of ugly-looking men for the job; why not bring in some fresh sharp-thinking. Just an idea.


Once a "civilisation" sees fit to purchase lives and weld those purchased into a "fighting force" for political ends, any down stream right-and-wrong issues are of a lesser order.


As war’s abrasion strips his fine veneer
Man’s inhumanity his ilk defines.
Bi-pedal dog, scent-primed, unleashed, packed off
he brings a licking to some wrong-tongued foe.
While back in civvy-street, his leaders rise
short-slept from tasting civilized excess
this day newborn in sinless rectitude
to move their boarded pawns with gifted guess.
In blinkered ignorance of Conqueror’s Creed
that sets all free from hypocritic bond
war leaders mire mere men in conflict’s slough;
so deep Geneva’s spires are over-topped.
Unheeding they send mortal men to war
Yet heed the call when time comes to deplore.

Just like the US and the Dutch government : lying about these ridiculous wars is their only way of escape from public humiliation .

It is the second nature of the by-us-choosen.(and we will choose this kind of lyers again and again......)

And wy now ?

The worst is going to happen in the coming time : the retreating army will leave Irak without most of their toys. These are for the Iraki's ....

with Kind Regards ,

joep steinmeijer, amsterdam

  • 9.
  • At 05:51 AM on 11 Aug 2007,
  • Thomas Hibbert wrote:

the restrictions of service men publicly posting information reminds me of WWWll.Before entering the embarkation areas we were ordered to dispose of letters and diaries;though our kit was not inspected to ensure that we had complied with order.Nor do I remember whether it was posted on daily orders or not.I am exasperated to frequently read journals and diaries that could not have been written from memory.I dutifully returned home a 3 year diary of my life in the services from exiting civvie st.until some weeks prior to embarking and throughout the slog to Germany I lost the chance to record what I had experienced amongst the civilians.Particularly the condition of people & their lands.What was published probably came from the war diaries & records of the officersWhich other ranks could not keep. As for the press.I reported blatant lies to the town Major who agreed that they were untrue of his town,the newspaper said I was entitled to my opinion.Tom.


The global stock markets clearly seem to be heading for meltdown, 5% drop in a couple of days and no end yet in sight, but the news media are calm; and I have not seen even a comment on the popular blogs. What produces this irrational feeling of invulnerability which seems to be afflicting us?

The source of the current malaise is, it is true, the problems hitting the US sub-prime mortgage lending market. So it won’t affect us? Wrong! You have only to watch daytime television here to be inundated on the one hand with ads for cheap loans, and in particular with consolidation of existing loans, to anyone who wishes to apply; for tens of thousands, the suggested figure is usually £25,000, regardless of the financial probity of applicants. At the other extreme there are almost as many ads for companies offering to help individuals avoid their debts; typically writing them off by IVAs. With such encouragement to borrow promiscuously and, on the other side of the equation, little evidence of lenders acting responsibly there is little to suggest that the UK will not fall foul of the same problems as the US.

Less obvious, but more important for the wider community, the real threat is that these defaults by consumers will escalate to such an extent that the banks carrying the loans will be forced to default on their own debts. In the past this could have led to a run on banks in the sector. Now the situation is much more complex. Such lenders do not carry all their own risks. Now they pass them on by use of a variety of financial instruments; most notably ‘derivatives’. Accordingly, as such derivatives are understandably profitable unless there is a default and banks have increasingly sought profit from these, the risk may be spread across the world. In this way your friendly neighbourhood bank may suddenly have to share this risk – and, as the whole US sector goes belly-up, they may find themselves with significant exposures. Worse still, the cat’s-cradle of modern derivatives is so complex that apparently nobody – not even the Bank of England or the Fed in the US – have any idea where the fall out may spread. We, and our banks, simply have no idea of what the final impact might be.

What has so far been overlooked by the news media is the impact on the private equity organizations. These have recently been making great inroads into equity across the board; to the extent that they reportedly now account for around 20% of manpower in the UK private sector. They have become the flavour of the decade, claiming to be much more efficient than shareholder owned corporations. In reality they reflect the classic benefits of high levels or gearing. With little equity but very high levels of borrowing, they can make relatively massive gains in a booming market where there are low interest rates; precisely the situation which has held in recent years. That is why, despite their questionable practices, they have become so popular with the banks who have fallen over themselves to fund their borrowings.

Nobody talks about it now, though they used to, but there is a distinct downside to such high gearing. Should there be a recession and/or higher interest rates it is very easy for such organizations to lose such little equity as they have; and to default on their loans. As a result of the current problems, such market conditions may well be about to emerge. If they do then the banks will suddenly go into reverse, and clamp down on risky loans in general; and that will exacerbate the situation. Moreover, with private equity now accounting for such a high proportion of global business, the resulting collapses might easily lead to something approaching – or even surpassing – the 1929 collapse; way beyond anything the central banks could correct!

So why aren’t we worrying? And why aren’t the central banks worrying, and putting in place contingency plans?

  • 11.
  • At 04:12 PM on 11 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Foreigners are the worst investors in US markets. Wall Street is a crap shoot at best and even the smartest financial minds can get blown away by events. Example, a couple of economists who won the Nobel Prize in economics started a hedge fund which did well at first for their exclusive wealthy clientele but eventually cost them billions, practically whatever they had put at risk. Example, the buyout of the real world 100 billion dollar Time Warner Corporation which had bricks and mortar assets of television and movie studios, films, TV programs, cable networks, magazines, publishing houses, etc. to AOL, a company valued on paper at $180 billion whose only assets were $29.95 a month internet subscribers who could switch allegience at a whim and did as the price of getting on line dropped to $10 a month as ISPs sprang up like mushrooms was another American disaster. And these were honest blunders, it gets much worse when you come up against crooks like Enron, Worldcom, and Michael Millikin. But foreigners take the cake. Mitsubish bank buying Rockerfeller Center for a billion dollars and going broke on it. Daimler "uniting" with Chrysler in what was billed as "a merger of equals." Chrysler's execs soon found out that some equals were more equal than other equals, especially those whose native tongue was German. It took Daimler a while longer to find out what most American car enthusiasts knew all along, that they'd bought a pig in a poke. Bought for thrity something billion, sold for six billion, couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys. Well the buying of these sub prime mortgages is just one more example of what a sucker's game Wall Street can be. The smarter they think they are, the more they seem to lose. Just ask Robert Citron, the financial genius who cost the Orange County California Pension Fund a billion dollars buying "structured notes" and other derivatives. He pled he was duped because he was an "unsophisticated" investor. Right. This has all happened before and it will happen again. Not to worry, the US economy is still very strong and there is an awful lot of liquidity floating around even without central bank intervention. This was just a sudden adrenalin rush. And who will get the next really big lesson in Americanomics? I think China. Their one trillion dollars of US government obligations will be cut in half as the government eventually decides to turn the printing presses back on and crank out money like mad. Funny how inflating currency deflates its value. It happens every time the government gets in hock over its eyeballs and each time it's over, it finds new suckers to buy its bonds. Still, at least you know they will be worth something. After all, they are the "gold standard" of securities. If the US government falls and they become worthless, the world won't have any economy left to speak of anyway so it won' matter. BTW, for anyone wanting to own a home in the US, now with low prices and still low interest rates for qualified borrowers, this is an outstanding opportunity.

  • 12.
  • At 09:37 PM on 11 Aug 2007,
  • brossen99 wrote:

Ordinary people should not be worried about the recent falls on the world's stock markets as after all most of it is only false money invented to inflate the pay packets of the parasites who run it. One good thing that may happen is that stock market parasites may no longer be able to borrow as much money against their share portfolio and may even have sell their property assets. This should limit house price inflation and could even precipitate a much needed house price crash. The financial world cannot sustain itself on the current borrowed borrowings forever, real cash money will always win out in the end.

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