incompetent

As I stepped outside into the garden for a pee yesterday evening, I was struck by how mild it is at the moment for January, even down here. And I thought, ‘Yet again a climatology-based medium-term weather forecast is wrong’.

The idea that weather and climate are separate ‘sciences’ is one of those belief-suspension bits of bollocks that gain international acceptance but simply don’t add up: weather is a symptomatic by-product of climate, so howTF can they be mutually exclusive? And if they are oil and water, why are climate-forming elements like El Nino brought into the equation in order to formulate forecasts for a European winter 2015-16 that announce, “the El Nino  effect is going to produce one of the coldest seasons on record”?

All that was supposed to start in late November; and indeed – seemingly right on cue – we had two biting frosts here that set me to wondering whether, just this once, the forecasters might know roughly what they were at. But then a lazy, balmy and clear early December turned into a wet beyond reason turn of the year, drifting on into a January now three-quarters over with so far just the 1 (one) frost. Oh…and two days of biting easterly winds the week before last. Quick, bring me my longjohns
So if the deep-blue coloured temperature patterns offered up to me by half a dozen weather centres last August are right, then El Nino needs to speed up to El Ninety-o if it’s to drag down the average winter chill in south west France: because as our winters go down here, there are only seven weeks left.

I may of course rue the day I wrote this, but earlier I looked at the monthly forecast, and it doesn’t exactly suggest that we are about to be tossed into The Big Chest Freezer.
A lot of this longer-range forecasting suffers from ‘in’ syndrome: inadequate, inaccurate, incompetent, and thus increasingly incredible. Since getting into blogging based on issued data and predictions about everything from the price of oil to when something might be delivered to my home, I have come to realise that if the 21st century is about anything, it is about the search for competence.

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Having an arrogant superiority complex and a penchant for risible failure in the same ‘brand’ package is not the way to evoke a love of – and gain loyalty for – your brand. Imagine going into a posh Sloane Ranger hair salon, having a basin plonked on your head by a one-armed snot-dribbling hunchback, who then cuts all the hair showing around the basin with a pair of curtain scissors while telling you “I’m deaf you know – it’s the bells”. One might be temporarily convinced by the salon’s assurances that this was the new Plantaganet look, but not long afterwards the unskilled hacking job would leave the customer, if nothing else, hacked off with the removal of £140 from that gold debit card.

Oh how we laugh: but when faced with exactly this level of pompously presented unfitness for purpose by banks, software suppliers, durable retailers, lawyers, tax offices, politicians, oil companies, wealth advisers and phonecos, for some reason we seem to become infinitely deep reservoirs of forgiveness and understanding.

I don’t share this Christian tolerance. I have been doing battle royal with Orange France for eight weeks now on the subject of a very simple request: to move my incoming phone cable some 90 metres from the house to the gite. This is all they have to do. I do not need a new phone, or a new router: both are extant. I just need 30 metres of new cable from the telegraph pole to be connected to the converted barn, with a new socket. This ‘new’ socket looks like something involved in a Soyuz-Apollo docking procedure circa 1981, because since the merger with France Telecom to create an even bigger monopoly than there was in the bad old days, the level of Orange investment in landline technology has been on a par with gefillte fish purchases by ISIS since last September.

I ordered the works on December 7th. Orange lost the order. I nuisance-tweeted on the Orange site and received seven daily promises in a row that L’équipe Orange would be in touch with me. It’s going to be made into a new musical extravaganza-cum-corporate guide called Seven Lies for Seven Motherf**kers, and who knows I might get to direct the choreography. But as of now, January 23rd, I still have no phone or landline internet connection in the gite.

In the four years from 2011 to 2014, I paid a firm of wealth managers handsomely to reduce my pension by 55%. Since taking over the admin of the SIPP myself, in ten months I have avoided losses of 31% being suffered by most investors. It really was no big deal: it involved nothing more than the use of commonsense and the other five primary senses… with an emphasis on smell.

The UK’s tax gangsters aka HMRC sent me a bill in late 2014 demanding £500 for tax I didn’t owe them. They have now – in the face of registered and assertive letters from my good self – retreated so far from this position, last Thursday I received a letter from them agreeing that they owe me £693.

Having cost Sovereign governments across the world some $37 trillion since 2008 in bailouts and varietal write-offs, 23 bankers came in front of Bloomberg cameras in Davos last week to dismiss fears of a new shitstorm….with patronising observations about how the markets know nothing, Dodd Frank is a pointless crock, and their House is now in order. Do I get a warm glow of competence expectation from any of this BS? I do not. What I mainly get is a creepy feeling of déja-vu.

When I was a kid, my Dad had a collection of phrases derived from one of his favourite anthologies, Famous Last Words. These included ‘You’re alright, bags of room behind’, ‘It’ll be thrown out by the Judge on Day One’, ‘The system is fully automated and thus foolproof’, ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel’, ‘It’s definitely the red wire we need to cut’, ‘This is the future’, ‘So far so good’, ‘That’s the All-clear siren’ and ‘Such an outcome is unthinkable’.

Having served for part of the War with Americans, Pop was fond of the acronym SNAFU. His experiences in Africa, India, Burma, and Malaya taught him that the default mode for all attack plans was finger-in-the-air hope – nothing more. He regarded all war as not so much hell as utter confusion, and learned the hard way to distrust anything said by a commissioned officer. In time, he also saw through the bromides of Catholic priests…and rejected them in favour of his own intelligence.

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As I’ve written here perhaps too many times previously, we are living through the Age of Uncertainty. Some of that bewilderment is to do with the ridiculously complicated world Homo sapiens has created for itself. But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that most of the uncertainty is manufactured by false certainties: by those with a bogus claim to professionalism determined to make us believe that inflation and debt are good, while waiting and thinking are bad.

If a person or organisation with a proven track record for honest prediction asks for my trust, on the whole I’m inclined to donate it willingly. If, however, over and over again their outlook proves to be wrong, my instinct has always been one of rejection, satire and ridicule.

Twenty-two IMF predictions in relation to Greek economic growth since 2010 have been wrong. Out of twenty-two. The US Fed has been wrong on the ability of monetary measures to rekindle real US growth in seven straight years since 2009. Around the world, we are now up to nineteen uses of QE, and all of them have been found wanting. The command-economy dictates of Communism have been tried over the last ninety-eight years in seventeen sovereign States, and all of them have produced economic regression alongside deaf government and near total loss of citizen liberty. Neoliberal experiments with Friedmanite econo-fiscal theory have led without exception to reduced equality and a disastrous paucity of infrastructural investment.

Am I the only person on this planet who thinks we need a new idea? Am I the only one certain that decrepit economic shibboleths are the equivalent of Polish cavalry charging the Nazi Wehrmacht? Am I the sole genius-Saviour who can see the Emperor’s minute willy? Of course not. But there is no link, no determination, and no solidarity among us.

Proven ability to organise a clear-up of this mess is the very lowest form of the lowest common denominator required….but we don’t even have that. All we have is mud dams holding back the waters, courtiers telling Kings that the waves can be reversed, and amateur collaborators pretending to scientific knowledge.

Competence is no longer anywhere near enough: we need insights, radical creativity, ruthless utilitarianism and a full-frontal attack on brainless privilege. And yet what we are being asked to believe in is a witches’ brew of mendacious incompetence.

The search for competence is, in the end, the enemy of the self-assured wide-boy. Everyone in Western society will benefit if we, the citizens, demand creativity from – and condemn crooked actions by – all those in public life, and all those who are suppliers to our private lives.

Consumers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your pain.

Yesterday at The Slog: Why we are staying in the EU whether we like it or not