Gaddafi dying

Obama shook the hand of Gaddafi real slow. And looked him in the eye.

That, my friend, is politics.

But I can also see many politicians (they like to be called leaders) watching with horror the video of Gaddafi pleading for his life.

Somehow I thought I was watching a Greek or Roman tragedy with a moral... the people own you. Not the other way around.

The man was a tyrant. And there was a Shakespearean truth in his dying.


Fed feints, prepares to print

The US Federal Reserve has played a feint with the market, delaying the third round of money printing while pretending that it's more concerned with keeping long-term interest rates low.

It's precisely bonds of longer maturities that stand to suffer from the inflation that will follow the printing and debasement of currency.

So before it embarks on a third round of "quantitative easing," probably early in 2012, the Fed has launched Twist, the policy of rebalancing the Treasury market to favour longer term bonds.

Nobody knows the Treasury market better than the primary dealer network which has an exclusive right to make the market in government securities. In practice, this network comprises the banks which both control the Treasury market - and which are the chief beneficiaries of quantitative easing through which the Fed prints money and gives it to the banks in return for assets at a price they mutually agree, and the value of which the Fed will not disclose.

Getting ready to print

The public relations guys at the Federal Reserve have learned a trick. Financial journalists, dealing with numbers and lots of grey matter, often struggle to brighten their copy. Throw them a snappy name for a new product and they’ll run with it.

Operation Twist is the Fed’s latest economic stimulus programme, churning money from short-dated bonds into longer ones. With near-term interest rates at zero, there is not much else the Fed can do but try to depress longer-term yields - while getting ready to print again.

Sure enough, the tired strategy won corny headlines (Twist and doubt, was my favourite). Reasons for doubt that it will boost the economy: two per cent is the historical floor for 10-year yields; the housing market has its own problems that lower rates are unlikely to solve; large companies are cash rich and self financing and the banks won’t lend to the rest.

State welfare

Lovers of musicals or Dickens know that Twist is also the surname of Oliver, the Victorian boy condemned by poverty to that early form of welfare, the workhouse.

He’s best know for holding out his empty gruel bowl and asking, "Please, sir, I want some more." To which the answer was an outraged, “What?”

Traders hoping for a dollop of liquidity were disappointed. Stock markets fell. Welfare, or state support for asset prices, was not on the Fed’s agenda this time. Although the Bank of England seems to be preparing a new round of money printing, the Federal Reserve is holding fire, at least until next year.

The Fed has printed in excess of $2 trillion, buying bank assets, increasing their reserves, but also creating a bubble in commodity prices.

One policy, three years

High oil prices are hurting consumers and driving inflation. It is not the right time to print more money, though it seems to be the only idea, the only tool in the box of western central bankers: to print money and give to the banks.

This money is not lent into the economy. The banks deposit it with the same central banks that printed it, with the sole aim of offsetting the declining value of their asset base (which the banks decline to reveal). The one policy has continued for three years.

In contrast to the Asian and Russian crises of late nineties, the leadership of the emerging markets looks more sober, today, in financial terms.

Brazil, Russia, India and China are unwilling to pump more money into the euro zone. Hopes that the BRICs would buy more bonds from euro members were fading as finance ministers met on Thursday in Washington.

They hold combined reserves of $4.3 trillion, but the BRIC countries are unlikely to put their own stability at risk by wagering their assets on an early end to Europe’s crisis.


Leica M9 Titanium, the Titan

The first impression when you pick up the Titan is that the M9 is still a handy camera. It feels solid and you cannot miss the metal, yet it is very comfortable to graps.

Finger loop
Part of this is due to the finger loop which is perfectly positioned. Slipping the middle two fingers though the loop, it draws the curved side of the camera snug into the cradle of my palm.

As I lift the camera to my eye, the finger loop rotates to leave my index finger poised above the shutter. It rotates, not on a bearing but actually a butterfly shaped insert that swivels within a slot in the side of the camera.

This ergonomic feeling is remarkable because the Titan looks thicker than a chrome M8 or black M9. This may be an aspect of the dark grey titanium. The central body is, in fact, slightly deeper but it's easier on the hand than an M8 plus handgrip.

The titanium cladding is wrapped around the existing shell, from the front right to the back left.

The titanium cladding stops on the front just where your middle fingers grip the body. This allows the body, where it is gripped between the right fingers and thumb, to be just 1mm thicker than the M8 and standard M9.

You can see how the titanium cladding overlays the camera's inner structure, only on this corner of the camera. The base plate follows this line around the whole of the camera. Whereas the base plate on the M8 is narrower than the top plate (which is built out to accommodate the viewfinder) on the Titan the baseplate is 0.5mm deeper than the top plate, giving the camera a more seated design.

You can clearly see the styling from the camera front, the titanium cladding flowing vertically, the leather wrap horizontally.

Body dimensions
I've made these measurements because size always comes up in discussions among Leica aficionados.

Leica measurements given in the technical specifications are not consistent, as the depth given for the Titan and the M7 is clearly measured from the tip of the control wheel to the front of the bayonet mount. The measurements for the M8 and standard M9 are for the top plate only.

My M8 measures 37mm on the top plate and 35.5m on the base plate. The full depth, from the control wheel to the bayonet mount, is 43mm and, if you account for the frame lever, about 45mm. Width 138.

The Titan measures  37.5 on the top plate and 38 on the base plate. The full depth is the 43mm as there is no frame lever. Width 140mm.

My M7 for comparison, measures 33.5mm on the top plate, 31.5mm on the base plate. The full depth is 38mm, from the DIN wheel to the frame selector. Width 143mm. Height 79mm.

Titan:    140 x 38 x 80 mm (width x depth x height)
M9 (P)  139 x 37 x 80 mm (Leica specs)
M8         138 (excl lugs) x 37 x 80 mm
M7         137 (143 inc winder) x 33.5 x 79 mm 

Base plate
This comparison of the baseplates gives a rough idea how far the digital Ms are from their slender forebears.

The M8, M9 baseplate is the one with the handgrip.

The Titan is not suited for much in the way of accessories. The built-in soft release precludes a cable release. The lack of lugs means you won't be carrying it on a traditional neck strap. However Leica does offer a leash, which holds the camera vertically as well as the under shoulder holster.

The Titan cannot take accessory handgrips made for the other digital Ms. They would fit except for the presence of the small lever which controls the socket for the finger loop.

On the other hand a standard grip would look pretty silly as it is externally narrower and the Titan’s baseplate is carefully sculpted to match the lens hood.

This is the one area where design has clearly come before functionality. In practice, however, the Titan’s finger loop replaces the need for a handgrip. I use a handgrip to control the weight of the Noctilux on the M8. I do not miss it on the Titan.

My measurements except where stated:

Titan with battery, kit lens, hood 960g
Titan with battery, finger loop 598g
Titan without battery or finger loop, 540g
Finger loop 12g
35mm Summilux in Titanium with hood 356g

 M9 585g, M9-P 600g (with battery - Leica)

M8 with battery 544g
M8 with battery, 28mm Summicron, hood 854g
28mm Summicron with hood 304

M7 with 50mm Summicron 890g
M7 650g
35mm Summicron with goggles and hood 262g

The only logical argument for splashing out on titanium is that it is lighter and stronger though more brittle than other metals. But the Leica M9 Titan is not made of titanium. It is the standard M9 with titanium wrapped around it. Titanium cladding.

Unfortunately the technical specifications on Leica’s website are vague. “External parts made of solid titanium with special coating to protect against fingerprints. Partially covered with slip­resistant calf leather.”

Some of these parts are replacements for the existing brass housing. Others are additional cladding.

The result is that the Titan weighs more than the M8 or M9. However, it's about the same as the M9-P.

Leica declares this in the German and Japanese language versions of its technical specifications though the error on the English has been widely repeated: “Weight approx. 335g.”

Given the lack of detail prior to selling the camera and the distinct impression that the Titan was made of titanium – and the unstated implication that the Titan might be assumed to be lighter than the standard M9 – this is an unfortunate, misleading error.

Even when purchasers of the Titan repeated the supposed 335 g weight in unboxing videos, Leica did not correct the data on their website.

Happily the Titan, naked, still weighs less than an M7.

Soft Release
The soft release is fixed, as far as I can see. I have never used a cable release with a digital M, finding the electronic timer adequate.
While the loss of any feature is a negative for some, I think in this case it is balanced by the far more useful soft release. Taken further, the design could help correct the much discussed lack of weatherproofing on the Ms.

Menu options control the soft release: Standard, soft, discreet, discreet & soft, 

The hot shoe cover is removable though you would not want to lose it. Leica thoughtfully provides a replacement cover for the oval hole on the right side where the finger loop attaches.

The absence of a framelines preview lever is no loss to me. Getting rid of unnecessary points of egress at least moves in the direction of making the M more weather proof. However, the only such problem I have encountered in a digital M is dust between the LCD screen and its cover.

The framelines illumination is provided by an integral LED. They are evenly lit and dim instantly in response to changes in ambient light.

I use the LED-illuminated framelines much more than I did the standard framelines. I used to ignore them, estimating a lens's angle of view instead and concentrating on my subject.

Maybe it's something to do with my 50 year-old eyes but a light press of the shutter gives me a nice, contrasty reminder of the framelines and then they disappear, leaving me with an uncluttered view of the subject.

Isn't that just what people say they like about the M3?

As I humorously speculated on the Titan’s launch, the oversize Leica badge does indeed light up. Really. It does. You should always listen to fools.

There is a hole behind the badge that allows just a little of the LED light to reach the hand engraved resin. Close up, in the dark, you can see a faint red glow. Now I mean close up and not across the room!

There is also a red tinge to the focus patch. I wonder if there was some idea to illuminate the focus patch to make it easier to use in dim light. I have tested this and it seems, though counterintuitive, to work.


The red light can appear to add contrast; other times the red flares out, rather like the viewfinders prior to the M7 mark ii or MP. You have to keep your eye centred.

The red tint to the focus patch is only present while the frameline illumination is activated.

However the firmware requires a tweak to allow one to determine how long the framelines remain illuminated. The default is 10 seconds. It would be nice to have the following options: Off, 2 secs, 30 secs, for tripod work. Why should this be less important than the LCD review screen?

Speed dial
One advantage of titanium is that milled, it has sharp edges. Both the shutter speed dial and the menu dial are very grippy, well torsioned and easy to use.

Auto review
The Titan shares the LCD screen of the standard M9. As one fellow member of LUF points out in his M9 review, the frustrations of the LCD have more to do with a lack of processing power and the review file itself, rather than the specification of the LCD screen.

Another firmware suggestion: A maximum setting of five seconds is barely enough time for the processor to finish rendering a review image. This should be increased to 7 seconds.

Not a triclops

The Titan is a happy camera. It feels good in the hand. Is as simple as any digital M yet it is stripped down further.

I am disappointed that it is no lighter the standard M8 or M9, but we are talking about cameras which are light by the standards of the competition, and compared with their film counterparts.

Coming up...
The Titan in use and some images with the new 35mm Summilux. Actually it does great stuff with this 1960s 35mm Summicron.

Sweet red dots

All images are copyright of MoneyCircus and may not be reproduced without permission.


Bailout Fraud

It is almost three years since this was published, just as the financial and political crisis was becoming public knowledge. It is even more true in 2011, as the EU and US stumble towards their own default crises. Nothing that the banks or politicians have done has changed this blunt analysis. 
Only the numbers are different. They're now much bigger. Politicians are finally using the default word. And it's not just corporations at risk, but whole countries. 

The $700 Bln bailout is not about US cash. The U.S. is a debtor nation. The cash for the bailout has to be borrowed, primarily from the Japanese and Chinese.

According to one person I've spoken to who knows the top Japan and China banking regulators, they are not happy about the U.S. p***ing their money up the wall.

The better informed congressmen have lines of communication to the Chinese & Japanese and know they can't sell it. 

Plain rubbish

Bush in Tuesday's speech insisted the toxic assets could, if held for some years, be sold at a profit.

That's plain rubbish. If that was the case, there would be no need for a bailout. Banks could just sit on their assets until they recover in value. The problem is, they were so wildly overvalued, they are not going to recover in value.

How were they so wildly overvalued. You won't read it in the FT or hear it on the BBC but clearly the answer is lies and fraud. 

A default crisis

This is not a liquidity crisis. On Tuesday night, European banks deposited well over 100 Billion euros at the ECB. The banks were not prepared to leave their money for one night in a retail bank. Perhaps, they know something we don't?

If the banks deposited E100 Bln there is no shortage of cash. The point is they won't lend it. Not to each other, not to companies, not to home buyers, except at rates which make a mockery of the word 'lending'.

This is a default crisis. Banks and large corporations are going to default. The banks know that. The public do not yet.

Several alternatives

Hank Paulson, the dour looking ex-Goldman Sachs trader worth $500 Mln, says there is no alternative to buying the banks failed betting slips.

There are several alternatives. One is to let the Japanese and Chinese buy the US's failed investment banks. They already own large chunks but politically the US cannot stomach Asia buying the Ivy League banks.

Barter their assets. In 1998 the IMF told Russia that it should not bail out its banks. Ten years later the IMF is encouraging the US to do just that. One rule for the emerging markets, another for the Masters of the Universe.

Russia dealt with illiquid banks by knocking their heads together and forcing them to swap assets at knockdown prices. Washington does not have the balls for that. It proposes using taxpayers money to buy assets the banks don't want. It is a recapitalisation of the banks by stealth and lie.

God help us.

A Piece Of Cake


Media Elite Close The Door

The liberal opponents of Murdoch are out in full force, so keen to join the pogrom against their bĂȘte noir that they are willing to destroy press freedom in the process.

No less an authority than Martin Wolf in the Financial Times argues with a straight face:

“Diverse media require diverse ownership. But economic forces may generate a degree of concentration incompatible with desirable diversity… (and one sentence later) At worst, the proprietor may so twist and distort this needed communication as to transform public life. I would argue that the Fox network’s rightwing populism has done just that in the US. This should not happen in the UK.”

There you have it: a liberal journalist arguing against diversity in the media.

Leave aside the fact that Fox is pitted against three incumbent national channels which espouse an identical viewpoint. Look at the shape of UK media before Murdoch came on the scene.

The UK media of the 1970s was a closed shop. Not just in union terms but in outlook. It did not reflect the world I lived in.

I grew up a sceptic, after a childhood that had observed racial war in Nigeria, military dictatorship in Brazil, and playboy revolutionaries in the Caribbean.

Tribal, racist and introverted

I was educated in an England that was fighting a civil war with its Irish kin, and went to university in London where Irish classmates were resigned to their letters arriving opened, and where applicants for jobs at the BBC would later find they had been turned down on the advice of the security services because they had joined the wrong Chinese friendship society in which to test their language skills.

I still recall reading the press of the 1970s. It did not try to tell the story of what was happening on its doorstep. As an outsider myself, I struggled to make sense of reports of bullets and bombs, frontline reports of how Special Branch had arrested men in Birmingham, soldiers had put down riots in Londonderry, and the litany of open and shut cases against Irish sympathizers that would decades later be shown to be a sham.  No context or analysis, let alone an even hand.

The British press was tribal, elitist, racist, and introverted.

Like a know-it-all public schoolboy who had never travelled beyond these shores, the British press was an expert on the world because Britain had once had an empire. A snob who took it as read that Britain was best in everything, corruption was something that happened in India, and leaving nothing to debate or criticize at home.

Healthy disrespect

That changed with, but not only because, of Murdoch.

His battle to free newspapers from union domination was unpopular but necessary – and more newspapers are alive today because Murdoch won that battle.

But more than technology, more than money, great newspapers require social mobility.

Murdoch brought an outsider’s healthy disrespect for deference. Clearly that went too far in the News of The World scandal. But any honest journalist knows that the Daily Mail used the same techniques, that the Observer used private investigators along with many newspapers that had nothing to do with Murdoch.

Any student of business knows that competition will spread practices throughout an industry until it becomes common practice, in banking just as in newspapers.

Wolf states that, “the BBC.. defines the notion of a public weal; and we should consider whether the public good of high-quality news gathering and analysis deserves public support”. 

Break the mold

Good for the BBC but is that an argument for further strengthening an already dominant state broadcaster?

If the media is too important to be left to dominant proprietors, who in the future will break the mold?

Now would be the worst time to draw up the drawbridge, at a time when social mobility has been in reverse for two decades.

The mobility that allowed Britain’s greatest editor of the past half century, Harold Evans to rise through grammar school to edit the Sunday Times is in retreat.

And the media elite, who played the same tricks in the same playground, are happy to push out an outsider, and to close the door to anyone, foreign or home bred, who can challenge the dominance of the entrenched providers they control.


News Of The World

Why did Rupert Murdoch chose to close a 168-year old British newspaper that was one of his most profitable?
Caught up in a wire-tap scandal, News Corporation, the owner of Fox, the Wall Street Journal, Sky and numerous Asian, American and European newspapers took a dramatic move which, NC hopes, will draw a line under its problems.

Here are some facts on which the UK media remain silent.

1) Rupert Murdoch penetrates the establishment in every country in which he operates. He seeks political influence and strikes alliances, hedging his bets with both sides of the political fence. The police are implicated in the NOTW hacking scandal. Pollice lied to MPs. Police may have taken money from NOTW journalists. Police are the most likely source of the phone numbers of victims which were passed to journalists.

Murdoch did not want to confront the police or the establishment. His business and the influence it buys is worth much more.

2) Rebekah Brooks, the head of Murdoch's UK newspaper operation, would have been intimately involved in the phone hacking scandal. As Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s editor wrote, no editor would publish a story without asking where the evidence came from.

No editor or senior staff member would be unaware where their highly-paid reporters were – and what they were covering 

Just as another Murdoch outfit, Sky News would have known exactly where their reporter James Furlong was, when he made a report in which he falsely claimed to be on a submarine firing missiles in the Gulf. Sky producers and news editors abandoned Furlong, claiming to have no knowledge of his whereabouts when he made his false report – blaming, just like the NOTW, “one bad apple”. Furlong later committed suicide.

3) The NOTW was not the only newspaper involved in hacking phones or employing private investigators.  Steve Whittamore was one. “Newspapers who used Whittamore included the News of the World and many other titles. A report by the information commissioner said more than 50 Daily Mail journalists bought material from Whittamore on 952 occasions. Other customers included the Daily Mirror (681 transactions), News of the World (228), Sunday Times (4) and Observer (103). The Observer is owned by the Guardian's parent company Guardian Media Group.” 
Source: The Guardian.

4) Politicians of both main parties are closely linked to senior NI staff like Rebekah Brooks and have hired individuals like former NOTW Andy Coulson who was briefly a Conservative Party adviser.

5) Newspaper editors now suggest that the press was scared of Murdoch and went silent for two years while the phone hacking scandal brewed. Except for the Guardian, which pursued the story, although it was the police, afraid of the mounting evidence of complicity with NOTW, who eventually forced NC to go public. 

However the press may not have been scared  of Murdoch, but rather of the revelations that almost all newspapers practice hacking. Standard practice spreads throughout an industry – the press is no different to banking.

6) Closing the NOTW is another act of Murdoch family vandalism. As the Independent’s founder Andreas Whittam Smith told Sky, the moral crisis is not in the 168 year-old newspaper but in its ownership. The newspaper has survived many different owners, though none like this.


Whitey Bulger, Kennedy and the Mafia

Driving down the motorway from Newry in Northern Ireland, back to Dublin, the radio grabbed my attention with a riveting story about the Kennedys and the Irish American mobster Whitey Bulger who was seized this month after a career of half a century and two decades on the run.

RTE 1 interviewed two straight talking American journalists who shed new light on Bulger’s career.

Not only is Bulger thought to have committed 19 or so murders, he committed several with the assistance of FBI officers, several of whom are behind bars for their efforts.

The protection went further, all  the way up to former Attorney General Robert Kennedy and J Edgar Hoover, who established a special division of the FBI precisely for the purpose of “bringing down” the Italian mafia.

Thus Bulger was an agent of the government, not just as an informer, but as a tool of policy, to replace the Italian mafia with Irish mobsters whom the authorities presumably considered more pliable.

Secular saint

The majority of Americans see no need to dwell on JF Kennedy’s father beyond his reputation for womanising and dominating his family. According to this authorised biography, father Joe may have sold a bit of liquor during Prohibition, but he was not a mobster. 

It is easy enough to pass off the family liquor business (Joe Kennedy's father was in turn a saloon owner and politician) as a canny business wheeze except that any supplier of illegal alcohol to clubs during Prohibition would not have survived a week without the protection of corrupt police and politicians. Thus Joseph Kennedy’s business was mafia sine qua non. There is also testimony from other mafiosi.

However JFK is a secular saint in America and this is something that the majority of Americans simply don’t wish to hear.

Returning to Whitey Bulger, consider that the grandsons of one of the leading underground businessmen of the Prohibition era had set up a branch of the FBI specifically to liaise with Irish gangsters to bring down the Italian mob.

It begins to sound like a conflict of interest. But even if it is not, it might be a point of interest.

Silence about mafia

Not to the American press. I Googled “Kennedy and Whitey Bulger” and got only a few hits that mention Bulger’s protection by the FBI – though this paper thought Bulger was running the Boston FBI.

The American press is concerned about Whitey’s lifestyle, the NYT is concerned only by Whitey’s opinions as a Bostoner on New York.

This is hardly surprising. If we turn to Oliver Stone’s much hailed movie, JFK, it explores one or two consipiracies about who might have killed JFK, along with the man who killed him, and then just three years later, the man who killed the killer.

Conspiracies about the revenge of the Cuban mafia for the botched Bay of Pigs invasion which they’d financed in order to regain control of their Havana casinos; about the military industrial complex that doubted JFK’s commitment to the impending Vietnam war….. (well that’s about it for Stone).

But silence about the Italian mafia, and certainly not Kennedy’s Irish and Italian mafia associates. When you think that the Kennedy's had taken on the Irish mafia on their home turf - well, would that not feature among your top theories? How could Ollie Stone have missed that one?

The mob is always Italian

It recalls the performance of the American media when then candidate Barak Obama came out of the Chicago political machine, the legacy of Mayor Daley, the most famously corrupt political operation since Tammany Hall, and not a single American television broadcaster mentioned his political heritage. Not one.

You might search Wiki for mention of the Irish mafia and you will find the Wiki page is frozen due an ongoing debate about whether the page should be deleted. One contributor says it’s unfair to categorise mobs by ethnicity. Aw, shucks. Tell that to the Italians. Seems the mob is always Italian, not Irish, never Jewish.

It is undeniably true that the history of the Irish mafia is not quite as invisible in Hollywood as the history of the Jewish mafia, but I’ll let the argument rest, if American movie and television producers are willing to forego all future reference to the ethnicity of gangsters and mobsters. Period.

By no coincidence a story was planted in the Irish Examiner on March 14th, three months before Bulger's arrest, the title: Joe Kennedy Was No Angel But Neither Was He A Bootlegger. Sheesh, is that a headline? Sounds more like a plea.

Stick together

Returning to Whitey Bulger, an Irish mobster, killing with the assistance of a squad of the FBI, dedicated to his service by Robert Kennedy and J Edgar Hoover, with the express aim of removing the Italian competition.

Why only now, in his eighties, has Whitey been fingered. Did his FBI minders of the past four decades lose track of him? The two American journalists interviewed on Irish radio said he was already pleading senility and was certain to escape trial. He has been ‘discovered’ now so that the FBI can close the book on a sorry chapter, while saying that they did, eventually, get their man.

The Irish radio presenter had no questions about the extent of the Irish mob, what became of Bulger's organization, the surprising parallels with the origins of the Kennedy family fortune. A someone living in Dublin during a the biggest financial and political crisis since the decade of Boulger's birth, I can tell you, the Irish don’t ask awkward questions of each other.

They’ve learned to stick together. On both sides of the Atlantic.


Immigration, immigrashun

Britain is, finally, engrossed in a mature debate about immigration. For decades, politicians have shunned the topic. Anyone who raised the issue of sardine-can Britain was tarred a racist.

The debate is about the three million immigrants added to Britain's population of roughly 60 million people over the past decade. At a time of unemployment and spending cuts, it's reasonable for people to want to know the balance of those working or claiming benefits.

But politicians and self-appointed media chatterboxes are missing the point.

Immigration is the result not the cause. Britain ended up in this mess because the employment needs of industry and countryside had changed. Few politicians noticed and if they had an immigration policy at all, it was one which "imported" the wrong people.

Britain became one big metropolis. In a metropolis you need a core of highly skilled specialists along with fodder for the service sector.

If we still had manufacturing we would have required skilled workers, immigrants or local. If our countryside was thriving we would have needed both skilled workers and strong arms.

Instead we have a welfare system that attracts millions to the metropolis. Many from Asia arrive with skills. Many arrive straight from the village, illiterate in their own language as well as English.

And we have no use for them.

We have a welfare system that shifted a million people from the unemployment register to the disability register to keep them out of work. Yet for a decade we let people immigrate with no skills required.

When politicians are so confused they don't know what their country DOES, why it exists or who lives there, you have a problem.