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Monday, 30 August 2010

How much can a "free" service be worth?

Well, based on secondary market transactions, Facebook is now worth as much as $33.7 billion. Common stock in Facebook trades as high as $76 a share as investors try to get a piece of the company before it files for an IPO.

Media industry sources say Facebook may soon make as much as $1 billion in annual revenues, mostly from its "engagement ads" program. Facebook dropped traditional internet advertising when its partnership with Microsoft expired and has chosen to focus on ads based around users' stated interests and preferences.

Facebook is certainly making money and the Facebook "fan page" is the hottest ticket in brand marketing. It won't always be, but being out ahead certainly helps the share price.

Because it is a Bank Holiday

I spent longer than usual in bed this morning and listened to the BBC propaganda machines recitation of Chris Mullin's diary. Now I have a thing about politicians who sell off their scribblings about the time when they were supposed to be working for the people who put them intom office, but all I can do is refuse to read their memoirs.

But listening to this I was struck by two things. First of all there was the vanity of Mullins, which was lirttle different from most politicians. Contrary to their view of themselves, an MP is not an uber-mensch; they simply persist to achieve a goal (being elected to parliament) that most people could not be bothered about. Mullins was also most indgnant at losing his cabinet post. Well, politics is a rat race with more rats than prizes. Getused to it.

But the other point that struck me was the sheer callousness of Blair when it came to the legislation about the detention of terrorists without trial for 90 days. According to Mullins, Blair called a meeting of Labour MPs to tell them why they should support the measure, but all the arguments were about wrong-footing the Conservative Party. I have no great issue about politicians playing their childish party games, but I object to them using our civil liberties as a political football. Of course nearly 300 Labour MPs were happy to play the same game.

It is easy to see how the psychology of a politician who is quite happy to mess with our personal freedoms can decide to go to war simply as a political expedient.

As Ian Dury would have said ...

The FSA had 241 employees on staff in March who were paid more than £100,000, compared with 81 employees in March 2006, according to the regulator’s response to a freedom of information request.

One would like to think that is good news, but if 81 people can't figure out wghat is wrong with the banking system, why would 241 of them do any better? How many public companies in the private sectoractually have that number of employees earning that much, particularly outside the financial sector? And how many government departments.

They probably won't, but this is another example of throwing money at a government problem because of a lack of talent amongst those in charge.

What a waste.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Economic hurricane blowing in the wrong direction for Ed Balls

Ed Balls, the desperate also-ran in the Labour leadership race says that we are facing an economic hurricane and that George Osborne's plan has as much economic credibility as a ''pyramid scheme''. Well Balls knows all there is to know about running a Ponzi scheme having presided over the last government's attempt to boost the economy by borrowing against aour grandchildren's future.

Unfortunately for Mr Balls' narrative, the UK economy grew slightly faster than initially thought in the second quarter, expanding by 1.2% rather than the 1.1% cent first estimated. That is the fastest quarterly growth the UK has seen since 1999, but not quite at the 2% plus level seen in Germany.

Growth was driven by a pick-up in household consumption, which made up about half of the expansion in the economy, but also because of a large swing in inventories, as companies restocked their shelves, having depleted them heavily during the downturn. Government spending growth only made up a small part in the overall increase in activity.

Household consumption expenditure rose by 0.7 per cent after falling in seven of the previous eight quarters. Inventories rose by £1bn, having fallen by £2.1bn in the first quarter.

All of which tells us that the private sector was just waiting for the Labour government to go, and to tell them that their Keynesian stimulus was never needed.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Beware of new entrants

Students ofthe Michael Porter 5 Forces business model will be gladdened by the news that Google are going to launch a rival service to Skype's service to call landlines and mobile phone.

As the HBS competition has been telling the world for the last 35 years, if you run a business there are 5 categories of partypooper who can wreck the the soaraway success that you call your "business". The first two are obvious: your customers and your suppliersho may establish a stranglehold on your business and dictate their terms to you. Then there are your competitors who may slash their own margins just to stay in business, followed by new better products or just whole new ways of doing things.

But the most ominous of all is the new entrant, the guy who looks over the fence and sees a party going on and thinks he would like to join in. And Skype's business model lays itself open to such an attack. Sure it is quick and easy to sign up for Skype, and the free Skype to Skype calls are great and they tie useres into the Skype technology, but that is all they are, free.

Skype's revenues come from the paid for calls, used by 8m of their 50m signed up users, and that is what Google is going for. Of course, by going for the desktop to landline market Google don't need a vast network of "GCall" [whatever it is called] subscribers to be attractive. They only need to charge less for calls to landlines.

That Skype IPO suddenly looks a lot less attractive, or in the minds of the astute analyst who thought this was likely to happen, brings market expectations back into line with reality.

Regressive intellects

Just when you think you have got rid of all the truth-manglers who have been ruining this country for the last 13 years, we suddenly get a reminder with the accusations that the government is running a regressive budget, although nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, let us cast our minds back a few months when the government was accused of planning large cuts in government spending. Well actually what they were doing was cutting the previous plans for spending increases that hadn't actually happened yet. Government spending is set to increase at a rate of around 2.5% for the next 5 years rather than the unaffordable annual 6-8% of the previous years. But this was of course framed as a cut by the left and their compliant media, who seemed to think that ther spending plans would be set in stone and outlast their government. The electorate thought otherwise.

Now we have an argument in a similar vein regarding the progressiveness or regressiveness of the coalition budget measures. Now let's not kid ourselves, we are in a fiscal mess and everyone will have to pay for the years of Labour waste. But let us not kid ourselves about the progressiveness of the measures being introduced. The richest 10% will be hit on average with more than 10 times as much extra costs or loss of benefits as the poorest 10% with a progressive sliding scale in between.

So where does this talk of regression come from? Simply from the fact that at the lower end of the scale the caoilition plans are not as favourable to the poorest 10% as the pre-election Labour plans. In fact the highest earners are very much worse off under the Conservatives. What the coalition have done in part is to reverse a pre-election bribe/promise that the Labour government knew it would never have to honour.

Chart A1 of the Budget red Book shows that applying the current budget measures on top of the Labour plans the bottom 30% by income will be less than £200 worse off this year than next year. The top 10% will be £1600 worse off, and the second 10% by income will be more than £600 worse off. It is hard to call that change in actual cash outcomes anything other than progressive.

Table A2 of the Budget Red Book shows the same result as a proportion of net income, with the top 10% losing 2% of their incomes next year compared with last year, and the bottom 30% losing only 1%. How is that not progressive.

The change in VAT is also progressive. The top 10% by income will lose £850 in extra VAT compared to around £50 for the bottom 10% by income, because VAT is zero rated on many everyday items such as food and children's clothing. So the rich and poor will both lose, but the rich will lose 17 times as much.

The other measures that the IFS factors into the equation, such as the tightening of benefits qualification and loss of benefits by moving people into employment are neither regressive or progressive taxation, they are simply outcomes achieved by changing peoples' status.

It is a shame that government ministers are still too obsessed with spin to be able to point out this simple truth.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

SIR – Whatever happened to nicknames?

Letters to HM Telegraph:

SIR – Whatever happened to nicknames?

I recall that among my late father’s military friends were Squeeler Wheeler, Splosh Jones, Boy Browning, Tiger Urquhart, Tinny Dean, and Pudding Pye.

Simon Pike
Witney, Oxfordshire

Comparatively ungallant nickname for a military hero

SIR – Those with experience of the old Stock Exchange floor will readily recall some of the nicknames (Letters, August 22) bestowed upon its habitu├ęs.

Among them were two brothers, both with highly distinguished military careers and both winners of the Military Cross, one with bar and one without.

The latter acquired the sobriquet of “The Coward”.

Quentin Smith
Dunley, Hampshire

SIR – Many years ago, we had a police inspector at Eastbourne who was nicknamed “Kipper”. The reason: he was yellow and had no guts.

Roger West
Appenzell, Switzerland

SIR – In the Welsh borough police force in which I served, one bobby was nicknamed “Gurkha” because he took no prisoners.

Charles Nunn
Upton, Wirral

SIR – My daughter worked with someone nicknamed “Exocet”. They could see him coming and couldn’t do anything about it.

Wendy Mellish
Bradford Abbas, Dorset

Why Clarks are always 'Nobby’

SIR – If your name was Walker in the Royal Navy you were always called “Hookey” Walker after Admiral Sir Harold Walker, who had a hook instead of a hand.

All Clarks were “Nobby” because nobby hats (top hats) were worn by the clerks in the City of London. Woods were “Slinger” because sailors loaded and unloaded freight with wooden slings.

Wilsons were “Tug” because Admiral Sir Arthur Knyvet Wilson first demonstrated the use of tugs to bring big ships in and out of harbour.

To this day I have been unable to fathom where the name “Sharky” Ward came from.

Trevor Metcalf
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I’ve always thought that the greatest nursery of nicknames was the police. In my county force there was a sergeant nicknamed “The Olympic Torch” – because he never went out – and an extremely ill-mannered inspector nicknamed “The Large White”, a well-known breed of English pig.

Richard Cowley
Barton Seagrave, Northamptonshire

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A political post without apology

It isn't often that I get worked up about politics, but the behaviour of the Charity Commission over Catholic Care really gets my goat. For those who don't know ,the Charity Commission for England and Wales announced on Thursday that it had refused the application of Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) to amend its charitable objects to permit the charity to continue its adoption work in accordance with the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.

Earlier this year the High Court agreed with the Charity that the law did permit Catholic Care to take this approach. The Court considered that weighty reasons supported the use of the exemption allowed under the sexual orientation discrimination laws. The Charity Commission held that the reasons put forward by the charity did not meet their threshold, and refused to allow it to continue with its adoption work. The "threshhold" used by the Charity Commission has never been defined and is basically whatever what they want it to be.

Now I am not a Roman Catholic, but neither am I a child psychologist so I do not consider myself able to comment on many of the arguments of the charity, the Church or those who oppose them, but it is plain that the Charity Commission have actually reduced the amount of charitable work that will be done.

We should not forget that the broad "purposes" of the charity are to find homes for the children needing adoption. It was not set up to satisfy the parenting urges of sections of the population. Consequently, if the charity decides that one or more category of parent is unsuitable but the child is placed with other suitable parents then the charity's objecticves are achieved. Equally, if the parents passed over by this charity are able to adopt children through other agencies, nobody has lost out.

But, the detractors say, the Catholics discriminate and that's against the law. Actually, it doesn't have to be, because the law (The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007) says:

18.—(1) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a person to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation, if—

(a)he acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument, and

(b)the restriction of benefits to persons of that sexual orientation is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument.

(2) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for the Charity Commission for England and Wales or the holder of the office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to exercise a function in relation to a charity in a manner which appears to the Commission or to the holder to be expedient in the interests of the charity, having regard to the provisions of the charitable instrument.

So the Charity Commissioners could very easily allow acting in accordance with Roman Catholic beliefs to be part of the purposes of the charity if they thought it expedient. There is no other test. Given that Catholic Care predated the legislation and had acted as an adoption agency, staffed by volunteers who we presume were inspired by selfless Catholic zeal, then it would appear to be "expedient" to allow the charity to state its purposes accordingly.

Instead by applying their political dogma to the consequences of the charities actions and not to its purposes, the Charity Commission has made us all worse off.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Chairman of the bored

I happen to know that Mr Mohammad Rostami Safa is quite a gentleman and anglophile too, which is of course to his credit, but he could have done with a little more quality control on his job title on his group's Quality Management page of all places.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Have you ever been to Shijiazhuang?

No, neither have I. In fact, I had never heard of it until afew moments ago, but it turns out that Gucci have a store there, which is all the more remarkable because the average Gucci handbag costs the same as 2 years wages for the average Shijiazhuang resident, although for all I know they earn that much by running up imitations to sell to gullible Westerners.

What this really tells us is that a lot of people in China are buying Gucci and other fancy goods in fairly remote cities, and to buy the real thing, they have to have real money, probably a lot more than the official statistis reveal.

Indeed, the Chinese Reform Foundation say that China’s households hide as much as 9.3 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) of income that is not reported in official figures, with 80 percent accrued by the wealthiest people. The money, much of it likely “illegal or quasi-illegal,” equates to about 30 percent of China’s gross domestic product. Personally, I think it is highly questionable whether such a body could determine this figure with any accuracy, but they have produced a report to that effect.

So which august international body has commissioned a report into hot money in the fastest growing economy in the world. No, not the UN, OECD or even the IRS, but that fine upstanding corporate citizen (and not a purveyor of tax evading offshore deposits looking for a replacement for its lost US business, no,no,never): Credit Suisse AG .

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

How the BBC spins the recovery


According to the BBC who are doing all they can to rubbish any evidence of an economic recovery under the conservatives - at least they are more keen than they ever were to report a recession under Labour - this is a graph that illustrates the choppinness of the recovery. Actually, as far as I can tell, it simply shows that the future is harder to predict than the past.

In fact it looks like good news. The left hand side of the graph shows GDP growing while government expenditure is growing at 6% per annum. The right hand side predicts what will happen when it is falling at 6% per annum. Ony the right side is sustainable.

100's of women just dying to meet you

Amongst today's spam promising immediate gratification was the unsolicited communication below from a number of kind ladies from the former Soviet Union. Pausing only to note the obvious ehthusiasm young Svetlana (third row on the left) has to escape the current Russian heatwave, I have two tips:


  • Sales of eye-liner and mascara seem to be very brisk in the Ukraine. Maybe worth investigating a franchise or sales agency for the region.
  • If you are on the road in the Ukraine and thinking about stopping for the night in Nikolaev or Mariupol .... just keep driving.


Yana

ID 1131429
Kherson,
Ukraine
age 21
5' 5''
117 lbs

Elena

ID 1127271
Odessa,
Ukraine
age 20
5' 6''
128 lbs

Ekaterina

ID 1126379
Kiev,
Ukraine
age 21
5' 6''
115 lbs







Natalia

ID 1132475
Pervomajsk,
Ukraine
age 19
5' 4''
99 lbs

Julia

ID 1132381
Odessa,
Ukraine
age 19
5' 7''
123 lbs

Ludmila

ID 1127321
Odessa,
Ukraine
age 23
5' 7''
108 lbs







Svetlana

ID 1127219
Lugansk,
Ukraine
age 31
5' 7''
121 lbs

Victoria

ID 1133484
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 23
5' 5''
104 lbs

Elena

ID 1132597
Odessa,
Ukraine
age 37
5' 9''
110 lbs







Valeria

ID 1131748
Sevastopol,
Ukraine
age 20
5' 10''
139 lbs

Elena

ID 1130988
Illichevsk,
Ukraine
age 25
5' 6''
132 lbs

Tatiana

ID 1128350
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 19
5' 5''
126 lbs







Marina

ID 1127989
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 24
5' 6''
117 lbs

Tatiana

ID 1127915
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 23
5' 3''
101 lbs

Margarita

ID 1127905
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 22
5' 5''
106 lbs







Ekaterina

ID 1133136
Odessa,
Ukraine
age 26
5' 7''
117 lbs

Irina

ID 1132630
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 24
5' 7''
110 lbs

Alena

ID 1130954
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 30
5' 7''
130 lbs







Julia

ID 1130609
Konstantinovka,
Ukraine
age 24
5' 5''
132 lbs

Tatiana

ID 1130563
Kherson,
Ukraine
age 32
5' 9''
132 lbs

Julia

ID 1127785
Odessa,
Ukraine
age 22
5' 7''
132 lbs







Anna

ID 1127063
Dnepropetrovsk,
Ukraine
age 24
5' 5''
106 lbs

Julia

ID 1126372
Sumy,
Ukraine
age 21
5' 3''
128 lbs

Julia

ID 1126297
Mariupol,
Ukraine
age 29
5' 5''
117 lbs







Natalia

ID 1125980
Mariupol,
Ukraine
age 38
5' 8''
110 lbs

Svetlana

ID 1125953
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 36
5' 5''
115 lbs

Anna

ID 1133749
Mariupol,
Ukraine
age 19
5' 8''
137 lbs







Galina

ID 1132276
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 30
5' 3''
110 lbs

Irina

ID 1132200
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 39
5' 10''
141 lbs

Anastasia

ID 1130971
Mariupol,
Ukraine
age 27
5' 6''
117 lbs







Victoria

ID 1130827
Mariupol,
Ukraine
age 41
5' 2''
132 lbs

Tatiana

ID 1130686
Simferopol,
Ukraine
age 29
5' 3''
110 lbs

Maria

ID 1126980
Kharkov,
Ukraine
age 28
5' 3''
121 lbs







Tatiana

ID 1126928
Nikolaev,
Ukraine
age 26
5' 6''
110 lbs

Zinaida

ID 1126717
Vinnitsa,
Ukraine
age 50
5' 6''
128 lbs








Monday, 9 August 2010

More BBC Bias

This morning the former state (now pro-opposition) broadcaster ran the following on its website:

UK jobs market recovery 'to stall'

The fall in the UK jobless rate will raise recovery hopes

Recovery in the jobs market will "stall" this year as demand for workers in the public sector falls, new research has warned.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a third of employers expect to cut jobs in the next three months.

The public sector employers in particular are planning cuts, with 36% of them looking to lose staff.

The size of the cuts being considered has also increased, the CIPD said.

OK, there may be some truth in the future loss of public sector jobs, but that hasn't happened yet and as the report continued:

Despite the threat of cuts, the CIPD's net employment index, which measures the number of companies planning to hire against the number planning to lose staff, is still in positive territory at +two, down from +five three months ago.

In fact as it turns out this "stalling" (a cessation of growth, rather than a fall in employment) is mere speculation about what might happen.

"The CIPD believes that a rise in unemployment in the next two years remains a distinct possibility as the private sector recovery is offset by the 600,000 public sector job losses the government expects over the next five years."

Which of course meant nothing to the presenter on the Today programme this morning who declared that employment growth had stalled.

Friday, 6 August 2010

And another thing...

I was going to make a post earlier this week about RBS and the FSA, but I had to go and look up the percentage state ownership (84% as it turns out) because it is quite relevant.

Earlier this week the FSA fined Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (RBS) £5.6 million for not keeping adequate controls to prevent breaches of U.K. money-laundering rules. The Financial Services Authority said between December 2007 and December 2008, RBS units RBS PLC, NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts & Co. failed to adequately screen their customers and the payments they made and received against a U.K. sanction list.

"This resulted in an unacceptable risk that RBS could have facilitated transactions involving sanctions targets, including terrorist financing," the FSA said in a statement. Because RBS settled the claim at an early stage, it received a 30% reduction in the fine, the regulator added. RBS says it brought the deficiencies to the FSA's attention. The agency then launched the investigation, which has been disclosed in documents to the bank's shareholders.

"We have taken appropriate action to remedy these issues and continue to enhance our control environment with a view to ensuring a more robust sanctions compliance framework and ultimately that our detection and prevention capabilities are in line with best practice in the market," RBS said.

Wooahh, lets stop right there! What is going on here? At the end of 2008 and thereafter, the tax payer recapitalised RBS and took 84% of the common equity in the RBS group. If it hadn't done so the whole group would havce effectively disappeared, so the money and new management put in by the government is what has kept it going, but the fine relates to the period between 2007 and 2008 mostly under the old management and certainly under procedures set up by the Fred Goodwin orchestra.

So why is the tax payer who put in most of the £5.6 million being asked to pay for the mistakes of the previous management? And they must have been big mistakes to merit a £5.6 million fine if there was no actual money laundering. OK, 16% of that actually reduces the value of shares held by the "old" RBS shareholders, but the £800k the tak payer makes from that is probably more than covered by the FSA and their advisors' costs of the investigation.

And why is it the new management team (who brought the mistakes to the attention of the FSA) being made to pay? The poor procedures happened while RBS was under the supervision of the FSA. If anybody was guilty of lax procedures (apart from the old guard at RBS) it was the FSA who had to be told rather than finding out about the issues themseles, not the new management team, but in the la-la world of UK banking supervision, no one is accountable and everyone makes meaningless gestures at the tax payers' expense.

A wunch of bankers

A commenter asked if I was going to analyse the banks' results. Well I had a quick look at Barclays and HSBC and there is little that I could spot of note in the numbers and RBS and Lloyds hadn't come out at the time I looked so maybe more on those later.

The big news in the UK banking world is that John Varley has piped up extolling the virtues of a universal banking system. Well, "Mandy Rice-Davies" to you, John. According to Mr Varley “Our view is that if you want to see clearly revealed the ability of narrow banks to cope with extreme conditions, you have to look no further than the upheaval now visiting some of the narrow bank communities in mainland Europe”.

Which overlooks the fact that the UK tax payer put the best part of £40 billion into bailing out the one bank whose profile most closely matched that of Barclays, namely RBS, and other not too dissimilar banks such as Citicorp and HBOS were given similar support. If Barclays Capital hadn't built a steady profit stream from tax avoidance to bolster Barclays' Tier 1 capital, they would have gone the same way as RBS.

Of the universal UK banks only HSBC came through the financial crisis with flying colours. HSBC's success probably derives from the fact that when they are dealing with cruddy credits, particularly in their US arm, they take it head on and charge an appropriate margin. Unlike RBS and Barclays and the rest they don't think they can wrap the crap in guarantees and fancy vehicles, top slice and bottom slice the risk according to some physics PhD geek's stochastic model.

As an aside, this reminds me of a true story of a young banker who started out a Slater-Walker, a UK finance house. On his first day they sent him out with the repo man (not a gilt trader, but the man who takes back assets from defaulting customers). As they pulled up outside the gates of the first customer call, the repo man handed the young salesman a sleeping bag. "Are we going to be here overnight?", asked the youn innocent. "No", replied the professional thug, "wrap it round your arm, and hold it up when they set the dogs on you."

Bank reform #1: Before any geek gets to model the "shit-into-shinola" debt repackaging schemes touted by the investment banks, they should spend a week with the repo man.

But back to Barclays, Mr Varley and, indirectly, the Barclays figures. A quick perusal of Barclays income and its sources reveals that, gross income from lending (i.e. net interest) is less than income from fees commisions and every thing else. Which tells us that although Barclays is a substantial bank and would expect to be earning fees and commissions in reality it is making far more from trading on its own account than it is making from lending.

Secondly if we try to determine where Barclays is making its profits, it is less than transparent. Sure enough we see a few hundred million here or there under Retail Banking (UK), or Barclaycard or similar, but the vast wodge of their profit shows up under Barclays Capital. Now we can't really tell what that means. Everybody wants to be an investment banker because they get paid more so everybody tries to move their desks into The Investment Bank, including ostensibly wholesale banking functions such as FX and treasury, but the implication of this is that they are usually given more leeway to trade for their own account.

But even so, Mr Varley is trying to have his cake, eat it and have a slice of ours too. With such a relatively small part of the Barclays operations devoted to serving retail and corporate customers, why should the tax payer be interested in keeping Barclays solvent? Barclays lured a team of gold traders away from JP Morgan last year and paid $98 million last month to buy a Swedish carbon emissions trader. Why should the UK tax payer want to bail out Barclays if either of those entities caused the bank to fail? And why should other traders who are not owned by banks want to see their taxes used to bail out their competitors? Mr Varley has answers to none of those questions.

Like the dealer in a game of three-card Monte, Mr Varley wants you and the UK banking authorities to focus on the fact that he has a branch in every High Street and ATM's throughout the land, and to forget the fact that the UK Treasury is underwriting the losses in the world's biggest casino.

Monday, 2 August 2010

A little statistical analysis

From the oh, so clean European Athletics championship. I added up the medal tallies of each country, scoring 5 for a gold, 3 for a silver and 1 for a bronze, and looked at the totals for men and women in each country. Then I grouped each country according to whether it was located in the former Eastern European bloc, and lo and behold I discovered that 65% of the scores for Eastern bloc countries came from their female athletes (and 35% from their men), whereas for the rest of Europe (and I include Turkey who had imported a lot of East African female champions) the ratio was obviously reversed, but not as extremely (38%:62%).

One might speculate why there should be such a disparity or even why the Russians should have a uniquely talented set of female athletes suited to the combination of speed an endurance required for the 400m.

Stimulating, no?