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guaranteed rental schemes | The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer – review

guaranteed rental schemes | The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer – review

We will regularly inspect your property, to ensure it is well-maintained and that everything is as it should be, ready for when you do get a tenant again. We will also continue to advertise your property, to show it to prospective tenants and to keep you informed every step of the way. And you can relax knowing that all the while this property is empty, you are still guaranteed rent payments and are still receiving a monthly guaranteed rental income.

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George Packer does a fine job of charting US decline. But where’s the anger?

History of disassemblage': The US flag fades along with a wall in Calvert, Texas. Photograph: Jill Stephenson /Alamy guaranteed rental schemes

One of the odd things about American news programmes is how little American news they feature. Typhoons and hurricanes, crazies and lone gunmen, Barack Obama staging a press conference, 10 seconds about the Middle East, a famous actor doing something scandalous, back to the weather: all this giddy fragmentation is further punctuated by so many commercial breaks or mentions of what’s coming up after those breaks that it can be hard to tell the difference between reportage and retail. America itself – its landscapes, rhythms, textures – is more invoked than evoked. A mere brand or sign. A tool to manufacture a togetherness that doesn’t exist.

George Packer’s new book is about this missing America. Spanning three decades, it’s a history of disassemblage, a chronicle of a nation where the “structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape – the farms of the Carolina Piedmont, the factories of the Mahoning Valley, Florida subdivisions, California schools”. It’s also a threnody, a lamentation about the silence, at least in political circles, around those collapsing structures: “An old city can lose its industrial foundation and two-thirds of its people, while all its mainstays – churches, government, business, charities, unions – fall like building flats in a strong wind, hardly making a sound.”

Packer, a staff writer at the New Yorker and author of The Assassins’ Gate, a 2005 study of the US war in Iraq, is also a novelist. The Unwinding is strongly influenced by the USA trilogy (1930-36) of John Dos Passos, a political radical in his early days and a literary modernist, who famously claimed that “Mostly USA is the speech of the people”.

Like him, Packer constructs his factual narrative from the stories of a broad range of characters: Madison-raised Dean Price is hauled out of his mixed high school by his racist father, weans himself on self-help books and opens up a slew of truck stops, convenience stores and burger joints before becoming an evangelist for biofuel. He is equal parts dreamer, indomitable entrepreneur, utopian Del Boy.

Then there’s Jeff Connaughton, an idealistic lobbyist, White House lawyer and former aide to Joe Biden who recalls in savage detail how his initial admiration for Obama’s vice-president turned to disgust, not just because of Biden’s foibles (cribbing from a Neil Kinnock speech, mistreating people close to him) but more importantly because of his absolute failure to push through legislation that would have broken up those national banks whose greed and corruption brought America to the brink of economic meltdown. Packer has a great deal of time for these men, and for Tammy Thomas, a black American woman from Ohio who grew up taking care of an alcoholic mother who was in and out of jail for drugs, fraud and robberies. Somehow, in spite of the steel mills in her home town closing down and having to raise her children in a gang-colonised neighbourhood, she becomes a community organiser. Less warmly – though by no means acerbically – portrayed is Peter Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist and libertarian co-fou

nder of PayPal, who finances projects involving seasteading and reversing human ageing.guaranteed rental schemes

Like Dos Passos, Packer interlaces these stories, themselves recounted in small sections, with “newsreels” in which the mood of a particular year – or rather the hysterical sound-and-fury of its public discourse to which his own subsequent stories offer a more considered, infrasonic counterpoint – is jerry-built from newspaper headlines, tweets, television listings and pop lyrics. Also, again like Dos Passos, he includes potted and sometimes vinegary biographies of various American public figures including Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, conservative activist Andrew Breitbart and, a little puzzlingly, the writer Raymond Carver. These can be damning. Of Newt Gingrich, married to Jackie though widely known to be a philanderer, he writes: “He tried to keep it to oral sex so he could claim literal fidelity if anyone asked but within two years the marriage was over, another adoring woman about to become the next Mrs Gingrich, the advocate of civilisation standing at Jackie’s hospital bed as she lay recovering

from uterine cancer, a yellow legal pad with divorce terms in his hand.” Mostly, though, they feel like material worked up from magazine profiles or overambitious efforts to anatomise a nation through its celebrities.

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Packer isn’t too clear about when “The Unwinding” took place. At one point he asks if it began with the end of the Reagan recession in 1982 and the bubbles – bond, tech, stock, housing markets – that followed. Was it caused by the deindustrialisation of the 1970s? Many of the factories that disappeared for ever were “hot, filthy, body-and soul-crushing” but they offered decent wages and a sense of belonging – to a community, a class, a nation – since extirpated. Or were its seeds planted in the 1950s – a decade of unrivalled middle-class prosperity – with the rise in car ownership and shopping malls, developments that would contribute to the decline of Main Street as both a real and symbolic common space?

Packer sometimes channels and sometimes overlays the voices of his confidants to point the finger at various modern criminals: lobbyists, Wall Street bankers, cynical politicians. But though he talks about how Washington was “captured” and ventriloquises Connaughton’s growing disenchantment by talking about how “everything he had learned in law school… was bullshit”, he doesn’t name names and, like the sonorous and stylistically adept New Yorker writer he is, mostly keeps his anger in check.

Yet the subtitle of The Unwinding – An Inner History of the New America – brings to mind JG Ballard’s notion of “inner space”. Deploying delirially anti-humanistic prose, Ballard drew on his fascination with America’s dark psycho-interiorities to produce extraordinarily prophetic publications such as Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan as early as 1968. Equally, The Unwinding could have learned from the roiling prose-fire of Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi who likened Goldman Sachs to “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”.

Packer’s book – so decent, meticulous, concerned – reads like both a shrine to and the embodiment of a form of civics that barely exists in America these days. Is lambent lamentation enough?

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guaranteed rental property | Unseen LS Lowry: The man behind the matchstick men revealed

guaranteed rental property | Unseen LS Lowry: The man behind the matchstick men revealed

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The man behind the austere, industrial Northern landscapes is often characterised as sparely as the “matchstick men” that made him famous.

But LS Lowry, who has only just been honoured with a retrospective at Tate Britain nearly 40 years after his death, was a great deal more fun and sociable than the remote recluse that he was frequently painted as by others.guaranteed rental property

Rare pictures of the artist, who was great friends with the Marshall family who owned the Stone Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, show him larking about on the steps of the gallery, celebrating his 84th birthday and sitting in the office after one of many social occasions.

Click here or on “View Images” for more pictures

The artist would visit the Marshalls on his frequent visits to the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland. Tilly Marshall later chronicled their friendship in Life With Lowry, and her son Simon used to ferry him around the coast where he would collect material (but rarely draw) for his pictures.

Simon Marshall describes Lowry as an elderly relation who became gradually absorbed in their lives having just wandered into the gallery off the street one day.

“Over the years I must have driven him thousands and thousands of miles; to Holy Island, Gretna Green and Portpatrick, where he believed his ancestors came from. I very rarely saw him sketch or work outside,” Simon Marshall wrote recently.guaranteed rental property

“Although he carried a wallet with bits of paper in and might draw something on an envelope as we walked around, he mostly liked to work at home. He was absorbing things as we went, and would then appear at some later stage with a drawing of a place we’d been to, done from memory.”

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Simon Marshall is frank about Lowry’s penchant for games which sometimes bordered on the maddening. “He loved repeating himself, and he’d push it to see how far he could go. We’d be driving along in the car and he’d say to me: ‘What happens if the wheel falls off?’ ‘We’ll go in the ditch, Mr Lowry.’ ‘Hmm.’ Ten minutes later: ‘What happens if the wheel falls off?’ and so on,” he said.

“He could be great fun, but he could be awful. He could be exceedingly amusing, but also an absolute little sod. He had some moods where he was not at all nice, but most of the time he was really very pleasant and jolly. He used to say to waitresses in restaurants: ‘Could I have this water diluted?’”

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, Tate Britain until 20 October 2013

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guaranteed rental scheme | Analysis – ECB drops old philosophy but is short of new options

guaranteed rental scheme | Analysis – ECB drops old philosophy but is short of new options

Most of our landlords use our guaranteed rental income scheme. We have our own list of tenants waiting to move into properties. But just in case there is a void period, should happen, and for some reason your property should be without a tenant, we offer a rent guarantee scheme .

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(Reuters) – The European Central Bank’s vow last week to keep record-low interest rates “at present or lower levels for an extended period” is a big philosophical shift for a bank that used to insist it would not tie its hands.

On the face of it an unprecedented and bold move, such ‘forward guidance’ is really just formal recognition of what markets expected anyway, and the bank’s realistic policy options are narrowly confined.guaranteed rental scheme

ECB President Mario Draghi, who vowed a year ago to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, said the move was driven by market volatility, which set in after the U.S. Federal Reserve last month set out a plan to begin slowing its stimulus.

“Draghi’s message was a clear break from the ‘we never pre-commit’ ECB of the past,” said Andrew Bosomworth, a senior portfolio manager at Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund.

“The Governing Council wants the world to know they are on a different timetable to the Fed,” he added.

But the ECB’s steer is more flimsy than the guidance offered by the Federal Reserve or even the Bank of England, which suggested last Thursday it could give more detailed guidance on monetary policy as soon as next month.

The risk is that when the Fed does begin unwinding its stimulus, the ECB’s words won’t be enough to protect the euro zone from the fallout, and market interest rates will rise – a scenario that would make the bloc’s escape from crisis harder.

Then the ECB would have to back up its words with action, and the policy options it has are unpalatable to many at the bank – a conservative institution focused on inflation fighting.

“What they have done is very soft. We don’t know what ‘extended period’ is,” said Anders Svendsen, analyst at Nordea.

RBS economist Richard Barwell agreed: “Nobody thought they were going to hike rates … It was a statement of the obvious.”

A Reuters poll of more than 60 analysts conducted before last Thursday’s policy meeting showed they already expected the ECB to keep its main refinancing and deposit rates on hold at their record lows until at least the end of next year.

The ECB duly held its main rate at 0.5 percent and left the deposit rate it pays banks for holding their money at zero.


The phrasing of the ECB’s guidance is crucial. Draghi said the Governing Council “expects” rates to remain at their existing level or go lower, he did not make a cast-iron promise.

The morning after the policy announcement, Governing Council member Erkki Liikanen qualified the pledge to keep rates low, saying it is good for as long as the economy remains weak.

“When there are changes, they will be taken into account. Everything depends on the development of the economy,” he told Finnish broadcaster YLE.

A sudden, if unlikely, pick-up in the euro zone economy or an oil price shock could easily force a change in policy.

The more immediate threat to the euro zone, however, is fresh market turmoil when the Fed begins unwinding its stimulus.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s announcement on June 19 that the U.S. economy central bank was likely to begin slowing the pace of its bond-buying later this year sent peripheral euro zone sovereign bond yields sharply higher.

A political crisis in Portugal pushed yields on its benchmark bonds above 8 percent last week, near levels that forced it to seek international aid two years ago.

RBS’s Barwell said the ECB’s guidance should inoculate shorter-dated bond yields from the impact of the Fed ‘tapering’.

“What happens if that fails? What happens if the contagion comes nonetheless? Then they are back in the ball game of they might have to do something rather than talking,” he said.guaranteed rental scheme

Yet the conditions attached to the ECB’s sharpest policy tool – its bond-buying programme known as Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) – mean the central bank cannot use it to help Portugal at the moment, or even Spain or Italy for that matter.

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OMT requires a country to seek outside help from the euro rescue fund – which neither Rome or Madrid have done – and be issuing debt regularly on the bond market for the central bank to intervene and buy its bonds.

Portugal has been issuing Treasury bills but is not regularly issuing longer-dated bonds across the yield curve. Draghi said last week the ECB rules on the OMT were unchanged, all but directly leaving Portugal alone to resolve its crisis.

That leaves more specific guidance – with a clearer timeframe – or straightforward rate cuts as alternative options. Draghi said the ECB discussed cutting rates last week.

The trouble with rate cuts is that the ECB’s low rates are not reaching all euro zone economies evenly, with lenders in crisis-hit states passing on higher funding costs to customers.

A further option is to offer banks another batch of ultra-cheap long-term loans, known as LTROs. The ECB lent banks a total of more than 1 trillion euros in such twin three-year lending operations in December 2011 and February 2012 – a ploy that Draghi said “avoided a major, major credit crunch”.

The interest rate on the loans, which banks are now repaying early, is tied to the ECB’s refinancing rate. Barwell believed a new LTRO would need to be offered at a fixed rate for banks to take it up, and thereby push down market interest rates.

“I think it can’t be the same as what’s been done before,” he said. “My view is that they’ve got to make it more attractive, and the key thing to do would be a fixed-rate LTRO.”

The International Monetary Fund is already pressing the ECB to take such action. In its annual Clause IV consultations with Italy, the IMF on Thursday called for the ECB to complement Italy’s reform efforts with direct assets purchases and more bumper loans to euro zone banks.

“Direct asset purchases by the ECB, such as for SME credits, another LTRO of considerable tenor, and lower haircuts on eligible collateral would help lower bank funding costs and lending rates,” the IMF said.

Full-on asset purchases with a U.S.-style quantitative easing programme could depress yields further out than the 2-3 year maturities that Pimco’s Bosomworth said the ECB’s commitment to low rates for an “extended period” would cover.

But the conservative DNA of many ECB policymakers makes them averse to such radical policy steps.

Going further would be much harder for the ECB. Draghi stressed last week that the move to take forward guidance was “unprecedented” and a “very significant step”.

“This was as strong a commitment as one can get that the ECB will remain accommodative for as long as needed,” said Bosomworth.

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