Under cover questions

Yes, it has been a week. When the fire was first reported I steered clear. It was a fire. What was weird was the ferociousness of the fire, I had questions from the moment I saw the fire, but I waited. I had no Intel, I had no facts and it was a fire after all. Fires happen. Yet, those who saw the limelight seeking photos from the Telegraph might have noticed a thing or two. You see, the fire was like a fire that Hollywood could not do. The Towering inferno was not that intense. The fact that the fire had a casualty list that is massive is also an odd part in all this. So I decided to wait, I would not be the one shouting arson on something that was not that. The consequence is a little too unsettling. Yet now, a week later I found myself collecting what I could. It started with the noise on cladding.

The first thing I found was a similar issue in Victoria, Australia. On April 30th 2015 we see: “Testing conducted by the CSIRO in mid-April on behalf of MFB found that the Alucobest cladding material installed by building company failed to comply with high-rise combustibility requirements“, in addition there is “The external cladding material on this building did not prevent the spread of the fire as required by the Building Code of Australia,” said MFB chief officer Peter Rau“. It was a fire that happened in 2014. So these events had been happening for years. This now gets us to Rydon Ltd in East Sussex. They got the job, because they were £2.5 million cheaper. Like in the Towering Inferno, that place went down in the story because of cutting corners. So my initial thought was that this might be the case here too. The question is ‘Was that the case?‘ You see, it is all good and fine in books, but the reality is how were the materials tested, how did the makers of the original cladding present their materials? One of the parts is ‘Celotex RS5000 PIR thermal insulation‘, when we look at those specification we see: “Fire propagation ‘BS 476: Part 6′, Pass” and “Surface spread of flame ‘BS 476: Part 7′, Class 1“. It comes with the footnote “The fire performance and classification report issued only relates to the components detailed above. Any changes to the components listed will need to be considered by the building designer”

The entire issue becomes more of a mess when we consider that ITV business editor Joel Hills stated that he had been told that the installation of sprinklers had not even been discussed (at http://www.itv.com/news/2017-06-15/grenfell-tower-original-proposed-contractor-was-dropped-to-reduce-cost-of-refurbishment-project/), the ITV article focusses on the ‘cost saving‘ which is correct, yet the one part they do not raise is whether the materials were up to scrap. In addition they do mention two parts that are essential. One is “In 2013 the government wrote to every local authority to encourage them to retrofit sprinkler systems in older tower blocks. It did so at the request of a coroner who leads an inquest into a fire in Camberwell in which six people died“, the second one was “Before passing judgement on whether the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management therefore acted irresponsibly, bear in mind that, according to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, only 100 older tower blocks in Britain have been retrofitted with sprinklers since 2013. Around 4,000 have not“, the councils were apparently put off by the costs, which in this was about £1150 per apartment. We read more about these tests as presented by Celotax (at http://www.ecosafene.com/EN/firetesting/building/228.html), so we get some clarity here. Yet the surface flame test (BS 476-7, linked in the referred page), gives us “Extinguish the pilot flame 1 min after the start of the test“, yet these numbers will not add up, because there were no sprinklers, no dousing the flame, so the entire operation will be working on different elements. This does not invalidate the test, yet if I look at the Ecosafene site I am now looking at ‘BS 476-15Fire Tests on Building Materials for Measuring the Rate of Heat Release‘ as well as ‘BS 476-5 Fire Test to Building Material for Ignitablity‘, you see, this caught fire somehow, after that Bob is your crispy dead uncle (in this case). Yet in all this, we did not mention Celotex. Their site gives us “As with the rest of the nation our thoughts continue to be with those affected by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in London. On Wednesday, as soon as we were able to, we confirmed that our records showed a Celotex product (RS5000) was purchased for use in refurbishing the building. We wanted to provide an update to that statement and provide further information as we are able to. It is important to state that Celotex manufacture rigid board insulation only. We do not manufacture, supply or install cladding. Insulation is one component in a rain screen system, and is positioned in that system behind the cladding material“, It is what we now see in the Metro that kinda takes the biscuit. “Controversial cladding was added to Grenfell Tower in part to improve the view for nearby luxury flats“, which must have been a nice clambake to watch I reckon. It is the term ‘Controversial cladding‘ that now becomes the focus. You see, the Birmingham Mail and others are all about: “Grenfell Tower £8 million refurbishment ‘met all required standards’“, yet the fire does seem to tell a different story. The Guardian has another article linked to all this. The article ‘Complex chain of companies that worked on Grenfell Tower raises oversight concerns‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/15/long-builder-chain-for-grenfell-a-safety-and-accountability-issue) gives a few items a few answers and more questions. In opposition I need to give the quote “Ben Bradford, a fire safety expert who is managing director of the risk consultancy BB7, said the multiple links in the chain of contractors could cause safety problems. “There are probably multiple failings that have occurred in this particular case,” he said. “The work, in terms of fire stopping, often falls to a sub-contractor. They don’t always realise the critical nature of the components they’re installing in the overall system“, I have an issue here. It is not untrue what he is stating, yet the elements on the page give us a little clarity. You see Rydon used Harley Curtain. This setup is not unique. Rydon cannot afford the amount of people needed, hence a subcontractor is used. They would work according to the requirements of Rydon. That link is seen with the subsequent links to Celotex and Arconic. So Celotex is the insulator and we saw all those links, yet now the actual cladding remains. ‘Reynobond PE‘, in the end Rydon had to sign off on that, in clarity, at present Rydon is the responsible part (until valid defence is given). You see, when we go to Arconic, we see “Reynobond PE features a polyethylene core that adds strength and rigidity to the coil-coated aluminium panels. This maximizes its flexibility and formability, while maintaining a light weight for easy installation“, you see, when I went to High School (early 70’s) I was told that polyethylene was combustible, it is a common trait in the polymer group as they are all inflammable family members. You see, perhaps it is just me, but the brochure states: ‘building code recognition‘, is that the same as passing a test? The tests Canadian fire tests CAN S101, CAN S102 and CAN S134 are a nice mention, yet the idea that an AMERICAN company is relying on Canadian fire tests got me thinking. I have not found the answer; I am merely puzzled by it. The question is what did Rydon know on that part? They are supposed to be the expected experts, I am not!

The question still gives us a concern, you see the fact that the outside got to play the part of Roman candle is one side, at that point the sprinklers inside the building would have been pretty useless at that point. What is interesting is the mention on page 5 of the brochure: “It’s perfect for new and retrofit projects less than 40 feet (three stories) high” This is an interesting part because the ‘why‘ comes into play, why only 3 stories? That part becomes a point of discussion, as page three shows a 7 story high building in the images. On page 6 we see the safety rating form flames and smoke as a pass with Class A as per ASTM E84. That part revealed two elements. One is the mention ‘This test method measures flame growth on the underside of a horizontal test specimen, using the Steiner tunnel test‘, the operative word is ‘horizontal‘, the next one is shown (at https://www.astm.org/Standards/E84.htm), here we see “This test method exposes a nominal 24-ft (7.32-m) long by 20-in. (508-mm) wide specimen to a controlled air flow and flaming fire exposure adjusted to spread the flame along the entire length of the select grade red oak specimen in 51/2 min“, in addition they do not give ‘measurement of heat transmission‘, which seems a pretty important element in VERTICAL applied cladding, as flames tend to ignore gravity and move upwards adding to the temperature, for those extra crispy roasted victims. More important the ‘effect of aggravated flame spread behaviour of an assembly resulting from the proximity of combustible walls and ceilings‘ and as polyethylene is combustible, we now have an issue. From my point of view, if Rydon signed off on this there is an issue. Yet more important, the fact that there is documentation that goes back to 2014 in Australia and there are a number of buildings in London that have this issue, London Town there is a much larger issue in play. Now, we see that everyone is bashing Theresa May, and as she made me no Bundt cake I am fine with that. Yet this is a long term failure. It has an impact on several administrations on both sides of the political aisle. There is a clear call, one made by MP David Lammy in the Independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-tower-fire-corporate-manslaughter-arrests-david-lammy-mp-labour-london-kensington-a7790911.html). I agree that ‘corporate manslaughter‘ is more than a fair call. As the Tottenham Labour MP states this, there is a call for the executives of Rydon to explain and show their elements in all this. They should be in defence mode and it could result in their arrest if clear evidence of negligence is found. The elements I found clearly support that and that is merely the 45 minutes getting through some of the brochures and going through the fire tests. You see, the earlier quote from the Birmingham Mail with ‘met all required standards’ does not hack it in my view. I found three issues in mere minutes, so we either have a systematic failure of government allowing this to continue (even more damning in light of the concerns from the occupants that had been going on for some time), the other side is that underlying communications might or might not exist. There is no way to tell until this is brought into the open. David Lammy might not ‘name’ anyone, but I did, and they should be named. Yet that also means that they can and should defend themselves as they might not be the guilty party, but no matter what, they are to a larger extent, the accountable party until properly investigated. And this is not because I am trying to have a go at Rydon, I want this to come out into the open. The failure that we saw burn is just one of several buildings where cladding has been applied to, and as the train wreck is pushed into the limelight carriage after carriage, only then will we see the complete extent of the failure and there is no ‘walk softly’ that option has been taken away by the dozens of fatalities. A little limelight is the least of the problems these people need to face.

Even as we saw the ‘cost saving‘ there is still going to be a backlash to KCTMO, you see, they made a call on the cheaper option, which might be fair, but why was the ‘other‘ solution cheaper? When those elements are brought to the surface there will be questions as they tend to come, fair or not. This all gets to get political soon thereafter as we saw the ‘reasoning’ of ‘improve the view for nearby luxury flats‘, you see, I am not buying a Versace suit so that I look more appealing to my neighbour. She (and he) can bloody well move to Knightsbridge and get a more expensive view there. Yet, that is just me.




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Sex Driven Developers

There are always ways to find weaknesses in government; there is a decent chance that we find them on a daily basis. Yet, how must we react when the foundation of those making the decisions are now in a runt of enabling? What happens when the government first decides on cyber rules for the safety of all whilst opening a bordello around the corner so that those in dire need of affordable housing are getting screwed over?

This is what is on the goose feather of Julia Kollewe as she dipped it into the ink jar and gave us ‘Battersea Power Station developer slashes number of affordable homes‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/21/battersea-power-station-affordable-homes-almost-halved-by-developer). She is trying to wake up pretty much everyone with this and it should wake us all up. You see, the next decade is about the dire need of affordable housing, London is in danger of alienating the very population that is the means for its survival. You see, in my mind, greed is not a ‘technical issue‘. Greed merely is and never goes away. A technical issue is when you get the cement batter wrong in one shipment, a technical issue is when you are looking at a square and you calculated for 5 corners. When you have a £9 billion project and you have to redesign 40%, you are in my humble opinion screwing people over for your need of greed and profit whilst ‘putain‘ the 250 people now left outside in the cold (pardon my French). So as we see that someone clever from these Malaysian investors, are now trying to maximise profit by slashing the affordable housing part as we read: “The affordable home proposals amounted to 15% of the total 4,239 homes planned, which included luxury pads ranging from £800,000 for a studio atop the former power station to £4m for a four-bedroom flat (the three penthouses have yet to be priced).” there is no other option but to fight back. In this there are two options left to the government. One is to get the list of investors and they are to be banned from any other real estate investment in the UK for 5 years. The second option would be that if the apartments are uninhabited for over 40% of the time, there must be a large service surcharge to the building services. Once that these investors have to report these surcharges in the upcoming sales bill, they might have to let slip some of their expected profits. In all this, the ‘compensation‘ of mentioned “build the 386 affordable homes three years earlier than previously envisaged, which means residents will receive their keys in 2020. They will be located in apartment blocks near the power station“, is only a small band aid, because it is not just about time, it is about space and location, the space of 250 apartments is now gone! We sometimes state that no man is an island, but the UK kind of is, so that means that once the space is gone, it is definitively gone. We also get the quote “an assessment of the profits the developer expects to make. Independent adviser BNP Paribas advised the council that it is “very unlikely” that the 250 homes will materialise“. So when we see this ‘independent’ party. Have they been on this project from the very beginning? You see, if that is true than we see a feigned level of incompetence. From my point of view, BNP Paribas is not just the largest bank in France; it is one of the largest banks in the world, so when they make an £9B ‘oopsie’, something else is going on. From my speculated view is that they had made for whatever plan they could offer so that they could get the project, whilst down the track they adjusted the view to get the results their investors needed and submitted the new plans so that they end up getting what they wanted in the first place. I cannot tell how deep BNP Paribas is into this as ‘Independent adviser‘ implies that they could have been called in down the track, not initially. In support of this view the article also gives us: “Keith Garner, a local architect who has campaigned against the Battersea project for years, said: “Underlying it, the financial model is all wrong. A developer-led project to conserve, repair and bring back in to use a famous London landmark is turning in to a predictable disaster“. This now gives us two parts. The first is that this is not just coming to view and even as the lord Mayor Sadiq Khan is only now coming into view, his administration as well as the previous one, will now need to show clearly that due diligence was maintained throughout the project including the view and calculations before approval was given. This puts Boris Johnson equally on the hot chair as his team comes under scrutiny. If we are to maintain the push for affordable housing, we cannot accept screw ups of this magnitude. Because once the cashable buildings are gone, it is over and no other option remains. It is the curse of sitting on an island. Keith Garner has been vocal in the past, going back even before January 2015, yet from this point onwards we see Keybridge House in Vauxhall where only 4.5% became affordable (19 out of 419), it seems to me that when we tally that part the failure is a lot larger than most realise. Even then there was a list for the PowerStation with a setting of ‘3,444 new homes at the power station 560, or 16%, will be affordable‘, so the list got slashed before and it got slashed again. Actually, the numbers changed as 3,444 became 4239, so there has been more ‘revamping’ it seems that a project this much in flux implies that certain elements were either never set or set in a questionable way. Now, we get that things change, there are always details that need ‘alteration‘ yet when you ‘suddenly‘ add 795 apartments (which under normal conditions seem to be 2-4 additional towers, we should agree that ‘questionable‘ is very much the better word to use (without getting to rude and rely on the ‘putain’ word).

Another issue is seen in “Officers appreciate the level of stresses a scheme of this size and complexity has and that the main priorities of the scheme have been the conservation and redevelopment of the listed power station building, the delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station and the jobs to be created as part of the new town centre“, you see, as investors are always happy to sue the pants of any official, the mention of ‘delivery of the Northern Line extension and new underground station‘ is not a problem to the Malaysian investors, so if the UK government had impeded the development of an agreed project, the government get the invoice. So there is now the implied issue that there was a mere trade off and 250 affordable homes were scrapped. Is that not a view you would envision? In addition ‘jobs to be created as part of the new town centre‘ sounds nice, but how is that part of the powerhouse building project? So as this all comes to heads in “A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved, ahead of a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday evening“, there is the speculated issue that the Wandsworth council made a right mess of things and they are trying to appease the situation so that they keep their jobs and possibly avoid the wrath of parliament, there was just the need to scrap housing for 250 people who desperately needed them.

So, feel free to object and oppose my way of thinking, but that is how I see it. I understand that the UK needs economy, it needs houses and it needs jobs, but when a limited resource is wasted to this degree we need to ask questions loudly and there needs to be the revision of policies to make certain that affordable housing remains at the top of the list, and remains the top priority of the list of achievements. Yet in the last 2-3 years, there is additional evidence growing that what was a desperate need is ignored by those, because it does not really impact them.

Yet the 2015 article also gives some opposition. We see this in “Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, says: “In fairness, the developer is being required to pay for a lot of other things. The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for.”“. OK, this is fair enough. My response would be: ‘I agree, but that is the assessment of an investment opportunity. The numbers are done and in the end it is either feasible or it is not!‘ So the investor could have walked away from it. If the government had found the £9B, it has the option to do it themselves, with a very different balance, and perhaps with only one penthouse, the other 2 could have become 3 3-bedrooms apartment each. In addition, as it is now less about profit, there could have been 900 affordable houses instead of the 636 initially envisioned. As I read the articles over time and the sources given, it seems to me that orchestration might have been at the centre of things from the beginning. That feeling is gotten from ‘The land has to be used very intensely to produce enough yield to pay for the things that the government used to pay for‘, you see, like some naval projects, where voting for adjustments is often much better than being the messenger on a failed project, because those investors would sue, and the eagerness of the Wandsworth council implies to some degree that there would be a case and a court settlement of £9B might not be the best way to go forward. And as we see in the past “Many flats were sold off-plan and, still unbuilt, are back on the market at higher prices. Just before Christmas one unbuilt studio flat in the power station, which had sold for close to £1m, was back on the market for £1.4m. Last week, estate agent Chestertons was reported to have other unbuilt flats on the market for £865,000 – £150,000 more than their original asking price” implies that investors are getting rich fast, so the entire drop of 250 affordable apartments is becoming more and more of a debatable issue.

Yet the final issue not seen in the latter article is most damning on both the houses of Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson. The quote “the lack of a master plan for the area” is damning because it implies that the area could lose its identity, and I am willing to buy either a coffee with a cream cheese bagel with Salmon if they can clearly oppose the drop of value for the loss of identity validity. Those who truly move to London want to be in an area. They want to be part of Islington, Hammersmith or Chelsea. Some will prefer Southwark because of Hay’s galleria, yet in reality they might just do it because the hookers give much better value in that borough. Whatever reason we hear the identity of the place matters. And this requires a clear master plan. to some degree when it is in the hands of foreign investors, things go into flux, yet a clear master plan is essential the prevent London of becoming an anonymous place of chaos.

In this we remain at minus 250 apartments. You see, no matter how grand it all looks, the immediate need for infrastructure is simple. When the people have to travel too far to work, the job will no longer be a feasible solution. Even as some are pointing to an extension of the Northern Line, the simple truth is that it is an additional 15 minutes, meaning that some people will travel 90 minutes each way to get to (or from) a place where they can afford to live, on top of that travel costs are rising too. So the new place ends up being a ghost town without infrastructure. How is that an interesting investment when some could go in and out of this ghost town to burglar it into heaven as they get to do that unopposed? How many paintings and electronics need to be removed before the investors seek another place to go to?

All elements that seem to have been missed, all part of a master plan not in place and all linked to investment and economic plans that might have been dubious from the beginning. As I personally see it, a lack of long term oversight, checks and balances all cast aside for the quick profit and the marketable view of mentioning, to merely look good. And now Lord Mayor Sadiq Khan has the mess on his plate and he gets to see what might be salvaged, because when I see ‘A report by the Wandsworth council planning officer recommends that the proposals be approved‘, I wonder what has not hit the light of day yet and what else has to be sacrificed (or additional costs received) in the next upcoming year. Would you not wonder (read: worry) about that very same thing?


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About that glass of water

As we see Brexit make the cover pages again, the Guardian gives us ‘UK caves in to EU demand to agree divorce bill before trade talks‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/19/uk-caves-in-to-eu-demand-to-agree-divorce-bill-before-trade-talks). There are a few issues here and it is not on what is decided on. You see “capitulated to key European demands for a phased approach to Brexit talks, agreeing to park discussions on free trade until they have thrashed out the cost of the multibillion-euro UK divorce settlement” is fair enough. It can be debated in several ways, yet in honesty, as we see the issues that the ECB have pushed upon the UK and the payments the UK have made, it can be clearly stated that the 60,000,000,000 Euro a month that Mario Draghi has been dishing out every month will go to the Euro nations MINUS the United Kingdom. If there is a divorce settlement, the impossibility of the ECB petulant child is a spending tantrum the United Kingdom should be set away from, for the mere reason that it is up to the other parents to contain the credit spending spree engaging youngster.

So as the article makes reference to that half-filled glass, let’s take another look at the options.

The optimist is stating that Brexit will only have used 50% of the opportunities. This is debated as we see that not just governments, but banks and financial institutions are all about keeping the EU inclusive and forever growing so that it can be milked more efficiently.

To support this view, from last year (Nov 2016) we got this part: “Rome has argued that the tight fiscal measures are stifling some economies and should be loosened to allow EU members to invest more money in order to boost growth. This stance has set Italy, Greece and other southern European countries on a collision course with Germany and other northern European member states, who have warned that increasing public spending and subsequently, public debt, is a risky proposition for a bloc still suffering the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis“, so as we have seen, these investments have for the most not made any impact. Italy showed a deficit of 2.4% ($45B), France -3.4% ($84B), Spain -4.5% ($55B), Poland -2.4% ($11B), Belgium -2.6% ($12B), Denmark -.9% ($2B), these are merely the annual 2016 numbers. The list goes on and apart form 1-2 none can keep a correct budget, and they have not been able to do so for well over a decade. In addition there is the 60 billion a month EU spending spree. It seems that the opportunities will be limited to banks.

The pessimist states that Brexit comes with 50% additional fees. Part of that was raised by little old me through the overspending of Mario Draghi. The EU has a debt that is now surpassing 12 trillion Euro, which is including the 1.7 trillion of the UK at present, so the UK, one of the 4 large EU economies is merely 14% of that. The other three (Germany, France and Italy) each have a debt almost 50% larger than the UK. These 4 represent 80% of the EU debt. There is no containing this level of irresponsibility, and getting out was from my point of view the best option. The benefit is that the UK could end its austerity in 5-10 years if proper steps are taken. The EU will be in deep debt for a very long time after that and the smaller nations are realising this and that is why they were complaining so loudly (as I personally see it).

The opportunist drank the Brexit cocktail. This is seen in the growing partnerships, the Netherlands has kicked it off by sharing ‘UK and Netherlands sign defence cooperation agreement‘, it increases defence and security when we consider the Ferry services between the two nations, in addition, the countries will also share personnel and work towards a UK-Netherlands Amphibious Force. This should also bring additional opportunities to the Dutch as the have the most modern navy in the world, a military branch an Island like the UK could benefit from. In addition, the overall high levels of technology in the Netherlands would give additional benefits to cyber security operations. GCHQ has skills that the Dutch AIVD would love to get a better grip on, an option that should become available in this defence cooperation (source: http://www.army-technology.com).

The practical politician does not see that Brexit is half good or half bad, he or she puts them together and both are true. Yes, that is one way of looking at it. The issue is not the political view, it is that the view that they offer is on a sliding scale of change, and it always change towards the need of the politician, which is at times nowhere near the recorded metrics. Sean Whelan, the economics correspondent for RTE gives us “The good news is that almost a third of Irish exports to the UK would face no tariff whatsoever. The bad news is those products (and this report is all about products) are almost entirely produced by the foreign multinational sector – in particular, the pharmaceutical industry“, leave that situation to politicians to evolve into personal ‘opportunity’, is in not interesting that we haven’t seen this element before? All the scaremongering and the ‘one benefit’ will be for the large corporations. Is it not weird that only they seem to have a leg up on the benefit range?

So when we talk about the Brexit glass, we get more and more views and more and more pointed news that gives us a scary story. The reality is that in all this, I stumbled on 2 positive developments, directions I pleaded for as early as late 2015. So as we now see the evolution of nations working together, we might get additional proof on the economy.

That part was initially given by City AM, where we see “UK economy will grow by 1.7 per cent this year, faster than the previously forecast expansion of 1.6 per cent, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW)“, which sounds good, yet the UK is not out of the fire. When we also read “Michael Izza, ICAEW chief executive, said: “I would like to see the new government put business and the economy at the top of its agenda, doing more to create a climate of optimism and certainty which will help build confidence“. This is more of the banter we have seen too often, that is given by me in such a statement as the UK has no coffers to invest with. This has been the issue all along, as the previous labour government went all out on spending, we are in a stage of culling these debts, so as we see ‘need for investment’, we better realise that Labour wasted £11.2 billion that went straight down the drain. It will take some time to overcome this in addition to the deficit and the debts. It’s not rocket science and relying on the forecasts as they have been wrong by too much all over Europe, we need to consider which sources to trust. A mere reality of what came before and also a reality as Brexit will have an impact; there was never any denying that. It is just that from my point of view, the UK recovery would be faster outside of, than within the EU. That part has already been shown to some degree, to some mind you, not to the full extent. We can only speculate on that part until Brexit is final.

So no matter how we relate this to a glass, how it is seen. The glass merely is. It is the consequence of long term European injustice. Their convoluted presentation, where big business gets a free pass again and again, not tax accountability of any kind. By allowing the EC gravy trains to be running smooth they also sunk their own options of long term survival.

Yet, the gravy train is ignored. So when I refer to the Times (at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/kinnocks-on-the-brussels-gravy-train-xcxbdkx6r) with reference to June 2016, here we see: “The former Labour leader was responsible for transport and then became a vice-president with responsibility for administrative reform. By the time he left in 2004 Lord Kinnock was earning £163,453 a year alongside a housing allowance and an entertainment budget. He received a payment of nearly £273,000 on leaving office. He has an EU pension thought to be worth more than £60,000 per year alongside the pension he receives for…” and we have not looked at the other 750 members! Still think that I lost my marbles, or are you seeing a spending spree above the 60 billion Euro a month that is too ludicrous to consider?

By trivializing this I am not making it any better, talking about glasses and water, but it aids you to consider that within the European community, the consideration of water can be whatever they want it to be, which means that transparency is pretty much gone. Is that not the first requirement of the European Community? Is Brexit still such a bad idea? This is supported by the Financial Times as they published in May 2017 (at https://www.ft.com/content/7d1eea08-3be8-11e7-ac89-b01cc67cfeec), the article ‘Call for transparency on ECB corporate bond buying‘, now it is important to consider that nothing wrong was done (as far as we can tell), yet when we see ‘MEPs want to dispel any concerns of benefits to small group of favoured companies‘, the question becomes, why was this not done from day 1? The quote “So far, about €75bn of corporate bonds has been bought as part of QE, a small part of the €1.8tn that the ECB has spent overall. Most is spent on bonds issued by Eurozone governments” gives view that it is not a massive amount compared to the complete spending spree, yet €75B is massive, 0.001% of that could secure my financial future, settle my bills have a decent house to live in, so it adds up to a lot, fast! Still the article shows a concern and that is why I went there. The quote “While the actual amounts are not disclosed, the ECB has explained that it buys proportionally to outstanding issues, and market capitalisation provides a weighting.“, yet weighting depends on factors, which factors and how are they applied? Invariable, weighting is done to either ‘regress to the centre’, as a means to present it as an accepted part (by whom is still the question), or to obscure the view of the amount of outliers in the balance of the matter, neither of these is a good thing. In addition, the request “disclose greater detail on this programme’s operating guidelines, in order to explain to citizens how the corporate bonds are being selected“, is a worry as there could be a unbalanced support to corporations with bonds and in addition, the mention “Another request from the MEPs is that other central banks follow the lead of Germany’s Bundesbank in publishing the names of companies with bonds, rather than just the ISIN number, a code used to identify them on the financial markets” gives out that hiding behind an ISIN number gives weight to other issues too. Part of this is in the attached PDF ‘a proceeding under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 54 of the EEA Agreementattached here, where several issues are shown, the quote ‘by requiring European financial firms and data vendors to pay licensing fees for their use‘. So not only is the EC hiding behind these numbers, but there is an additional fee? Well, apparently that was negated to some extent and that agreement ended in 2016, so are there fee’s now, all issues of non-transparency. All these issues chipping away the assumed ‘premise’ towards the ‘validity of existence’ of the EC and even the ECB.

So when we talk about the glass it is not just the size, not about the water that is in it, but the fact that the glass is too opaque in many instances, the fact that some members have known the lack of transparency and in this we see a system that seems to have been intentionally hiding behind non-transparency. If there is one part that proves it, than it is the existence of Grexit and Brexit and more over the time it took for these politicians to give clarity on how proceedings were supposed to go and how the media left the people in the dark on the actual issues. All that, with the confusion we see as the EC seems to be in the dark on how to deal with an exiting nation gives more worries than confidence, because the actions and threats shown is not that of some economic alliance, it is the foundation of some tyranny where the freedom of choice becomes the burden of blackmail, threats and intentional miscommunication.

I’ll let you decide on how much you enjoy being blackmailed and threatened and where the freedom of choice remains in all of that.

Commission decision COMP39.592

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Despite the missing facts

The UK is in all kinds of shambles, some could have been prevented, some remains unclear and some are just due to the whims of media. So when I saw ‘Britain is leaving the EU – just as Europe is on the up‘ I decided to take a look, because it is ‘on the up‘ that is an issue. Former editor of Le Monde (high quality French newspaper) Natalie Nougayrède gives her views (at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/18/brexit-europe-eu-golden-decade-merkel-macron) with illustration and all. Yes, it is the image that shows how far away the UK is. Of course the article starts with Helmut Kohl, there is nothing like the death of a politician to milk the issue as much as you can. Yet it is the quote “Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are, as Britain prepares to leave, readying their ambitions and vision for the continent“. Is that so? Leave it to a former investment banker to shed his skin like a serpent on the change of any wind. Didn’t he promise certain hard changes? We can tell you now that this is a change he did not keep, which is not that much of a surprise. You see, the people who would not give him the light of day are now talking the talk he comprehends. Credit Agricole Group, BNP Paribas, Society Generale, Natixis. Yes ,as president of France these people will now call on him, woe him and explain on the need of the gravy train. Yes, Emmanuel Macron will definitely show a few more changes before the year is out. It is the next quote that should scare the French and not by a little bit. with “The thinking goes like this: in the next two to three years, as France carries out structural economic reforms to boost its credibility, Germany will step up much-needed European financial solidarity and investment mechanisms, and embrace a new role on foreign policy, security and defence.” With ‘boost its credibility‘ can be pushed in deeper debt. So as France is currently well over 2.2 trillion euro in debt, that debt could be even greater, which is good for the earlier mentioned banks, but for the freedom of the French people it is not that great a move. and why do we see: ‘embrace a new role on security and defence‘? France has a clear need to embrace more security and safety for France and the French, yet the need of adaptation of a new role implies a consolidated European army which is not just counterproductive, it could spell a dangerous waste of trillions of euro’s all over Europe. The biggest issue is however “Europe’s economic situation has improved. Unemployment in the Eurozone is at its lowest since 2009 (but still at 9.5%). Growth has returned. Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, speaks of “a solid and broad recovery”“, which is an issue on more than one front. First by his own view, Mario Draghi gives us: “inflation in the currency area sank to 1.4 per cent, which is below the bank’s target, although Mr Draghi said “deflation risks have definitely gone away”“, which is part of the story, the Swedish Nyhetsbanken gives us: ““The ECB is essentially in a holding pattern”, said Patrick O’Donnell, a fund manager with Aberdeen Asset Management in London“, which also giving us the goods with: “We expect the European Central Bank to announce in September, when new forecasts will be available, that tapering will begin in January as deflation risks have vanished“. This is all nice, yet it is all linked to Mario Draghi increasing the debt to Europe by 60 billion Euro’s every month, the total should increase the total debt by close to 2 trillion Euro over the two waves of ‘easing’, so when you see ‘economic situation has improved’, the question is for who did the situation improve? The European quality of life is far below what it was in 2008 for roughly 99.999456% of the people of Europe.

Interesting how Natalie Nougayrède skates around that part and with the German-France union. So, should we see this as perhaps a Union of the Somme, or perhaps the Merger of Artois? We can agree that ‘Europe’ would like to continue without the UK and they would want to steer in a direction that gives them the best options. Yet the clarity of denial, that claims are made whilst none of the governments in the EU can keep a decent budget, whilst they are all in deficit and France in truly deep debt. Whilst Greece is still bleeding all over the place, and on top of that Mario Draghi is printing 60,000,000,000 euro’s every month with no value against it. In all this we see more denial of events. So when I see the quote “But in recent discussions with European experts and officials, I heard the following comment: “A golden decade may be dawning for Europe.” A new narrative is in the air“, a golden dawn for whom? The banks, the exploiters? I would like to see the names of those officials and politicians. I am certain that those names will remain absent. It will be from people who are already wealthy beyond normal and this gravy train is fuelling their golden future day after day, whilst the serious reality is that for those retiring in the next 20 years, they will not have anything left, they are more than not in danger of having to work until their dying day.

So as we see the end of the article with “After a decade of crisis, Europe may now be pulling out of it. More British awareness of this might help avert bad choices.“, yes there are plenty aware of what is presented, yet as nobody seems to be able to muzzle Mario Draghi, as he keeps on pushing Europe into deeper debt whilst the offset is not seen in the presentation ‘Europe’s economic situation has improved‘, many people are getting more and more weary of the issue ‘what else are we being kept in the dark about?‘ This is important because the mistrust is actually growing. The media seems to be all about aiding those who advertise, giving rise to more misinformation. Yet the clear article that shows the whole picture is missing. Even here, in my blog the article is incomplete (and I actually admit to that), because the issue has grown beyond the mere image we can see. We can go to the art-house and watch the painting, but the wood behind the painting, what keeps up the image is not shown, so as the painting is geared again and again with more wood, with more nails and with more support, the people do not see that the painting is gaining weight more and more. The cost of that reinforcement is hidden from view whilst the image it supports remains the same, losing value day after day. Whilst a work of art increases in value, the paining is merely the view from our own window, the value resides with the person looking at it. So look out of your window, it does not matter which window, now consider that the actual value of the view lowers by 0.1% every day, how long until you feel that the house you own does not offer the view you paid for? Now consider that your house has a view valued at £0, what will you lose when you try to sell it? In France houses fell in value to 25% according to some. So as your house lost that, it means that you must keep on living there, which is of course not necessarily a bad thing when you have a nice house in Cognac, yet what happens when the place is in need of repairs, with a full mortgage whilst the value decreased 25%. Can you still repair your place? That is the danger we are in as retirement approaches for millions. The part that Natalie Nougayrède ignores as she probably has a really nice place, perhaps more than one. For tens of thousands of French, living in Cognac (16100) is a dream hat will never become a reality. That whilst the debt of France only increases, and that whilst the European non elected players are increasing the total EU debt whilst maximising the national debts of its members. It is only the board members of the banks that have reasons to smile. That is France and the UK is in a place that is not dissimilar. As people in the UK are pushed towards an anger over a building on fire, as they are outraged over what happens in Finsbury Park. You see, this all matters as it is the first true extremist action from a non-Muslim to a Muslim in London. The air is definitely changing, but not for the better and Europe could be a cauldron of extreme violence from several sides. So as we see and revisit “A European Defence fund is now being discussed, notably for joint procurement efforts” as well as “embrace a new role on foreign policy, security and defence” we need to ask, with what money? As I read it, it seems that some politicians are spending certain funds three times over, implying that debt will rise three times faster. Or perhaps it will be taken out of the national defence budgets? That should go over well when the national defence equipment breaks down whilst pushing the funds into some virtual non military defence setting. It should make any nation more secure! (read: sarcasm in action). Oh as for those needed security upgrades like from Palantir and whatever Raytheon IIS seems to be cooking up at present. So where are these billion dollar plus events getting funding from? So we might think that there is an upbeat to Europe, which would be nice, how good is that view when you contemplate the missing elements and those are just the ones I mention. I am not the European gatekeeper, so there are several issues on both sides of the isle I have not even considered myself.

In the end, I feel that the people of Europe will get a very ruse awakening in January 2018 when the total ludicrous spending by Mario Draghi is set in its complete lighting. At that point will you still feel happy? So as you consider that, consider the reason I mentioned Greece earlier. When we read: “ECB needs ‘more clarity’ on debt relief to buy Greek bonds” (source: Reuters). So as the ECB is buying the Greek debt, or perhaps better stated, invest into Greece and its inability to push the economy in a positive forward momentum. Is this a good or a really really bad investment? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to aid the Greeks to get some relief, but as the Greek government let the culprits of the debt fiasco walk free with their millions, why should non-Greeks pay for that? So when you see “The European Central Bank needs more clarity on what kind of debt relief Greece will get from its international creditors if it is to buy Greek government bonds as part of its monetary stimulus program“. What stimulus? How will the Greek economy get any level of incentive whilst the creditors are still due billions? How misguided is the action (in light of the proclaimed reason)? And of course the IMF will get involved meaning that Wall Street will start giving out ‘advice’ soon thereafter. These steps are just beyond acceptable as the laws of prosecution against the transgressors are stopped and made toothless. So as Europe ‘embraces‘ wave after wave of additional debt, do you still think that the European economy is on the up, or was not listening to the UK a really bad idea? For France it is now too late. As Emmanuel Macron embraces the limelight with Angela Merkel the French will soon see that even as Marine Le Pen was never a given good, at least she was intent of getting France away from the Financial Vultures. Whomever thought that Marine Le Pen was an unacceptable idea, might feel to be on the political moral high ground, yet when their house depletes their value, those persons will not be allowed to complain. They set up the dropped value and accepted the terms of dissolving their value. In this I could have been incorrect only when the ECB did not decide to push quantative easing into play at sixty billion per month. And that is only if clear economic upturn could be proven, yet that too is not the case, it only seems that way when taking the QE out of the balance book. At best the European economy is merely stable at 0%, which means that it is going down by 60 billion a month (plus interest). An element I only mention at the very end because that part is not a clear given and even at 0.1% that requirement grows by 60 million per month, an amount that could have clearly solved a few European issues, and as that also grown by the same amount every month, what other solutions will need to get scrapped?

It is possible that I too missed a few facts, yet did I miss any on the positive side of it all? So at best me missing elements will show the situation to be worse, far worse.

So happy Monday to you and if you feel like hanging yourself, www.cheaprope.co.uk will have what you need, just not want you want.



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After the E3

I tend to not take Kotaku as a source (not for any negative reason), yet they have been hammering the nail on the head, even as they did not say it.  Their part ‘the losers’ starts with an image of the Xbox with the text ‘I witnessed the most powerful console ever‘, yes, hiding behind a technical detail whilst there is no proper space to store it is always a bad idea and I was happy to call the Microsoft presence literally a ‘waste of space‘ in my previous E3 article, so far I stand by it. Consider that the most powerful console has only 50% of storage space compared to a MacBook pro, which cannot do that level of gaming. Consider (taken Seagate 2.5″ drives as an example). The shift from 1TB to 2TB is $30, the shift from 2TB to 3TB is an additional $60. I do acknowledge that the 3TB drive is 8mm thicker, yet the dimensions of the 1TB and 2TB are identical, so twice the size for a mere $30 more, this is what makes the Xbox a joke. Sony might do the same, yet with Sony, you get the run on how to change it and there are good guides to show how to replace the hard drive. Plenty of gamers shelled out the additional $120 to get the space, with Microsoft it is not an option.

Now for the hardware, the Switch showed what fun was like and it has the games and more coming to keep us all happy. Both Sony and Microsoft failed us a little there. Now Sony was more about games, which is good and they just released the PS4pro, so this is not an issue, whilst the way they did it shows long term commitment, which is what gamers like. Now we see a changing market with any PS4 next to a Nintendo switch and it is a good day for gaming. Another visible event is that some of the better Xbox One exclusives are now making their way to Sony, so whilst the Sony exclusives grow, the Xbox exclusives list is starting to shrink. In addition, although not confirmed, the consoles Sony vs Microsoft was at 2:1 in 2015, some sources now give this a 6:1 setting. The PS4 has gone through the roof, with sales now surpassing 60 million consoles, meaning that they have surpassed the PS3 and could surpass the PS2 sales by 2018. I think it is a stretch, but part of me hopes so. Part of me can go towards Steve Ballmer with an ‘I told you so‘ state of mind. The weird think is that neither Mattrick nor Ballmer are stupid, they are decently intelligent and the conclusions I got to did not take a rocket scientist, which beckons who is drawing their marching orders and why are they on some track to force people to push data towards the Azure cloud? Why endanger your console market in this way?

By the way, pretty much NONE of the E3 attending press took a decent look at that, even the Guardian avoided the storage issue, which is a question for another day.

The only questionable part in it was the Bethesda Creation club. I think that it is not just about making money. The developer gets a share (as I understood it), so those with really good mods could stand to make $1-2 per quality mod. Now, I am not much of a mod fan, but there are a few really good ones and I would not begrudge the maker those $2 if need be. It would in addition up the ante for mod creators to become even better, which is not a bad thing. Finally, in some respects, a game like Fallout 3 (PC) went from awesome to beyond legendary, just because of some mods. Now, it might not be for all and that is fair enough, yet if your perception of a 90% game becomes a 98% game through the additional $2-$4 because of 1-2 mods, is that such a bad thing? It is up to the gamer to decide that, but I believe that there is some validity in the option. The validity is for them to come with it and for us to embrace those professional mods, or to ignore them. It should not impact the foundation (the original game) you bought.

In the end Nintendo did what it always does, it did something different, which is why I did not care about the WiiU and the failure I personally see it to be, from those ashes came the Switch and it rocks, going to the edge can get you big failures and massive hits, and the Switch could become their greatest hit yet, good for Nintendo! Yet, in fairness, there are media that really do not agree with me and that is fine. International Business Times was all but creating a shrine in the honour of the Xbox One X. The BBC is on my team when it comes to the Nintendo. They raised the issue that mattered for Nintendo; can the 100M units of Wii be equalled? I believe so! Now the Wii was backward compatible with the GameCube, which was my reason for getting it on day one, beyond that the Wii was a nice machine, yet it lacked a decent array of games. They let me down a little there. The Switch is already surpassing the game titles in the first year, compared to Wii 3 years, so they have that in the bag. Nintendo has in equal measure a few new IP options which can really make the Switch a phenomenal success. So from those points of view, the option of surpassing the 100M consoles seems like an easy mark. Even if the economy does not take a turn for the better, choosing between a Switch at $450 without 4K beats the Xbox One X at $500 with 4K gaming by close to 300%. So by the end of 2018 the console offset ‘Sony:Nintendo:Microsoft’ could end up being ‘13:9:2’. This would show Microsoft on how they truly bet on the wrong marketing horses. So I admit, it is a speculative prediction, yet the sales numbers are not that far off and my expected Nintendo growth is not unrealistic. Now, in the off season, the Switch is adding roughly a million users per month. I expect that the European summer, the upcoming games and upcoming festivity days could set it to a total of 10 million by the end of the year. If the economy kicks off a little stronger, it could go to 12 million, which means that in one year the Switch will equal the total Xbox One systems in the field. As more games come to switch, the added active users will fuel growth even stronger. Good games and word of mouth tends to do that, don’t take my word for it, and just look at the PS2 and PS4.

Yet, what more can we expect with the E3 behind us? Both the critics and people gave Super Mario Odyssey best of show, which fuels growth even more and it won by a substantial margin. Assassins Creed Origin did not win on any console or PC, they all had a different winner which was nice to see. Super Mario Odyssey also became best platformer, which is not really that big a surprise and again There was no win for Assassins Creed, which when we consider the stages of completion of the different games not too bad a negative. Again Nintendo got the best title for Strategy game. In this case ‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle‘, so as the laurels are handed to Nintendo in several ways. IGN wasn’t the only one with a voice, Gamesradar saw another part my way, they to just announced Ubisoft as the winner of 2017. It was a fair call and two brand new IP’s definitely boosts the score for Ubisoft. Gamesradar also shows one element the others did not, the lack of Indie developers. In regards to the PlayStation and the fact that this month Elite Dangerous will make it to PS4 is actually a big thing, it is one of the three top space games and now on PS4. The second is the remastered RPG original System Shock. Nightdrive Studios has enhanced a true original and so far has been able to capture the original suspense that System Shock brought us. The third one is unconfirmed from sources not that reliable, yet if true, Unknown Worlds with their open world RPG Subnautica will make waves. I reckon that the last two might bring additional hype to the Switch if they ever adapt those two for Switch. Games radar concurs; Nintendo is a winner, Xbox a loser. It is a harsh world for Microsoft and they might want to seriously consider in 2017 what their intent truly is, but as stated now the 4K and ‘strongest console ever‘ marketing gets them some media, yet in the end they poisoned their own customer base.

I think in the end it was a great E3, partially because Ubisoft and Nintendo amazed me with actual new stuff, which is what gets any gamer to the station ;-). I feel less negative about Bethesda than some of the ‘professional’ critics. Not sure why so negative as Bethesda delivered plenty, just some of their focus is VR, which might make them the legendary winner next year. In addition their new power puncher Prey was released a month before the E3, so there is that to consider. Finally there are more DLC’s coming for those games many love, so overall, we should not be too grumpy towards Bethesda.

So as the dust settles, we now get to wait another year for the next presentation of marketed hype by all the players. I for one will be very interested to see my own projection of Nintendo upcoming future. They have 5 optional new IP’s at their back and call and if they get 3 up and running, the run for Switch will grow more than even I predict which would be nice too. In the end, I am happy that the Nintendo message ‘it is about fun‘ that got through stronger than the need for 4K, which gives hope for gamers all over the world. For me personally, the moment it is a financial option, the Switch come in, perhaps a trade for my Xbox? I do hope that Nintendo will give us Pikmin, and Metroid Prime one and two, because those are the games I miss, and I will happily buy them again for the Switch, good gaming is just that, more good!


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Prognosticated WaterhouseCoopers

I forgot what fun it is to go up against PwC, I missed slapping them around and the article ‘Netflix and Amazon ‘will overtake UK cinema box office spending by 2020’‘ was a mighty fine reason. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jun/14/netflix-amazon-uk-cinema-box-office-film-dvd-blu-ray-pwc) gives us a few things. The title is fine, I have no issue with that and there is every reason to believe that this is true. I always prefer and love to watch the big screen, but I know that I am a majority here. It is the subtitle that got me. With “Film industry will remain ‘pretty healthy’ but DVD and Blu-ray sales will go into ‘terminal collapse’, says PwC” they gave me a reason to have a go at them. As I search deeper and deeper, we are confronted with a wave of titles that have been released on Blu-Ray and DVD, yet there is no Netflix date, they do not seem to have any titles released to disc from 2017. So that is the first group. I reckon the Marvel fans would race to the shop to pick up Logan as soon as Wolverinely possible. The second thing I found is that a decent list of TV series is absent. This is a lot harder to predict, yet Grimm, Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, Battlestar Galactica and a list of others do not even show on Netflix. This makes the need of Blu-ray consistently there. There is no doubt that those with really good bandwidth will prefer Netflix, so there will be an impact, yet the size of that impact is not a given for now. You see, as Net neutrality becomes more and more endangered, we will see shifts. We saw President Trump put Jessica Rosenworcel in the FCC seat and she apparently champions net neutrality, yet there is a rustling in some bushes, especially the adult entertainment bush. What people ignore, or like me do not care about is that certain ‘settings’ is seen in International Business Times (at http://www.ibtimes.com/july-12-net-neutrality-day-action-will-slow-down-your-pornhub-videos-2552375). It is a place like ‘Pornhub’ that brings the news. The quote “Pai’s proposal would remove the FCC’s authority to enforce net neutrality and other consumer protections while simultaneously allowing companies including Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to create “slow lanes” that force consumers to pay more for certain sites or as a competitive move among corporate telecom rivals“, is one thing, the second quote from a related article gives us “The Washington Examiner reported Trump deliberately withdrew her nomination when he took office. That move temporarily gave Republicans a majority in the FCC. Since then, the FCC has voted to revoke net neutrality regulations. If Trump’s renewed nomination leads to her confirmation, as is expected, then this idealist could return to take on the telecom industry head on.“, these quotes give only an indication of what will happen next, it is seen a little better when we consider the Law Times (at http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201706126217/focus-on/focus-u-s-and-canada-diverge-on-net-neutrality), which is 3 days old. Here we see: “With the possibility of broadband rate regulation looming on the horizon, companies investing in next-generation networks hesitated to build or expand networks, unsure of whether the government would let them compete in the free market,” he wrote, advocating for a return to a “light-touch” approach to Internet regulation“. This is now the indication, as the FCC rolled back a few things, they leave it with the providers and a ‘free market’ to offer ISP packages, which of course comes at different prices. So, as net neutrality comes back, it comes with the option that is linked to a Service Level Agreement and they tend to come with $$$ labels attached. In addition we see “The CRTC’s decision and policy position on “differential pricing” arose out of Videotron’s 2015 launch of Unlimited Music, a premium service that allowed customers to stream as much music as they liked on services such as Spotify without having the data use count against their monthly allowance“, so as we get premium ISP options, how do you think that this will impact the Netflix use? Are you sure that this billion user service will not come with nails attached? You see, the issue is no longer mere net neutrality in speed; it is now ‘the elimination of data caps for home and mobile Internet use for Canadians?‘ This implies not just Canada; it is merely a stepping stone for America as they use Canada as a show case, what will happen when the gamers are added? This is a simple math part. Assassins Creed Unity sold over 2 million copies (exact number unknown), now in December 2014, the owners had to download a patch that was 34GB in size. So consider 2 million downloads of that patch, how congested will the internet get? As the number was global, there is no way to tell how the patch impacted on areas, yet as caps are removed, we will see more and more shabby developers getting new patches out ‘as soon as possible’ making us download patches more and more. So as there are globally well over 105 million Consoles (next Generation only), the millions of Gaming PC’s, now consider the amount of patches and the impact on the internetworking’s, as well as the Internet of Things, because bandwidth hits all options. Now consider 3 massive games released per month, game download and patches and now consider how Netflix is impacted, because it will. I am putting those two groups together because they get their ‘net mobility’ from the very same fuel tank. Now add Spotify and a few other players in this domain. There was never any question that there was a need for net neutrality, yet in all this it goes via an ISP and that player is greedy, so if the cap cannot be pushed in place, or when it is removed, why do you think will happen next? There will be an impact on speed.

This is set in an easy equation (not an accurate one, but it shows certain factors). Fuel = data_amount * speed * users, so if data_amount is infinite, how will that impact speed? The same we see when the user base become massively larger, speed is again impacted. yet there is another consideration, to keep speed high, the number of user and data_amount needs to remain in a state of balance and set at a nominal place, when we realise that this is not an option from day one, speed will always be impacted and that is where the ISP’s are now, creating in a conjoint setting the Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and the option to price it all. The FCC can claim it is out of their hands and as the FCC is about avoiding ‘anything that negatively affects competition and innovation in the sector‘, the FCC rules are altered and whatever comes back might seem nice, but will come with the ability to let the ISP call the shots. As such Netflix, unless it sets ironclad contracts with ISP’s, these users will see a shift of options and usage, at a price that is.

How does this make sense?

You see, even as the numbers are global based, the US has a lot more congestion than the UK at present, yet the current growth as seen, which is before the upcoming 5G data need, the ISP’s have been milking their system and these providers have not been addressing the ‘fuel tank’ they had. Now, this issue is in the UK and Western Europe is nowhere near the mess that the US is in, but as the UK rural growth is now growing at an accelerated rate, the congestion is still becoming a factor, Cisco tells us: “Services like YouTube, iPlayer, Netflix, NOW TV and Amazon Prime Video continue to be a huge draw, which has in turn helped to fuel demand for superfast broadband connections”, in addition, we get “Cisco forecasts that the average Internet user is expected to generate 140GB (Gigabytes) of Internet traffic per month in 2021”, which is average and I expect that to be a conservative low estimate. Now consider that a Netflix movie can take up to 7.5GB, now consider 3 million people in London alone will watch a Saturday movie, and now consider that in the UK another 15 million will do the same, do the numbers start adding up? Even if these 18 million do not start it on the same time, there will be a sizeable overlap, there is enough indication that congestion will be an issue, which either ups the price of the internet, or there will be an increased agitation for Netflix. This is why there is enough questions on ‘terminal decline’, there is in addition consideration that when 5G hits, the curve will steepen by a lot. It is too soon to predict a near exponential growth for data need, but it is not unrealistic, especially when we consider the push from 3G to 4G and data usage curve when most moved to 4G.

Now I go back to these gamers, even as the Statistics state the gamers group to be a steady penetration of around 42%, their data need has grown more than exponential. The Next generation consoles, as well as the growth of being online whilst gaming has grown. So this is not just about downloads and patches, merely the online presence which fuels uploads, Even as some statistics state that they are on average 5 hours per week online, there is enough data to question that. Polygon gave us the title ‘PS4 owners spend about 50,000 years a week gaming’, again a global number, but that already gets us an average of 7 hours a week, which is 40% higher and these are 2016-2017 numbers. As it all comes from the same ‘fuel tank’, I hope that we can clearly see that it impacts the ability to service Netflix. I believe that congestion will be its worst enemy and as we see a shift in costing, the prediction is unlikely to become reality (yet, I am willing to accept that I could be wrong)

So back to the Guardian article! The quote “PwC predicts a “terminal decline” for DVD and Blu-ray sales from £1.22bn in 2016 to just £533m by 2021. The report predicts that internet video will overtake DVD sales this year, but some analysts claim this has already happened“, I believe that the market will adjust in a different way. I believe that the initial shift will be in price. The price of $40 for a new movie cannot be maintained with monthly services and as the margin is large, we much consider that shift. It has been stated a few times that “high-definition mastering costs for Blu-ray will run close to US$40,000 per title with a pressing cost of US$2.00 per Blu-ray disc”, so at 100,000 discs sold, the making comes to about $2.50, so selling at $20 would still leave a large margin, There is a given that mastering goes down in price, yet at this pace, the impact becomes negligible. So when we consider that owning a movie we like at $20 is still a good idea, even if we have Netflix, my view is that there is an impact, yet not to the degree PwC claims.

Could PwC be right?

Yes, that is indeed the case, especially if the economy does not pick up. If the economy stays in the bad shape it currently is in now, Netflix might be the only option for some people, yet the options will still depends on whatever internet options that household has. In that, we see the impact on both sales down as the economy faltered whilst buying movies is equally a non-option.

There is one element that has been ignored by me and it is time to address that now. The mention ‘some analyst’s claim this has already happened‘ is one that needs a look at. It comes from the January article ‘Film and TV ​streaming and downloads overtake DVD sales for first time‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/05/film-and-tv-streaming-and-downloads-overtake-dvd-sales-for-first-time-netflix-amazon-uk). one element is ‘Netflix has rapidly grown to 6 million UK subscribers since launching in 2012‘, which is fine and the issue that physical retail is in decline cannot be countered either. The fact that the UK cost of living has been through the roof; so as we see the price of a Blu-ray being equal to 2 months of Netflix, people adjusted their budget. Yet in all this, the internet bandwidth remained an issue. As long as it could be pushed through Wi-Fi and more importantly the Free Wi-Fi places, people were fine, yet just like some of the more advanced filters, when those places start actively blocking Netflix, the user game changes too. You see, Spotify demands cellular data and does not stream via Wi-Fi. So remember the earlier formula? Spotify has 50 million users. Now consider that the other elements were speed and data amount. As these services grow congestion will be a logical consequence, meaning that the ISP’s have reasons to push through the SLA solution, solving all their issues and none of yours.

Netflix is here to stay, nobody opposes that, there will be an impact on DVD/Blu-ray sales and nobody opposes that either. It is the part of ‘terminal collapse‘ that I oppose and I am certain that at some point it will happen, yet not in the time period PwC says it will be. I could be wrong of course, but I don’t think so.

If they were wrong, then nothing is lost, for that PwC analyst there could be a golden future in show business for them as a the new member in Orange is the new Black Season 7 named ‘Wall Street Bitches‘ (speculated conjecture).

In the end?

In the end, the Guardian article does have one larger benefit; it is bringing congestion issues to the surface, as such the article had a good side, In the UK most people know it as ‘Internet Rush Hour’, yet what happens when the infrastructure will no longer provide for that side? The BBC gave us in 2011 “UK broadband speeds drop by an average of 35% from their off-peak highs when most people are online in the evening, according to a report”, yet the growth that we have seen then was at the beginning of 4G, even as the ISP’s upgraded their equipment, the user base In the last year alone, went up by 1.5% for the entire population. In addition, over the last 5 years, the amount of inactive internet users decreased by 13.3%, which is a lot, also consider that the UK Netflix user base is expected to double between 2015 and 2020; these numbers show a dangerous part. The largest one is that the numbers seem to have been incorrectly speculated. I get there as the growth of subscriptions grew by 1.8 million during 2015-2016, which was almost a third of the 100% expected growth. You might think that the Guardian article is therefore a lot more accurate, I still disagree, merely for the fact that congestion is a larger risk, which now gets us back to the Net Neutrality issue. Because as this grows, ISP’s will have additional ammunition to start thinking and pushing for Service Level Agreements on consumer markets, it is what the FCC sees as ‘anything that negatively affects competition and innovation in the sector‘, yet what the ISP sees as commercial opportunity. Here I truly hope to be wrong, yet some sources (read: ISPreview) are already revealing prices to rise close to 10%, in addition, the prices will rise even more next year due to the 2017 Digital Economy Act. This is where we get back to the ‘Pornhub’ part. You see, I give not a toss about them, but they illustrated a part that other sites are now getting into. When we look at Endgadget, we get: “There’s one slight issue with age gates in that we’re still no clearer on how they are to be implemented. Proving age using credit card details, the electoral roll and pay-monthly mobile phone contracts have all been suggested, but the government has admitted that forcing you to expose your identity might be a step too far. And so, it’ll likely be some time before this new law can be enforced as the government and newly appointed regulator decide on the best and least intrusive way for porn sites to verify age.” You see, it is not about the fact that it is about adult content, it is about the option to classify, so consider that via politicians (never a good start) to settle on what defines the boundary and needs more than mere access. It is the first time that there would be commercial option to slice services, not cutting them, but restraining the maximum bandwidth. When we see the quote ‘the new data-sharing regime effectively being lawful already’, we might think ‘government’ but that is the least of our concern, it is “Any business that handles large volumes of personal data is required to employ a data-protection officer under the new rules, and any breach must be disclosed within 72 hours”, you might think that this covers it, but what about back-ups, what about social media with multiple ownership over a larger amount of nations? It is the commercial value that is being played with and the EU does not have a great track record when it comes to commercial versus private interest. So as these elements come into play, there are now already three upcoming levels that would cater to ‘Service Level Agreement’, which is defined to charges a person has. It gives one more level that Net Neutrality is already a thing of the past. This is seen in “Reed Hastings seemed to walk away from fighting for net neutrality but his company has done a big 180”, so in the two days that I worked on this, Netflix did a massive corporate ‘about face’, the direct implication of ISP’s and the limit of bandwidth is showing now, almost a year before it actually hits us. News Network (at http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/after-ceo-downplayed-the-importance-of-net-neutrality-netflix-changes-tact-and-rejoins-the-fight/news-story/654c63348e3dbd4f7d697fe322eeb350) also gives us “major Telco company AT & T is in bed with media conglomerate Time Warner. Because of this high level of “vertical integration” there’s a lot more scepticism in the US that companies will be compelled to engage in anti competitive and “non mutual” practices”, which I already knew. Yet the clarity as given in my earlier setting in ‘anything that negatively affects competition and innovation in the sector‘, is now showing its fruition and that is before the dozens of new 5G services come to our mobiles and TV settings. As this collides, and it will! People will happily return to a worry free Blu-ray ad DVD, if the makers adjust pricing and remove the 5 iteration contribution application, the discs will be here to stay for at least a decade or (hopefully) two more.


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E3, a first view

The E3 is in full swing for a few more days, yet let’s take an early look at it all. The first interest was of course the Bethesda show. Now, some have video blogged that it was ‘disgusting’. I do not agree! Mind you Bethesda was not strong with actual NEW stuff, but the VR edition of Fallout 4 and Doom is certainly a nice call. We saw more Skyrim, (Switch), we got to see Legend (the card game) and we got to see ‘Wolfenstein 2’ and ‘the Evil Within 2’ and more. That was not all but it was good to see all this. I agree that the show did not blow our minds to the degree it did last year, but Bethesda is delivering, I even saw some great stuff when we consider going to Morrowind online. Most of these trailers seem to be intro movies and not a lot of actual play time, but we will see more as we go to the actual Bethesdaland part of E3. Next is one that did rock da house. Yes, am talking about Ubisoft. I remain sceptic and distant when it comes to Assassins Creed, but we will get more on that later. What was stunning is the part I pounded on in 2015, yes two years ago (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2015/09/11/wakey-wakey/), I wrote in my article titled ‘Wakey, Wakey‘ “The weird part is that Ubisoft sat on a treasure, Black Flag could have been the pirate RPG Sid Meier could not make because technology stopped him and marketing relied on the AC brand to propel something that was close to utterly perfect“, now we see the announcement of ‘Skull and Bones‘ which is pretty much what I wrote about 2 years ago. However, this is not set near the founding beaches of Spicy Rum, it is in the heart of the Dutch West Indian Company, the ‘VOC’ The Indian Ocean and the beaches of Indonesia. An area where the ‘trade in spices’ was regarded as dealing in green gold; the seas that the Japanese Silk ships required to pass towards the ‘civilisation’ of Europe. As treacherous as the Caribbean’s and just as lucrative. The graphics and intro looked awesome and the game itself, for what we saw was impressive. The game offers 5v5 options as well as solo play and could be the Pirates game that Sid Meier fans have been waiting decades for. Yet that was merely small fry. Yes, small fry is literally the word. The stage started with what could be a new beginning for tactical games. The Switch game Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle will be bringing down the house. This is one of these titles that is the reason why people by a certain console. Ubisoft is delivering this time around and it could make the Switch the most popular console this upcoming Thanksgiving, St. Nicholas Day and Christmas. Even as some titles are not showing until early 2018, Ubisoft did set a quality stake of mind this year and it might be the hard needed boost they desperately required. In this Microsoft decided not to disappoint us by disappointing us almost completely. Their proclaimed ‘world’s most powerful console’ is anything except professional. The fact that they still have not learned that a 1TB drive does not bring home the bacon, and therefor pushing people to get additional EXTERNAL drives is just a near laughable bump in the world of storage. It sets the stage for the name Microsoft, which is now in danger of being a brand for micro (read: small) and soft (read: weak) gamers. So as we see the quote “Under the hood, Microsoft One X has 6 teraflops of graphical processing performance, which is 1.8 teraflops more than that of Sony’s PS4 Pro. The console uses a custom GPU that’s claimed to be more powerful than that of the Xbox One and PS4 Pro” from various sources, we see basically a lack to save what you need, so you are shifting software back and forth soon thereafter. Consider a console that is proclaimed more powerful than all others, which runs out of storage within 15 games. Is that worth the $500+ price tag? This leads me to the question on my consideration ‘what a waste of space their stand was’, it is harsh, but when you decide to not do your job in regards to the gamer in us, being soft is no longer an option. From that, the good news is that the iconic games (as I personally call them) that are out on Xbox One, and also were on the early access title list are coming to PS4 before the end of this year, so there is all manner of happy thoughts of dumping my eggbox console which could soon be regarded as a ‘has been’ before it got some actual strength, So yes, the Xbox one is less a failure than the WiiU, but not by much. Should you doubt this (always valid), consider that the Xbox One X is launched with 42 4K games, so consider that 50% of that should be maxing out the hard drive, do you still think you got a good deal? In comparison my 2TB PS4 is currently at 67% filled, none of it 4K, none of it the super high res that 4K could offer I do have a fair amount of games on it. Still, consider the games of the last year NBA (41GB), Forza5 (32GB) and Battlefield4 (33GB), 3 games using well over 10% of your total drive. Consider the AC-Unit patch (yes, patch), which was a 38GB, still feel good? Now consider that Microsoft seems to reserve 138GB on the Xbox One, I am assuming that it will be even more on the One X, but that is not a given, so the system and 3 games, that makes up for 25% of the entire storage system. Now, do you get the idea on how stupid Microsoft is regarding storage? There are games that do not require that much space, but with 4K gaming, storage will go fast, much faster than you think and that is something PC gamers have seen in the past, yet they can add drives and upgrade drives easily. An additional $110 gets you 2TB more, something consoles do not allow for. Oh, and if you like high end shooting games, space will go pretty fast.

So as we are deciding where to go, the E3 is showing us that gaming happiness is a PS4 with the Nintendo Switch next to it. Yes, this is n consoles, not PC! There is one clarity, which is me, as a deadly critic of Ubisoft is claiming now, from what ‘For Honor’ last year and ‘Skull and Bones’ showed this year, there is a need for high end PC gaming, yet the price tag is not small, but if you got the $$$, ‘Skull and Bones’ will show you why a high end PC was worth the trip. When it comes to Electronic Arts, my view is mixed. If you love Battlefield and Battlefront, you are in for a good time. Those who are not into that game category are losing out somewhat. We can churn this in a variety of spins, especially when we consider the not achieved hype that Mass Effect Andromeda got. I reckon it is a year where EA needs to figure out where it could fit and fix what was not right. Apart from that EA will launch its collection of sport games, so I reckon that the large run on the shops to get FIFA18 is not far off.

One would think that Sony rocked us all with what they had to offer, yet that is not really the case. Those who love ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ will be happy to see that a Next generation remake is on the horizon and here to we got a chunk full of VR and DLC. Last year’s new IP was shown again and no release date in sight, more spectacular God of War, now showing early 2018, so there is that to look forward to. Some other titles from last year were not shown and no release date, so will see that when it is ready.

At present the only part missing is the Nintendo presentation, yet they showed part during the Ubishow and what they showed looked amazing. I reckon that they have a few more gems, which just ups the need for the 3DS and the Switch, which is already a growing factor for all those loving a game or two.

I have to say that E3 2017 had more than one awesome surprise and those who had to really score decided to stay their hand and keep others in the uncertain dark. From that I have to admit that at present Ubisoft seems to be the winner of the 2017 show.


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