Category Archives: Media

A little more slamming

It is only one day from release and the initial findings I saw, with which I stand, needs adjustment. You see, those reviewers who got the full copy, learned a few more things, and actual gameplay shows issues that all the YouTube play throughs never did. One of the better review sources Eurogamer, gives us (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-03-19-mass-effect-andromeda) with quotes like: “BioWare’s fourth Mass Effect smacks it over the head with a prospector’s shovel and boots it out the airlock during the first few hours of play. You’re left with a zesty but unsurprising third-person shooter“, which is not a good start, and it goes down after that with “go to a waypoint, scan 10 Remnant collapsible shelving units with your ugly wrist-mounted display, scoop up five mineral deposits for some lazy boffin back on the Nexus, blow up three raider outposts, and so forth” as well as “Andromeda is most disappointing when it’s at its best“, this reflects the subtitle of the review: “mediocre writing and tepid quests add up to what is probably BioWare’s worst RPG yet“, this is not good for an RPG that has been 2 years in the waiting. A lack of proper QA, not unlike Ubisoft has been through gives one other contemplation. The issues shown (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CPYw5uxER4), show us a few disturbing issues with the game and animations. What I found most interesting is the excuses that the narrators of the review give. The issue is proper testing which is now shown to have been absent to more than just a small degree.

There are a collection of additional videos when we look at Mass Effect Andromeda, some are partially funny to hear, but they will not give you the quality review that Eurogamer gives. The nightmare that BioWare now faces as it has received a mere 77% from IGN, gives that those not willing to pay full price might want to wait 6-8 weeks and pick it up for $29 as shops will now be stuck with massive piles of something that the gamers at large will not want at full price. I did like the mention that Dan Stapleton gives (IGN). “Mass Effect Andromeda has a few great moments that recapture the highpoints of the original great trilogy“. It shows that EA is not on the ball and more important, the initial presentation teaser is exactly what we thought it was, much ado about nothing.

So the RPG gamers can now relax and realise there is only Bethesda that as a real RPG maker remains (OK, I admit, Guerilla games is the new kid on the block), which is both unsettling and problematic, because actual competition will breed diversity and push cutting edge gaming forward, a party of one does not tend to do that. An improvement issue that is not coming our way any day soon, so it seems. I have my own sense of humour in all this, as I created a new open world game in my mind that already outdoes Mass Effect. I only wish I had the programming skills to make it a reality. So as you see, we are all flawed, although it seems that Electronic Arts is at present a lot more flawed than most others. The only thing remaining is the contemplation of what to think of certain reviews (like for example in Empire Online) where we see: “Combat clicks far better than it did in previous instalments, however, providing a twitchy experience more akin to a dedicated third-person action game than an RPG with some shooty elements tacked on“, a view I would have partially agreed with, yet several movies now show that to be not the case. Still, this would be a matter of opinion, and that reviewer has every right to feel this way. As you might remember, I made a similar statement last week, but clearly based on videos with playthroughs shown to me. The full reviews a few days later show a very different image. Even before the awakening by Eurogamer, there was no way that the game showed me “Andromeda’s superior combat allows you to play like a space marine, Sith lord, or the best combination of both“, in this I think I agree with several YouTube Bloggers that BioWare is not off to a solid start and a Mass Extension of additions and improvements will be required to show the next game not to be as good, but basically to be worthy to stand in the shadow of Mass Effect 2, which should be regarded as an issue on several levels.

I will be honest, the teaser trailer offered on June 12th, 2014 was the start of something that should have been a lot better than the end result that will be officially released tomorrow.

 

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The failure of a current generation

If we look at the failures that we have seen going all the way back to the 80’s, there is a growing concern that the United Nations might be the biggest failure of all. Before I go into the deeper more complex parts, let’s take a look at some of these failures, whilst we need to realise that other optional successes have no impact at all.

June 2016, it might be one of the few times where the existence of a whistle-blower was essential. Anders Kompass, director of field operations at the UN human rights office in Geneva was suspended because he became the whistle-blower on exposing the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/29/un-aid-worker-suspended-leaking-report-child-abuse-french-troops-car). A man suspended whilst elements in the United Nations were on an eager path to distort the truth. The Deutsche Welle (at http://www.dw.com/en/bolkovac-un-tries-to-cover-up-peacekeeper-sex-abuse-scandal/a-19082815) gives us: “continued scandals surrounding the UN botched, covert and now overt, attempts to remove, terminate and discredit those who blow the whistle on their deeds. The terms cover-up and whistle-blower are common within the walls of the United Nations and peacekeeping missions“, in addition we see “The cases involved the officers from many foreign countries, including the USA, Pakistan, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, government contractors, and local organized criminals. The human rights investigators were never allowed to fully investigate, the suspects were immediately removed from the mission or transferred to other missions“. When we look at the French side we see: “A statement from the defence ministry said the government “was made aware at the end of July 2014 by the UN’s high commission for human rights of accusations by children that they had been sexually abused by French soldiers.” An investigation was opened shortly after by Paris prosecutors, it said. “The defence ministry has taken and will take the necessary measures to allow the truth to be found,” the statement added. “If the facts are proven, the strongest penalties will be imposed on those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on soldiers’ values.”“, the issue now remains that as far as published there have been no convictions, no prosecutions have been completed after nearly 4.5 years.

March 2011, an armed conflict rises in Syria, within a year this conflict goes out of control and Syria becomes a nation where extermination and mass slaughter are the foundations of what should laughingly be regarded as Arab Spring. Syria becomes a cesspool for growing extremists and terrorists. The UN influence to broker anything substantial is set to 0%, as Syria does not have the massive resources the rich nations need, Syria is seemingly isolated so it can kill all opposition until the population becomes zero.  As the participating nations reach 45, we see that no actual incursion is ever made by NATO. Both are afraid of a new Vietnam and with the USA being pretty much bankrupt, no military activities on the ground will be possible. The failure of the United Nations grows and grows and reaches new heights (or is that a new extreme lows?) on 21st August 2013, when a chemical attack hits the Ghouta region of the Damascus countryside. In addition, on several occasions, some as recent as February 2017, the Syrian government forces have been using coordinated Chlorine strikes in a strategy to retake Aleppo. There have been no UN sanctions as Russia and China voted against these resolutions, making the United Nations the joke it has been for far too long.

So far, from these two events alone, the UN shows to be a talk, talk and no action operation that is costing the nations of the world billions, whilst nothing comes from it. The UN only has itself to thank for its own failure to get anything done. It might be not too diplomatic, yet when I see quotes like “worst man-made disaster since World War II” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein seems to be stating the obvious that nobody will fix or act against. I wonder, if these ‘talks’ would have been happening in World War 2, how many nations would now have German as their national language? Do not think I am joking, because the evidence clearly shows that if the UK did not start its offensive against Germany in September 1st, 1939 (together with France mind you), Germany would have been able to complete several lines of defence that would have made Normandy no longer an option. In addition, the Battles of Salerno and Hürtgen Forest would have gone very differently. With limited losses in Hürtgen Forest, the Germans would have been able to counter much stronger in the Battle of the Bulge, making that victory as such a debatable point. These elements show just how cheap talk would have been and as such, a United Nations that has been regarded as talk only and no actions, the existence of the United Nations becomes more and more a point of debate. Even when we try to find what the UN costs the people we find next to no clear information in the Media, the UN gives us ‘Assessment of Member States’ contributions to the United Nations regular budget for the year 2017‘, with the United States paying $610,836,578 (22%), this is excluding the peacekeepers of course. Yet, when we see the UK paying $112,569,794 (4%), we need to wonder where this all is spend on, especially when we see ‘Credit from staff assessment‘, which in case of the UK is $11 million. The Netherlands at 1.4% has a $41,148,173 contribution, minus the $ 3,767,838 ‘Credit from staff assessment‘. So is it any wonder that every party wants to talk until the seas are dry? I cannot state that this shows the inaction of the United Nations to act, but we can wonder how Syria can act with “the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent two letters to the UN Secretary-General and the Director of the UN Security Council about what it defines as “Israeli aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic in outrageous defiance of international law, UN resolutions, the sovereignty of Syria and the ban on the attacking its lands.”“, this whilst no one in the UN is achieving anything regarding the use of Chemical weapons by the Syrian government on civilian populated areas. After 6 years, the war gets messier and the failing of the United Nations more and more clear. At present there are 11 million displaced Syrians. The information becomes a larger issue when we consider the Jordan Times (at http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/jordan-second-largest-refugee-host-worldwide-%E2%80%94-unhcr), they give us “Of all countries, Turkey sheltered the greatest number of refugees, hosting 2.8 million by mid-2016. It was followed by Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon (1 million), Iran (978,000), Ethiopia (742,700), Jordan (691,800), Kenya (523,500), Uganda (512,600), Germany (478,600) and Chad (386,100)“, which is largely confirmed. You see the part that is not confirmed is “UNHCR reported that there are 4,289,994 Syrian “persons of concern” of whom 630,776 are registered as refugees in Jordan. There are about 1.4 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, only 20 percent are living in the Za’atari, Marjeeb al-Fahood, Cyber City and Al-Azraq refugee camps“, this implies that Jordan is dealing with 800,000 floating refugees. Yet the Refugee Fact Sheet, (at http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/JordanFactSheetFebruary2017-FINAL.pdf) gives us: “the population of concern, A total of 728,955 individuals“, so there are numbers out there and all over the place. To some extent it is set to the different moment of measuring, yet some of the numbers are way too far of several marks. The question becomes what has the United Nations achieved in protecting and tracking these people over the last three years? This as well as the blunders we see in Greece, (source: the Guardian) we get “the $803m total represents the most expensive humanitarian response in history. On the basis that the money was spent on responding to the needs of all 1.03 million people who have entered Greece since 2015, the cost per beneficiary would be $780 per refugee. However, the bulk of these funds was used to address the needs of at least 57,000 people stranded in Greece after the closure of the borders on 9 March 2016, and on this basis the cost per beneficiary is $14,088“, we are looking at staggering amounts where 70% is basically wasted, down the toilet as some would state. In addition we get: “The decision by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to classify the situation in Greece as an emergency turned what had been a backwater posting into a major placement almost overnight. An office with a dozen staff who had previously spent much of their time overseeing contract workers assisting the Greek asylum service expanded rapidly. The UNHCR team in Greece expanded to 600 people across 12 offices. Roughly one-third of the workforce were international staff“, I wonder with a Greek unemployment rate why this was necessary. I have been to UN and SC sites, so I know that some functions need to be international for a few reasons, yet with the number as high as 34% beckons the question why not give Greek youth the chance to intern, make some money and get experience? We all knew that this was not going to be a short term issue and at present, if the Turkish deal falls through, there is every rick that some places will have border people sleeping round the clock as 200,000 refugees try their options going into Greece. So this situation is not over by long shot. It is in that part where I would opt that Vasilis Kikilias and Giannis Panousis fumbled a few of their own balls whilst being in charge of the Ministers of Public Order and Citizen Protection. It is not clear what mess they left for Panagiotis Kouroumblis to look at, but I reckon that there are a few issues that up to today are still not dealt with (I apologise if I am wrong), yet with the imminent risk of 200K more mouths to feed, pressures will only increase and that is right on the eve of the French elections where Marine Le Pen can claim ‘We are about to get hundreds of thousands of more refugees and security risks, what will Emmanuel Macron do?‘, if she gets to ask that question loud enough, Macron would sit with a non-response as the French Infrastructure might be in a much better place than Greece is, but such an overload of people is not something that they can easily deal with. Even as this group needs to get via several nations, if they get the jump from Greece to Italy, it will soon be game set and lost match to Emmanuel Macron. Oh, and that is before this pressure hits Italy in addition in more than one way, time will tell what it starts. Yet, most can agree that several issues will go from bad to worse in a very short amount of time.

All these events show the bitter disappointment that the people have started to realise that the United Nations has become. Like the EEC councils, the UN is seen too much as an optional gravy train where people network 7 figure positions whilst they facilitate for whatever needs to be done. These are not my own words, these are thoughts that come from a legion of blogging sites, newspapers and information sites. The UN seems to have lost too large an amount of cohesion with reality.

Another part that we see in Greece, again from the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/how-greece-fumbled-refugee-crisis), is seen in “But in the last couple of years Greek migration officials have had access to one of the largest money pots administered by the European Commission, the aforementioned AMIF and ISF funds. These funds are relatively complicated to access. They are arranged in seven-year programmes, commencing in 2014, and required Greece to set up a managing authority and develop a strategic plan. When Syriza took office it found little of this groundwork had been done by the previous conservative administration“, which shows us that Greece had a separate option to resolve a few thousand jobs with added opportunity to overhaul their registrations systems, whilst the United Nations would foot the bill for up to 500 million. So optional Greek industry that could grow to some extent as an identification template would be introduced. Now, this is not the easiest task or given that it would be a success, but it was an option for a larger seat at the table at the UNHCR, this is just one of the elements where I stated that some of the gentlemen fumbled the ball.

All this and Rock and Roll too?

That is the matter we are with now, because as the larger players have been questioning their contributions (the USA most loudly), so how is this about the UN and not the nations I mentioned? That is actually easier to state. You see as the UN representatives kept on talking, no one decided to take charge and as such, the discussions continue as no actual victories are achieved. A large slice of the Syrian population has been witness to that, in addition, so are the victims of sexual abuse through inaction by the United Nations.

Any organisation, especially the size of the United Nations, will have its issues and its barriers, yet, the inactions to the size we currently see is a new low for the UN. The allowance for vetos, opposition, especially when it goes at the expense of human lives it becomes the debate whether the UN has anything left to offer, you only need to ask any Syrian refugee to hear clear doubt, especially after 6 years of too little actions and for the most no solutions. We as a global population have failed these victims who turned to us for help in the most disgraceful of ways.

 

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The finality of French freedom

Even as the world is looking at the Dutch elections, we see initially that the biggest fear in the Netherlands is gone. Geert Wilders is still number 2, yet the VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) did not lose as many seats as initially expected. This is good for the current Prime Minister, yet not as good for Geert Wilders as other parties had vowed not to work with him, no matter how many seats they got. Well, the initial numbers are out and now we see that the Netherlands will have some tough times. To get the next Cabinet to work they will need 4 parties, which becomes a small issue. The easiest alliance would be involving the CU (Christian Union), yet any medical ethical issue would cause concern on a few levels (the usual suspects like the pill, abortion, prolife issues). The second option is with the Green Left party (GroenLinks), which is predominantly youth driven, here the VVD will have some issues and there seems to be a level of unwillingness to work together. Now, the first option gives only one seat in majority, the second option gives a little more space to breath, but neither is a great match, both are decent matches. The Dutch labour party has been decimated. It went from 38 seats to 9 seats (Source: Volkskrant). They will need a serious amount of time to lick their wounds. No matter how this all fares. If Geert Wilders can keep his cool, he would keep a few options down the track. Here it is anyone’s guess what will happen next. I predicted that there would be no going around the PVV, yet I was proven wrong. Green Left grew a lot stronger and the VVD kept a few more seats than most predicted, so there is that too. Yet, with this situation, Nexit has basically become a non-issue, it is off the board for the Netherlands, so as that certainty becomes a reality we see that Mario Draghi wasted not even a second to give the French people his demands and ultimatum. In  the Express (at http://www.express.co.uk/finance/city/777170/Euro-irrevocable-ECB-draghi-Le-Pen-Frexit-vote-warning), we see the headline “‘The Euro is IRREVOCABLE’ Euro Bank chief fires warning at Le Pen over Frexit vote promise“, so if we would be a lot less diplomatic than we ought to be, we would state ‘Mr Looney Tunes has decided to be a slamming tactical in his claims‘. The two published facts given are “The ECB chief insisted the Front National leader was not a threat to the euro’s future, which he said was a measure of solidarity among members. His comments come after Ms Le Pen’s promise to call a vote over France’s membership of the monetary union if she wins the election in May“, You see, with smaller members pushing pressure Draghi had no chance at all, now, he has a few more options by trying to persuade the system players with “a measure of solidarity among members“, which I can counter with ‘perhaps spending the trillion you did not have was perhaps not the best idea?’ In that we can agree, we can disagree, but we all know that no matter the direction, it was a pretty dangerous step to take. It is the next two parts that are the cause of issues: “Market worries over the presidential race have increased as polls charted the rising popularity of the right-wing candidate, with France’s borrowing costs jumping, while the euro suffers sell-offs. In an apparent shot at the right-wing candidate, Mr Draghi today dismissed fears of the breakdown of the currency as ‘unrealistic’“.

Is that so? If that actually was the case, he would not have needed to reinforce it, didn’t he?

So the two parts are ‘with France’s borrowing costs jumping, while the euro suffers sell-offs‘ and ‘the breakdown of the currency as “unrealistic”‘, no, it is only unrealistic as only Brexit is coming and until now, we have seen levels of misrepresentation and downright corporate ‘blackmail’ to anyone not singing the false tune Mario Draghi is giving us. Last week there was some economic recovery, but the sharp sell-off that had been visible is still a factor, that whilst the Dutch Nexit was never a true reality, we all knew that. France is another matter, the French has not seen decent economic days, for at least two administrations, which is why France is a big deal, that whilst they represent one of four anchors keeping the Euro in place. With the British anchor removed, the stress on the three is intense, the Euro cannot continue with the remaining two anchors that is the desperate game Draghi is facing now. Weakness and non-decisions from 2012 onwards have caused this mess, and of course he is not done yet. As we see in Reuters, last Monday he stated “If non-high-tech companies adopt more innovative technology, that would provide a boost for European productivity“, speaking as the European Central Bank President last Monday, it that so? With what funds? Innovations requires money, such steps have a cost. To get into deeper debt without the true prospect of revenue and incomes is too dangerous a game to play for too many companies. Many who think in such short-sighted ways will not survive the next fiscal year. In all this, it all hangs on how the elections are going in France. Mario Draghi might be voicing ‘a measure of solidarity among members‘ but the people behind the French member have been in a bad place for too long. In this there is even more pressure growing from Italy. Bloomberg gives us ‘production declines after rising for three straight months‘ as well as ‘Unemployment unexpectedly rose to 11.9% in fourth quarter‘, more important, the production loss is the biggest one in 5 years and pretty much nullifies the last two months of growth. That whilst we see a growth in unemployment. It is in this light that France should consider its options. That is, in equal light should reflect on whom they need to support in an election that will have a massive impact on the course that France will take into the future seas of turmoil. Steering towards the new elected President. What is equally disturbing is that the French political lines are changing, to a much larger degree than ever before, for reasons that are actually slightly unsettling.

The question becomes why?

You see, French Senator Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne is now endorsing Emmanuel Macron, we knew that François Fillon is pretty much on his way out and François Hollande never had a chance; so is this an act to enforce any party that is not Front National? Consider that question, it is now no longer for some to support the net best candidate and the best winner. No, there are now signs that certain power players will unite in backing whomever is most likely to stop Marine Le Pen. Certain plays have become this dangerous, not for what she is, who she is and what she stands for. No, certain members seem to fear and not embrace economic change. The Status Quo is everything. In equal measure, Macron has won the endorsements of those abandoning Benoit Hamon. Some press have even resorted to headlines like: ‘Hamon plans radical departure from EU ‘blabla’, some parties are now extremely worried, especially as the Status Quo groups could lose their Billion Euro gravy train. This is almost a unique situation where we witness the change of approach towards the need of individual economic momentum, which now trumps the electing the need for the good of France (I am not stating or implying which politician represents that).

My evidence?

There are several pieces in the more respectable news carriers. In this case a first is the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/cbf9a59c-04a1-11e7-aa5b-6bb07f5c8e12), who gives us: “Fifteen years on, however, the anti-far right “republican front” to stop the FN appears to be crumbling“, which is only an indication. The chart that they present in that article gives a very nice indication of the splitting of votes. The strong push from Fillon and Hamon towards Macron is almost unheard of. The abstention group is however still large enough to make an impact, yet the shift from 24.5% to 60.5% is also a little more than amazing. Such landslide victories are so rare, that seeing it twice in a row is no longer a mere coincidence. In this Mario Draghi could actually end up being the contributor to the success of Marine Le Pen. As he proclaims the quotes I used earlier, the large group that currently represents the younger voter that currently seems to be set in Emmanuel Macron camp at present, could realise between now and voting day that the words of Mario Draghi are hollow at best and that his ‘proclamation’ will be replaced hours after the election by apologies and words of hardship whilst claims of better economic times cannot be fortified or made into any level of reality on any way shape or form.

In that light, is it not weird that an investment banker who has never been elected to political office, is at present not a projected frontrunner, is forecasted to carry an optional 60% for round two? That isn’t just unheard of, it is a statistical anomaly and in the political field, such landslide levels are a no-no to say the least, especially twice in a row. Someone is buttering the electoral sandwiches in new unheard ways. Now, France or not, we can agree that extreme vote options like Marine Le Pen tends to sway a decent amount of people to go towards ‘anyone but this one‘, yet the numbers at which this is happening at is just too weird. In this we see that both Bloomberg and Citigroup are playing their own little game, especially as the collapse of the Euro would be devastating to those involved. At https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-15/le-pen-win-would-wipe-out-25-from-french-bank-shares-citi-says, we see ‘Le Pen Win Would Wipe Out 25% From French Bank Shares, Citi Says‘, which is really intense and I wonder what evidence they can present, especially after these players got it so massively wrong after the Brexit vote. So the first quote “A victory for Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections would cripple the country’s banking stocks, says Citigroup Inc” is one that cannot be countered easily, yet when we see the graphics on that page, we also get: “The analysts predict declines of 30 percent and 34 percent for Credit Agricole SA and Natixis SA, respectively“, there it is, everyone’s favourite French government banker (Natixis) would lose 34% value, which would send anyone reeling, but in this case as the information as I presented them in my blog articles over the last two years, this drop would be impacting long term plans and Natixis does have a decent amount of fingers in all sorts of government pies. And the quote “Even though Le Pen’s policy plans threaten to shake up the country’s banking system, financial institutions including Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and Axa SA have avoided contact with her team“, which is also really weird, would you not try to talk to a candidate and even if they are all in the mindset that her approach is wrong, the veritable truth is actually in a direction on a path that is 180 degrees from shown. A dialogue trying to understand her path and showing the evidence to other directions and perhaps even alternative ways for both to get what they want.

Yet as we have seen, certain players are in the Segregation, Isolation and Assassination mode. Which is me stating that some shady solutions which are usually limited to HVT’s are now optionally tactics in which the larger corporations will engage to keep their status quo, this is nothing new, but it has never been this outspokenly clear before, there is that much at stake for them. Even if it is merely political assassination, Fillon is already crying those words and the setting towards the investment banker Emmanuel Macron is now clearly visible. I reckon that in this regard, the switch by French Senator Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne came slightly too soon, too soon as an increasing amount of voters are now wondering why the change, because such a shift would not have been needed until after the first round. As I personally see it, French Senator Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne used himself to create a momentum towards Emmanuel Macron, an act that will only create more momentum over time. This I see as the second piece of evidence that this time, the elections are about something a little more unsettling. I wonder if the French people see it in the same light.

In the Bloomberg article we see the included wrong vision too. As you see “losing the May 7 runoff against more business-friendly leaders such as Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron” gives us the ‘implied‘ fairness of two candidates, yet at present, two days after this, we see that Fillon got gutted, not surviving on his present 19.5% setting (3rd place), he gets to be the chance for Macron to solidify the pole position.

Citi is currently doing to France what several UK players did to anyone supporting Brexit, the question becomes: ‘Will the French voter realise this in time?

More important for Marine Le Pen will be whether this would realign those who are now predicted to go the Macron way. Time will tell and when we start seeing accusations in 2018, 2019 on how big business is influencing French votes, you better realise now that the warning signs have been all over the place and the non-intervention seems to be relying on the press and a select group of financial power players. By the way, it does not stop there, it goes on in several direction. Now, I do not feel inclined to prove them all wrong, it would make this merely a ‘he said-she said’ debate, what you should consider is the final part that Bloomberg gives us, “the analysts predict” is in the middle. You see, predictions require models, they require data and a few more little titbits that make up for the forecasting models. This model has to deal with two elements it cannot correct for as it has never happened before. First is the fact that President Hollande is currently the least favourite French president in modern history, and soon to be the only one term President in French modern history, so one of the data outliers is based on a premise that had never happened before, the second part is the ‘forecast’ that an politician, never elected in public office before becomes the person growing to over 60% in one round, as I see it, another prediction that is not a given. Are you getting the image? Whatever forecast we are introduced to will be a lot less accurate as several elements in play have never seen the light of day ever before. As such, there are serious questions in play on any prediction given in this election, no matter in which direction it goes.

I personally believe that Marine Le Pen is not the given loser (with 60% opposition), there are a few elements in play, but in equal measure I do not believe that Emmanuel Macron will be the given winner to the degree forecasted either. In the end, we will leave it to the French People to decide who will go to the Élysée Palace, not the banks, not the lenders and not any collection of ‘storage and media clowns’. All these proclaimers are for the most, all on the gravy train of globalisation (the Macron side), a term that has been filling the French with disgust for the longest time and the last 10 years have not been kind on any positive feeling of globalisation. Still, in the end the French will need to remain a little pragmatic, which does not mean surrendering to Globalisation, yet in equal measure there is uncertainty on how France will deal with Frexit, unlike the UK, they are directly tied to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain, so there are a few more practical considerations for France. I believe it can be done, but it is up to the French to select the referendum to leave the EEC and the Euro. We can forecast all we like, but if there is one thing the Dutch election have taught us, is that these matters are not black and white and that the outcome is currently getting bounced on the waves of identity and economy, two elements that never worked well together.

 

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Slamming the Game makers

There are many games that get released, there have been titans that we still yearn for and even as several games are upcoming or just now released, there is no denying that the gaming community at large have been anticipating the arrival of Mass Effect. YouTube is getting swamped by groups of people, some are utter idiots, trying to get traction in viewers, so the least said about them the better, some have outspoken opinions on the game, which is fair enough and some of those videos are actually decently insightful and some give us a view, but they do not give the game away. One of these very good reviewers is JV2017gameplay. In that regard, the video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGdGEqYYJjA), gives us a backdrop on the game in relation to the original trilogy. The video is well worth viewing. Seeing this before the game is launched is a very good idea, yet not essential. We get to see some of what we will see in the game, yet we are told explicitly, the video holds no spoilers, which is really good, because I like my surprises to come from the game, not from someone’s video. I have to admit that there were two issues in the story shown, but there could be a very good explanation. This movie and one other (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7hs5cu43Ck), which is about exploration show one element in absolute clarity. That is the fact that Mass Effect Andromeda is clearly arriving 5 years after the previous game for a very good reason. This game shows to be a massive leap forward from the last two games. There is a level of familiarity when we see the interfaces, so those whomever played it before is likely to get a quick handle on the game play. Two videos that show us that Bioware has taken the game to a new level, one that seems to be trumping the sum of both Mass Effect 2 and 3.

I am not going too much on the videos, you will just have to watch them, which is a good idea if you are serious about getting this game. What is important to me is that this game is one of the earlier games that is upgraded so that you could enjoy the maximum that either the PS4pro of Xbox 1s has to offer. So if you have the right TV, you would be able to enjoy this game in 4K resolution, which is great. My issue (in the positive) is that Bioware shows us, not unlike Bethesda did in recent past, that good games do not get released on an annual bases. I truly hope that Yves Guillemot learns his lesson from this. A second lesson that I hope he will learn, is that a game that has all the elements of different games, will not add up to be an excellent game at all.

Now, some will see this as my slamming Yves Guillemot, yet I disagree, although, if Yves proclaims to not agree with this assessment, he might not be 100% incorrect #JustSaying. It is my view on the creation of mediocrity. Yet, are all bad reviews correct? Here I feel that more than one person has not been fair against all things Ubisoft, which needs to be stated as well. You see I do disagree with the vision that James Marvin gives us on how adaptations of movies from films seem to consistently flop, this with the reference to the Assassin’s Creed film. What constitutes a flop? You see with a Production Budget: $125 million, a movie making $238,396,337 is in my view a success. I give $125 and I get back $238 that is 90% profit! With banks giving you 5% if you are lucky, that result constitutes a good day’s work. I will say that I did not consider this a great movie, yet it is not a bad one either. Anyone who saw the remake of Point break 2015 will happily agree with me. The AC movie had a good cast, the cinematography is actually a little overwhelming at times, but the filming shows to be slightly too chaotic and too many jumps to Michael Fassbender in virtual device mode, which is pretty much it. As it was a financial success blaming Justin Kurzel is equally unfounded, but here is part of the issue, it is the vision that was given. I think that the error was to some extent as stated earlier, not the greatest visions, making it less a success than it might have been.

This now reflects back to Mass Effect, because the game has one thing as it went from game 3 to game 4, it shows vision, the eternal platinum trump card that makes a game an instant classic and the 90%+ success rating that really good games get.

What should overwhelm you are the ‘upgrades’ that Mass Effect offers. Looking through windows showing the actual space where you are, which is a little overwhelming. Like the AC series, the voices have been taken well care of with Clancy Brown is the voice of ‘your’ father, an actor that the younger player will recognise as Mr Krabs (a SpongeBob square pants production). Others might recognise him from Cowboys and Aliens and the classic sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers. You, as the player will be voiced by either the stunning model Fryda Wolff, who weirdly enough has not seen too much camera on TV or the big screen (hinting towards Michael Fassbender here for his next production), but has been active in games like Civilisation, Final Fantasy 13, Call of Duty, Fallout 4, XCom 2 and the Technomancer, and if you are playing the male character by Tom Taylorson who is actually new to this level of work. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, the Tudors), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey) and several others. Oh, and to be fair, Assassins Creed 2 had no lack of actors and actresses either. They gave us Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Alex Ivanovici (X-men, Mirror Mirror), Lita Tresierra, who sadly passed away (the Factory), Carlos Ferro (Dominic, Gears of Wars series). So this is what both sides took pride and effort in and there has never been anything but the highest praise for both game makers. Also it is the graphical side that was never a flaw, you only need to look at Assassins Creed Black Flag (which has other issues), to see what the Ubisoft graphical department can do when they set their mind to it, they really got the sense of the Caribbean right, it almost felt like I was actually there in that time, or so I would believe it to look like.

Getting back to Mass Effect 4, the entire game as shown so far seems to be nothing less than Mass Effect 2 on steroids. The exploration, the graphics and large land masses, the fact that a map has several fast travel points give rise to the facts that the planets are a fair bit larger than ever before. This will be the game for anyone who loved the original trilogy, anyone who has a need to shoot things and for those with a reverence to role playing games. Now, as this game is not out yet for another 7.61 days (roughly) we have no idea on the amount of hours of game play that this game brings, the actual amount of planets you can land on and explore and so on. In addition, the Mass Effect series, like some others have always lend their design for additions (DLC’s) and season passes, so I wonder if more would come. I cannot state whether this would come with the overwhelming value that the Fallout 4 season pass gave us, but we can hope, can we not?

The power of games is at times great to experience, especially when we see a game like Mass Effect Andromeda. True, several good games have been released, but when we focus on the 90%+ ratings, over the last 12 months gives us Nioh, Dark Souls 3, Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind divided and Overwatch. 5 games over the last 12 months (Witcher 3 GOTY edition is also making the cut, but the original was released in 2015, which is why I omitted it). So as you can see 5 (or 6) great games a year. Now, there will always be games that did not make it to the 90% level, but we still want to play them (sport games), those games are niche games, but consider how many games you play per year and how many of them were in that 90% plus range? Now consider Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games, which is one of the newer players on the block (2000), Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (2002), which is CI Games first attempt to produce an AAA game, or Elite: Dangerous, who is now entering the PlayStation 4 field, a game originally made on a BBC Micro B in 1984 (a machine with 32Kb RAM). Last I want to mention Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment, which is a company that has 20 employees. Its founder Charlie Cleveland shows what vision can bring, in his case an ‘open’ world survival game where you are adrift on an ocean after crashlanding on a water planet. What happens after that is up to you, so as the radio tells you (when you get it fixed) that you can wait 99,999 hours, which amounts to 11.4 years, or make a life for yourself. This starts a very different game which you need to see to believe. I hope that the PlayStation people get to experience it as well, because the game will bring you a hundred hours or more of challenges, entertainment and visual wonder. This is visionary on a new level! There are a few other surprises in this game. You have not lived until you tried to get anywhere in this game in hardcore mode (1 life). In this I would slam both Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. I honestly cannot state whether it is complacency or what I would call an adherence to mediocrity. The two makers who bedazzled us with greatness have been regarded as below par too often for a little too long. This visibility comes out even stronger as we see how great Mass Effect 4 could be (Electronic Arts) and Ubisoft who basically has not produced a 90%+ game since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013). When did spreadsheets overrule the need for excellence? When we all expected that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands would give back some confidence in Ubisoft, we see reviews that hardly make 80%, which is a really bad thing for Ubisoft. When I see the review comment ‘Writing is terrible and it’s riddled with bugs, but there’s fun to be had with friends‘, I wonder whether the second part was given there to be soft to make sure that Yves Guillemot would not cry too loud. Yet the truth we also see is “Of all the publishers out there, it’s Ubisoft that has most affectionately embraced the open world” should have been the driving force that could have given Ubisoft a super seller (a slice of Skyrim anyone?), yet the reviews imply that it is not to be. In addition the reviewer (Sam White) shows the lesson I tried to impart on Ubisoft more than once “that is when you realise that Ubisoft has taken collectibles too far“, a lesson they should have learned before Assassins Creed Unity was released.

When smaller places like Unknown Worlds Entertainment and Hello Games surpass you with each less than 25 staff members, you need to seriously wake up. I am actually surprised that Ubisoft Still exists, because to be honest, they should have imploded with no funds left by 2015 (so you see, I can be wrong too!). The question is how such places stay afloat. Marketing only make up for so much, in the end it is the product that matters!

The question is where do gamers go to next? In all this, I too need to keep an open mind. I have a specific desire for games and even as I admire Dark Souls 3, I know I will never actually finish it. I am not that great a slasher. I am all for stealth games, which is why Styx was such an amazing experience and challenge, so as we are about to get its sequel, I too join a group who will accept a lower than 90% game (which shows that there is more than just high ratings). However, we do know that Ubisoft has had its successes in that genre too: Blacklist and Conviction are both 90% games and they delivered (apart from one annoying issue in blacklist) and I cannot wait for a new instalment of that series. Here too we see that when we look deeper that there are lines of games that could result in new 90% versions, not just because the player group is large enough, but because developers like CI Games are showing that there is interest in getting a stealth game that is a serious challenge (Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3). Will this statement remain true if the reviews scores are barely making the 80% grade? I believe so, I believe that quality games will always find a home and I also believe that the proper attention will drive new players, especially if the reviews and scores correctly reflect the quality of the game. This is what I meant again and again when I stated towards Ubisoft: ‘A game that is based on a matrix on how to not make a bad game, will reflect that and not be a bad game. Yet in that same setting it will also never become a truly great game‘, Mafia III, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2 have proven me correct. On the opposition, those who made it (like Witcher 3 and its additions), excellence is more than merely its own reward, it creates a following and it sets a milestone for others to strive for.

In the same way that I see stealth games, I see that ‘open’ world games like the ones Bethesda produces, gives us options and replayable versions unlike most other games, which now give rise to the question why can’t others get there? Oblivion (2006), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Skyrim (2011) and Fallout 4, all of them 90%+ games. With two of them given a 100% score by more than one reviewer; that is what makes them essential games to own (for those not hating RPG games). I think we can agree that there is a fairly sized group of people who are not into RPG’s and that will always be fair enough. In that same view, I am not, and am unlikely to ever become a GTA fan. Yet the RPG group is growing, so I wonder where these two players go. You see, living on Mass Effect alone will not aid EA in its growth, who actually was one of the innovative distributors of one of the pioneers in this field (the Ultima series), so why not seek in those revamps? In that same light Wing Commander and Privateer brought the light of space flight, now they will have to compete, but our love for these games have (for the most) not diminished, so where is the IP on that? Eidos gave us Soul Reaver a game that could be rebranded in something awesome (even though the originals were actually pretty good). Yet, here I go on in the remake directions. What I hope is that these two once great development houses will seek visionaries to give us the next batch of (hopefully new) true visionary game play. If crowd funding took only 9 days to get the minimum requirement to get the relaunch of System Shock started, do you really think that RPG and tactical games are on the way out? No, most gamers are looking towards the thrills we once had and some are looking for that next new original challenge. Perhaps the makers need to start looking into the Comic book dimension. Marvel might be booked solid, but there is a league of comics that might never ever make the light of day outside of its own clique following. Even if we look at what has been tried before, an actual good Buffy video game would draw millions towards the shops. An actual good version would ensure large lines in front of a game retailer. The Darkness, what I considered to be a fine game (not great), but a good reflection of the comic style which I considered to be essential. Series like Witchblade (awesome artwork, yet awful TV series), or perhaps Michael Turner’s Fathom. You see, the ‘non-failure’ spreadsheet of Ubisoft might not allow for a game based on Fathom to be created, yet Subnautica seems to be proving them wrong at present. So as the elements of Fathom with ‘members of a race of aquatic humanoids called the Blue who possess the ability to control water‘ give rise to very interesting settings (as well of the majestic unknown that we call the seven seas). The idea of a game, open world or not (more like large levels) where we need to think in three dimensions when playing calls for quality gaming, if properly executed, we could see an entirely new level of game play one that does require next gen consoles and powerful PC’s. Consider that in 2015, the sales of comic books surpassed $1,000,000,000. Now also consider that the market size of comic books was estimated to be $280-$200 million market in 1998, and even though we have seen a decade of hard times, this market has never stopped growing from 1998 to 2016 (source: http://www.comichron.com). Is it such a leap to not seriously consider that market? And in this case, I am specifically taking DC Comics and Marvel out of the equation.

Visionaries are worth their weight in gold. So if EA and Ubisoft have any, then give them a 6′ stack of comic books and see what they can come up with. I reckon that these two players waste more money on some brainstorm lunch with BI executives, so that expense should be easy to justify. For me? If this results in them each producing at least two 90% plus game within 3 years, we all end up winning. Is that not a beautiful consideration?

 

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The danger of Colbert and the Press

When we see an interview with General Michael Hayden and Stephen Colbert, it is hard to imagine, but it is actually Stephen Colbert who is endangering the lives of many. Did you realise that? First, the interview (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buI8aO7nRDM) should be watched. It is a brilliant interview. Getting a former CIA and NSA director in view is always a little awesome and the man plays the audience brilliantly. Now, I say ‘play’ and I mean that in the best positive way. He is funny direct and answers the questions clearly. It is Hayden that gets the applause and it was an applause that was well deserved. He debunks conspiracy theorists and cuckoo cases all over America. Then something happens, suddenly Colbert does something dangerous and stupid. At 4:55 he plays the game regarding Smart TV’s spying on you, he plays us all as he is linking this to the CIA. What happened was that on February 6th the FTC fined Vizio $2.2 million for collecting viewing histories without users consent (at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/02/vizio-pay-22-million-ftc-state-new-jersey-settle-charges-it), pretty much the same thing that Microsoft seems to be doing to its Xbox population at present and uploading their data into the Azure cloud (without consent).

This might seem like a nuisance, but it is a lot more than that. Large corporations have run out of spreadable funds and like any other corporations, they now need to optimise. It is almost the same situation that SPSS was selling when it offered companies a product called AnswerTree (back in 1997). Marketing firms had to get a certain quota, let’s say 4%, now to get there you could either throw more money on it, and going from 2% to 4% did not just mean a little over 100% more to get the growth. No, with their product AnswerTree, you could make an inventory of who you mailed and who responded and started to prune the tree of those who responded a lot below quota, so basically, the mailings became more efficient, a more clever path to the people buying and it is all perfectly legal and acceptable. That is what is happening now in new ways and Vizio got caught because it happened in an automated way without any level of consent. So who did not get caught? Because I can tell you right now that the bulk of the people with a smart TV have not considered where this data is being logged.

Now, I am going to ask you a question: ‘If marketing is harassment, is the marketing contact that you purchase from still a harasser?

If we have all the do not call registers, how long until these marketeers use other methods? Free games, free apps and free TV shows, all connected, you just have to agree to advertisements connected to them. It is a mere reward for exposure which is all perfectly valid. In all this the CIA was not a factor or a danger. It is the large corporations that are classifying you, more important, it is the links that they can resell that are a danger to your way of life, which is why at times smart TV’s are sold with 60% discount (speculation from my side).

In 2015 I would never have expected to be able to afford a 55 inch smart TV, it is huge (and I was happy with my 42 inch one) but it broke, I had a decent job, but the surprise that a brand new 100 Hz Sony 55 inch was priced down from $1900 to $800 (very lucky me), which was just ridiculous as the next TV (almost the same as my broken one) was a 40 inch at $699, which was perfectly decently priced for those days. Now, we can hang onto the idea that it was just a crazy sales, which does happen, but to flood the market with something almost twice the size, with much higher specifications at next to the same price as a small B-brand TV is too weird. It is almost like having a Canon 5D at the normal $2500 and offering next to it a Hasselblad X1D-50c at $3000, which would be awesome as these babies go for $13,000. It would be 20Mp versus 50Mp. As a photographer I can tell you that I would kill for a Hasselblad 50 Megapixel camera (and as I know the Evidence Act 1995, I might get away with it).

So, I hope you understand the weirdness of such good deals. And in all this, Sony has the ability to capture this data (I am not accusing them of doing this, I have no evidence of any kind that this is happening), but the threat to our privacy is real. Now you might not think that this is important. Yet consider that this data could be sold, how many hours are you not sporting, how many hours do you watch TV and what do you watch? How long until you suddenly get a 12% spike in health insurance? There is where the difference is! You see, these players are very very interested in that data, minimise their risk and charge extra to anyone that is a risk. In my case it does not matter, my smart TV is connected to my console and my Blu-ray player, so there is no ‘smart’ data to capture. What is important for these sales people that the 0.5% of the group that I represent is not the issue, their value is the 80%+ that does connect their TV for Netflix and other reasons, that is where their value is and it is potentially bringing in millions, so the 60% discount is a joke to them. That is the part Colbert smoothly walked over whilst he joked about the CIA and the press at large stayed away from that FTC ruling, so there is one of the dangers.

The other danger is organised crime. How long until people realise that being away from home means no TV? That means that the smart TV logs are not showing movement. How long until the criminals can connect smart TV usage and social media action into, which house is empty? Oh and as you advertise on Facebook that you are on Cuba, how long until you realise that you gave away the info that your house is unprotected? More important the quote “Oversharing on social media could not only leave you open to burglary but it could also invalidate your home insurance policy” is not a joke, this quote was given 2 years ago. Justice Gibson of the District Court of New South Wales raised the issue as early as 2014, the courts are not ready for this and for the most, they are only dealing with the fallout that Contract Law is giving them, more precisely the contracts that Insurance agencies have been working on. With currently well over 80% of Australians on social media (which is actually low compared to Scandinavian nations), the consideration of implementing certain risks is an essential need for any insurance agent. Yet, at what point can usage of social media be seen as evidence towards negligence? Mobile phones tells us where we are, smartphones tell everyone what we do (through our usage), and Smart TV’s give us what we watch, out interests and our activities, or lack thereof. At what point is any of this evidence to act, to surcharge to act as a penalty or as an option to nullify the security of insurance?

That is the part not considered and it gets even worse!

This is seen in the news that is hitting us now through what is marketed as Vault 7. CNN Money (at http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/09/technology/cia-smart-tv-wikileaks-public-hacks/) gives us the news on how the CIA is spying, although they do also mention “security researchers say the methods imitate exploits that were discovered — and made public years ago“, So when I see “Samsung warned users about exactly this type of susceptibility in 2015. The company told CNNTech this week that it is ‘urgently looking into the matter.’“, my question becomes: ‘How much data did you collect?‘, so as the warning is 2 years old, apart from making batteries explode, did you do anything to stop this threat? And as we see Dan Trentler, CEO of the Phobos Group security firm state: ‘That appears to be the same exploit he witnessed in action onstage at a security conference in 2013, he said‘, can we give accusation that there is nothing innocent going on and the level of negligence shown in one article spanning 3 years of events, that is enough to warrant a much larger investigation into privacy invasion by large corporations?

 

It is not about just consent, they are mining our choices and leaving us with less. You might not consider this or comprehend this, but it is an optimised way of American business. I have to explain this.

I was confronted with a larger group of board members of a large firm. As an ‘upper’ grunt I had two distinct jobs. One give the best service to my clients and protect them as much as possible from any negative event, which is what any good Technical consultant does. And I had to be faithful and supportive to my bosses, which is what a loyal employee does. Now consider the meeting where we get the premise: ‘What if you cannot service your client 100%, but only 80%, would that be acceptable?

Now, the danger here is that my answer would be a solid ‘No!’ A danger from the corporation side when we consider the introduction of service level agreements, the introduction that the client was unwilling to pay for the service given. How do you take a stand (driven by wisdom) at that point?

This is where you the consumer are at, but it comes from another direction. Places like Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, HP, IBM and Apple are all in the optimisation phase, because the economy is still not great and most of us would only be able to afford one of these devices, perhaps a second one for Christmas if we are lucky. So as we can get 2 out of 5, so how do corporations go about getting the largest share you can? Now we get to the AnswerTree part, you become smarter in how you get to your audience to choose you, not merely marketing but marketing to the most likely buying population. The question then becomes what options you have at your disposal. Do you sacrifice one device so you get an option to see 2 more options for alternative sale and get the contribution needed? The reasons is that in this day and age, it is not about revenue, when you are a listed company, when you have stakeholders, it will be about contribution (revenue minus costs), if you fail that, no great bonus, no mistress, no fast car and in the end no job.

So here we see the rundown on how Stephen Colbert became a danger to you, he made it into a CIA joke, whilst the bitter and solemn truth is that the real danger is the invitation you readily give out to all manner of freebie givers, only to learn the hard way that they get back what they gave out in tenfold, just by collecting your inactions and sell it to whomever can transform that into personal profit. So whilst some people are falling asleep reading (at http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/essentialguide/Providers-adjusting-to-greater-use-of-social-media-in-healthcare) how social media is interacting in health care, consider what an insurer would give to know that you visited a free clinic for the third time this quarter. It might not cost them anything, but it will set a flag to raise premiums the next year. Did you consider that? And as we shrug at seeing “Social media analysis done with natural language processing has given care facilities a more efficient way to get patient feedback“, many will ignore, just like the previous example on raising premiums. Even as you consider a visit for planned parenthood to be perfectly natural and normal (which it is), but when the insurer realises that you will be needing to visit an OBGYN in the near future, you better realise that you are lucky if your premium rises with only 5%. That is the way business is done and the initial ‘risk’ numbers to which you were held at premium are 10 years old and you fall in a much higher group. Only the super healthy teenager who does not get sick gets the low increase, that whilst he was actually a 0% risk. How fair is that and why is the media not all over that on a daily basis?

The CIA was never worthy to be mentioned in this regard, for 99% of the Americans they are nothing as these 99% of Americans were harmless so the CIA never cared to begin with and that is the group Colbert was aiming for which is odd in one way and on the other hand, we do get that he is a comedian who is trying to entertain 100% of his clients, those who tune in on his version of humour. He cannot be faulted for that, the press at large however can be faulted and they should but they stay away from it for other reasons. Mainly because they want a slice of the Samsung $700 million advertisement budget (that is for the USA alone), Microsoft and Sony are in similar predicaments, which is why certain events will not make the front cover any day soon. The reason of data collection being the most obvious one, but at times it can be trivialised as they are only gamers, or it is only a console and consent is overrated. I’ll let you be the judge of what matters and what not, just remember, when you are no longer within the 80% of the group they cater for and you already bought the device, where will your rights be, or your service provider? Perhaps you get the same answer Microsoft gave me: ‘we have no control over uploads, that is all with your internet provider!‘ Interesting how my consent was manoeuvred around in all of this.

 

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How the Franks make France

It is possibly one of the first times that the entire world is keeping their eyes on France and on its elections. The situation as seen in France has not happened since Charles de Gaulle. France in a state of massive changes, changes that are essential if it wants to have any options of shedding the massive debt it has and restructure the options of owning a stronger economy. The question becomes, who will be the enabler in that regard. The BBC shows us (at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39038685) how 5 charts will explain the elections. The first shows the growth of Front National, the party of Marine Le Pen. The quote “Opinion polls currently suggest Marine Le Pen would be defeated in the second round by Emmanuel Macron. Without the backing of a traditional political party, the former economy minister, who has never held an elected office, is standing as a centrist candidate” is in the central place here. She might be front runner now, but there is the real issue that Marine Le Pen is seen as too much of an extremist. Even as part of her strength is seen in the second chart where we see how unemployment rates have sky rocketed under President Hollande and that level of dissatisfaction has been an enabling factor for Marine Le Pen. The 4th chart is also a Le Pen indicator. As France has been hit multiple times, the people started to listen to the logic of Marine Le Pen and as such all drove straight towards the far right. That is the way of things. The 5th one is less of a positive influence, but it is an influence none the less. As the amount of asylums are given increase, the rejection of the social path of France will increase and that too works for Marine Le Pen. In all this, the consequence is equally a positive part for Macron. Emmanuel Macron is making strong headway and to many French, the preferred choice. Yet, Emmanuel Macron has never held office, which counts against him, as an economist he does have an edge, but that would only work if his policies had resulted in jobs, which was not the case. The reality, or better stated, the stronger reality is that for those under 25, 1 out of 4 does not have a job and that is where Marine Le Pen is getting a growing traction. No matter how the French here on how important social issues are, the reality of no work translates to hunger and uncertainty. In addition, Hollande has data in play that shows that the high point of his economy was a year ago and decline is already showing, this translates to even more people moving from the left towards the centre and the right side of the isle, all moving towards Macron and Le Pen. With the UK showing a growing economy whilst Brexit is starting is also pushing the people to listen to Marine Le Pen and that is the reality that will continue, yet will it translate to enough votes? There is the uncertainty and I predicted that it was a reality France was facing. A reality I have claimed for over 2 years now and so far I have been proven correct. However, this does not take Emmanuel Macron out of the race. There the reality is that anyone feeling too uncertain regarding the more right wing Marine Le Pen that voter might hesitate and decide on Macron instead, a choice that is logical yet untested and unproven. It is the unproven part that the French also realise, so Marine Le Pen stays in the race. The one factor that matters is Benoit Hamon. Now, he might not be the front runner and he will not amount to serious opposition of large numbers, but the one part that still matters is whether he can get enough votes to make the 50% impossible for Marine Le Pen, that is now the game that plays, the others are not able to do anything serious to that extent. It is now starting to be merely a race between Macron and Le Pen, Hamon would enable the situation that a second round would be essential, which now takes us to May and that opens the field again, in that regard, Marine Le Pen needs to be really clever on how she plays the game. In addition, she needs to be clever on how to oppose or diffuse any situation that the anti Le Pen press is pushing onto her.

The NY Times (at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/07/opinion/france-braces-for-the-now-possible-impossible.html) is now stating ‘France Braces for the Now-Possible Impossible‘, which only shows that they are either two years late to the party, or they just did not care before. Sylvie Kauffmann talks a good article, but she misses when she states “This is a French campaign like no other. All the political patterns established since 1958, when the present Constitution was adopted, have come apart. The National Front has been a fixture of national politics for 40 years, but never before has its presidential candidate been a consistent front-runner. Today, none of Ms. Le Pen’s opponents doubt that she will get to the second round; in fact, they are not even fighting her. They are fighting among themselves to win second place on April 23, to have a chance to beat her in the runoff“, she is not stating anything incorrect or wrong, it is the one additional fact that is important. This is also the first time in modern history that a current president is not seeking re-election, which she does mention on the side. The scandals we saw and the consecutive “François Fillon, a conservative former prime minister who is now the Republican candidate, has stopped campaigning” is another part of the sliding numbers to go in other directions, yet, will they go towards Marine Le Pen. A smaller influence is the Dutch elections. The Farage-Le Pen-Wilders triangle is pretty famous. Yet in all this the US is now an influence, because with every claim that President Trump is making, the people are confronted with a connection to each of these three and a reason why not to make the same mistake the US has made, with ludicrous claim after ludicrous claim, the Republican win is now hurting the right side vote in both France and the Netherlands, but will the shift be enough? Those matters are not known and are even less predictable.

What is at this point a certainty is that in the end Marine Le Pen will be one of two parties that can be voted for, yet there is enough doubt to see that there will be a round in May, the matter will just be how will the people see this than and how far off is that 50%, because if the call is too close to that, the smallest fluctuation could change the game. Now with the 17% of Fillon in the air and the 15% of Hamon under discussion, there is the smallest chance that a slice of that will go towards Marine Le Pen actually that is certain, yet how much will go her way? If the split is even, there is now the largest chance that 23% will divide between Macron and Le Pen, setting Le Pen at 39%. I feel that Hamon will lose, but I very much doubt if he falls below 10% and that would be the best case scenario for Hamon, there is a chance that Hamon will get a few of the Fillon numbers, but I feel certain that he will lose traction within his own ranks. With 1 in 4 people under 25 not having a job, the alleged fake job that he gave his wife is not sitting well with a large part of the voters who were already looking at Le Pen and are now utterly unlikely to select anyone left of centre which works very nicely for Le Pen, but there is still a steady group that has no love for the right, so those votes will go somewhere else, or better stated these people will vote anyone but Le Pen, which could benefit Hamon to the smaller degree and Macron to a larger degree. so as those impacts are seen, there is now a serious chance that Le Pen would grow from 39% to 42%-46% and that is where the issue starts, she is now way too close to 50% and even as it is unlikely that she gets to that point passing 50%, it is not impossible and that is where the game changes by a lot, because if she gets there, she would potentially be in the strongest position to make a lot more radical changes. Like Trump, her examples would drive the Frexit start and that will be the start of the nightmare for both the US and Japan, the Euro collapsing will drive a market fear of unbridled proportions, one that cannot be countered by the players involved, which will have a disastrous effect on the global economy. CNBC has been giving voice to several dangers, which includes rate hikes (which is off the table the moment Frexit starts), Beijing is another factor, but if properly set would actually create stability and less uncertainty. It is the utterly unbelievable part that the Financial Tribune is giving us. They proclaimed that the global economy is expected to grow 3.5% in 2018, which sounds nice, but unrealistic. You see, the changes that are essential to growth are in the wrong corners as I personally see them. If Frexit starts than the contractions in Europe will start an escalating drop, making a global economy growth of 1.5%-2% decently unlikely. Frexit is the first cornerstone, the Brexit escalation that comes, or will drive the change is another part. These two will now push Italy and Germany in very different directions making the Euro no longer a feasible currency, especially as Mario Draghi was kind enough to spend a 13 figure number onto an economy that would not hike or set in motion to the degree that was essential. So as we see the quote “Its forecasts remained broadly unchanged from its November report, however, both the US and the eurozone saw minor downgrades“, we see it without the mention that this happened even as the UK economy went upwards. Market volatility is actually the smallest influence for now, but that will change before the end of the year. So as we see the dangers of a recession slam in either Q2 or Q3, we will see it with the realisation that the forecast given by the Financial tribune was not that realistic, just prophesising on sunny weather with a few small clouds whilst we see storms on Eastern and Southern shores, and there is no way to pierce the fog from the remaining directions, a dark fog that seems unable to have any sunshine. All that and two additional dangers remain unexplored. That is given not in who gets into power, but the danger that no matter who goes into power, the new players will be inexperienced in many ways; that too will stagnate any positive move from the economy. The only bright spot is that in Germany there are differences growing, especially as Alternativ fur Deutschland has started rounds of infighting, the final straw of anti-Europe will not be in any position to move into that direction, the question then becomes what will Italy do? Even as Merkel is facing a much stronger SPD, that election will not come until 4-5 months after France, which means that Frexit, if called for would also impact the German grounds of choice. In addition we see more waves of ‘Grexit’ news on the need for cutting Greece lose. Which is not an option in EEC laws, and I am surprised that the PRESS has not caught on yet (especially as they played that fake card twice already). All these elements are in play and they will together result in a global economic growth of less than 2%, especially if the European economy contracts a little too much and that is decently certain to happen.

A rollercoaster economy that is about to be started by the modern version of the Franks that make up the French population. In this the trend is as I see it no longer about some united fake region, it is about growing nationalism and national pride, because that will also grow an economy. We all forgot about that (me, myself and I included). You see, there might be open borders, there might be free travel, but as we forgot in which place we were we also forgot on what made that place great. The beers of Belgium, the cheeses and wines from France. Some might claim that this is not true, but it is and we lost sight of it. Because we only value that what requires effort, a reality we have always faced, we just forgot about it and the larger companies had a better time by offering us something mediocre and unhealthily cheap, something that fitted too many of us. I personally believe that this is most clearly seen in the gaming industry, which is why I recognised the flaw in myself early on.

The good thing about all this is that as national pride grows in all the nations, we will see a drastic improvement of appeal and quality, I believe that the smaller places will now have the option to grow and that will drive the economies. So as Carrefour and Auchan end up talking to a new group of suppliers, France will witness a shift in economy, not one that maximises the bonus of larger provider of goods, but enables deliveries from smaller players and they do not have the board sizes that some of the current players have, so it actually will end up driving the economy. It sounds crazy and weird, but I believe this path to be the first drive of growth.

That would benefit the economic numbers of France enormously and it will also push other nations into reinvestigating the options for growth. The Financial Times show part of this (at https://www.ft.com/content/6de52a3a-aca4-11e6-9cb3-bb8207902122), yet this growth is mainly due to other factors. John Ellis, retail & consumer partner at PwC, gives us an interesting point here: “Over the next few months, the way in which retailers deal with cost headwinds, particularly the impact of foreign exchange on product prices, will be crucial for consumers’ future spending patterns.

He is correct in that way, however, I also believe that as people will seek more and more local solutions (read: deals) it will actually drive the local economies stronger in an upwards direction, and in that, I am predicting that the same will happen in France. The second part he is not giving us is that the individual currencies will allow national governments to float their currency ever so slightly to avoid massive negative impacts, something that was not an option under the Euro. So another tool will be handed to the French as they restore the imbalance that their economy has faced for well over a decade. I do not believe it will be the measure towards success, it merely avoids the chance of failure, which is also a driving force in any economy.

Now, feel free to completely disagree with me, which will always remain a valid view. Yet when we see the impact of positivity that segregation has and if Marine Le Pen cashes in on this, than we will see a second step in the European economy that will stop the Euro. As we end with that coin, did anyone tally how many European officials are no longer required? How much did they cost? A gravy train that was riding the slopes of Europe at the expense of taxpayers, whilst for the larger extent not having any positive national impact. We are talking of a group that exceeds 32500 people. So how much was that costing on a monthly basis? 751 MEP members were getting a monthly pre-tax salary of €8,484.05. That’s already 6.3 million a month, so how much for the other 31,750 employees? Let’s not forget that this is a monthly expense. So I reckon that the sweet reality is that there will be a positive impact on budgets. Now these costs are not going away immediately, but I think I am making a clear point that national costings will change.

France is about to start a wave of changes, or better stated, there is a real change that massive changes will commence, but in the end, we will have no certainties before the elections are over and until France makes a claim and voices the intent to exit the EEC, there is no certainty that there will be actual change, because the Euro could survive without the UK, but not if the economy contracts, in that case several options will go straight out the window for several European nations, especially those in the EEC. Mario Draghi has made sure of that. You see, when we accept Bloomberg view (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-08/draghi-s-caution-on-inflation-signals-ecb-stimulus-stays-for-now), where we see “The rate remains stuck below 1 percent, but what’s worse is that the trend has consistently pointed down in the euro’s 18-year history, suggesting structural weaknesses may be at play” a weakness I mentioned (in a different way) in several earlier blogs, is now getting more and more to the forefront. Bloomberg also gives us “the measure that excludes volatile components such as food and energy” gives us that in a dangerously low setting volatile products will still have an impact. The additional “After policy makers’ preferred gauge of future price developments approached levels of below but close to 2 percent at the end of last year — signalling the ECB’s goal was in sight — it’s now on the wane once more” gives more and more strength to my prediction of economic contractions, which now also gives a view that any prediction of a global economic growth of 3.5% in 2018 is getting less and less realistic. so as we see positive forecasts from several sources, we need to be careful on who we will believe, because like several nations stated in earlier years, the forecast of today will soon be shown to be overly optimistic one quarter later, which is after the ‘predictors’ got some of the players to unwisely spend what they should not have been spending. A game that has been played for too long, it is the national push that gives for change and more important, it gives for a push by people who can be held accountable and can at that point be incarcerated, which tends to make certain forecasters a lot more cautious and it will give us an actual realistic economy to work with. It might not be great and in the beginning it will also not be good, but it will be mending and growing, which is what the people want and need. In that we have to voice with certainty that we do not give a fuck on what large corporations want or desire to get them their bonuses, we have had way too much of that for too long.

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Retrenching under false pretence

Today we see (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/01/len-mccluskey-ford-unite-tariff-free-single-market-access-bridgend), how Ford is moving its needs and its projections towards other places. It fill the pattern and projected promise that have been set in motion a few years ago. The US is moving parts back to the US and some parts to Asia. Australia had been feeling this for some time. Ford left Australia in 2016 when in October the last Falcon XR6 came of the belt. Now we see the beginning of their exodus from the UK and in this the title ‘Unite blames Brexit as Ford prepares to cut 1,160 Welsh jobs‘ is as they call it, a total load of bullocks! You see, this is the other side of a one market and tariff free access. You see, as these costs fall away, making these 4 wheeled thingamajigs in America becomes profitable again. Now, let’s be fair, Ford is an American company. For American companies to move back to their home turf makes sense, it could even be seen as patriotic. But in all this, Ford remains a business. So they need profit to soar and that can be done by having their factories in America and Asia. Brexit was never a factor, Australia never had a Brexit.

Is there a chance that Brexit was any factor? I do not believe so, the UK is not yet in a completed Brexit and it would take a few years before all would be complete, so there is no Issue for Ford, in their camp it was already planned, the entire pressure on Brexit is just tactics, because the US is scared of what comes next, so for the US, in light of the upcoming French elections, the anti-Brexit pressures are essential. The game is changing in France. President Francois Hollande is not seeking a second term, according to the BBC the first French president to do this in modern times (at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39130072), he is that unpopular and as such France is seeing several different issues and power plays in place. With one in four under-25’s is unemployed. So even as all parties agree that massive changes are needed, the Socialist failure gives rise to additional voices moving towards Front National. In all this, we see additional moves. We could even consider that this is a partial discriminatory ruling. The EU claims to be all about the freedom of speech and freedom of opinion, yet they will happily lift parliamentary immunity for the French prosecution to take legal action. We can argue the validity here in two ways. One: Marine Le Pen did break French law. Two: how many other French people have been prosecuted for ‘publishing violent images’? I would really like to see the numbers on that one. So as we will see big data mining on transgressors, I wonder how many have not been investigated, which shows that the EU is very willing to upset the sanctity of a fair election, especially as those deciding on this are likely to lose their jobs when Frexit becomes a reality.

So as we see through the (what I personally regard to be) blatant lies by Ford, or better stated by Len McCluskey, and in this as Ford is not forthcoming they get to be tainted by the very same lie. The quote “UK’s biggest trade union has urged Theresa May to guarantee car makers tariff-free access to the single market“, in this I would state ‘Mr McCluskey, are you usually just facilitating for big business?‘, you see, as I see it, Ford is using Len McCluskey not for the plant, not for the single market access ‘need’. No, they want to sweeten the deal! They need other concessions, like the ones they had in Australia. ABC Australia (at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/tax-transparency-report/7036708) gave the people a Tax Transparency report. Where: FORD MOTOR COMPANY OF AUSTRALIA LTD, had a Total income ($) of 2,940,670,099 (so basically almost $3 Billion), a Taxable income ($) of a mere 7,057,051. This means that 99.9917% of the income did not need to be taxed. So as we see: Tax payable, Tax payable as percentage of total income, as well as Tax payable as percentage of taxable income. These numbers become zero (that means $0.00 and 0.00%). So is Len McCluskey going to open his eyes? Is he going to realise that he is made the bitch of big business that requires the UK government to give away taxable income in the form of free labour? Perhaps Len McCluskey remembers what slave labour is? All valid questions, more important, if this is the path Ford wants, why not let then fuck off to merry old America? Let’s be fair and honest. America is in dire need of actual jobs and an actual economy. They are bleeding currency value and as such, if American companies decide to retrench in the US to save their home country, than that should be regarded as a noble action. Yet, these companies are run by boards that have one need, dividend and bonuses. Let’s also be honest here, these people don’t make any massive coin, not compared to a few other fortune 500 companies. The top executives, have an income ranging from $5.2M to $17.7M, which in Wall Street terms might be laughingly little, yet the retrenching has the danger of those people losing 28%-42% of what they are getting now. You see, as the US has a collapsing infrastructure, the strain the US is getting by having these manufacturers move back to the US is going to cause a few infrastructural gaskets to blow. It will not happen overnight, but within 24 months they setbacks will hurt Ford, there is no doubt in my mind on that. The level of setback will be anyone’s guess, I do not have any wisdom that could state to any degree of certainty how much the impact is. Yet, when you consider that Ford is working on a 3.9% operating margin (2014 reported numbers) and they walked away from an Australian 99.9917% non-taxation, we should wonder on how they tend to do economically more terrific in the US. It seems to me that the US retrenching has either massive kickbacks, or will come at the consequence of short sightedness and long term hardship. The numbers do not makes sense to walk away from either, but the clarity is that fingering Brexit was not the reason. But then, Ford did not do that, they got

Len McCluskey to do just that. It is the part “McCluskey also demanded that Ford provide “legally binding guarantees” of future production at the plant”. It made me giggle. You see if they had not before, why would they do that now? It seems to me that McCluskey, not unlike Kim Carr in Australia, was either in on part of it for a time, or I need to consider them both to be massively incompetent. A legal binding guarantee after the fact. It is just too hilarious! Of course, when the issue collapses and Ford moves, then we get the real issue, because at that point the blame game starts. In Australia, Kim Carr got to play his game and got the reprieve, so when his labour team got replaced by the Australian Liberal Party (the Aussie Tories), he stood back and got to stand playing with his beard thinking ‘not my problem anymore!‘, yet Len McCluskey does not get to be this lucky, when Ford leaves it will be on his plate and the Unite members will have a massive amount of questions, I wonder how many actual answers Len McCluskey will have.

So all these revelations and facts brought to you because someone decided to blame Brexit and I have actually had enough of those blamers. The fact is that there would always be consequences to Brexit, so when I see another ‘bremainer’ demand a Brexit without consequences, I wonder just how stupid some people tend to get. Another side linked to this is seen in the Independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/britain-will-not-contribute-to-eu-budget-if-no-brexit-deal-is-reached-says-lords-report-a7609526.html), here we see ‘Britain will not contribute £50bn to EU budget if no Brexit deal is reached, says Lords report‘, the subtitle is even more descriptive ‘The UK appears to have a strong legal position in respect of the EU budget post-Brexit and this provides important context to the Article 50 negotiations‘. The reason to go here is seen in “According to the Lords, EU budget payments – likely to be a contentious issue throughout the Article 50 negotiating period – would not be enforceable and the UK would be in a “strong” legal position to not pay a penny if talks ended with no deal“, so all the hard play we have seen has been absent of a proper analyses of the articles, something the House of Lords was not about to let go. The quote “Theresa May has warned her European allies that the UK is prepared to crash out of the EU if no reasonable Brexit deal is agreed on. In this case, the Lords add, Britain will not be liable to make any further financial contributions to the budget” also implies that there is a two stream issue within the conservatives. You see, when we see the quote of Theresa May against “David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said earlier this year that the Government would not rule out making future payments to the EU’s budget in order to secure favourable access to Europe’s markets“. The two streams are ‘let’s be flexible about it all‘ and ‘we have had enough of this‘. The point being that large corporations have been souring the cream pushing European politicians to take emotional stands whilst others are trying to muzzle Mario Draghi and his need to spend a trillion no one has. This now pushes back to the Automotives of the land (including the exiting Ford), I think we need to see that the approach that has been used for too long a time, making some industries holy and non-taxed is not the way to go. Now, there are plenty of people who want certain markets to push forward and to have trade deals in place tends to be a good thing. Yet the part that the media seems to ignore again and again is that these deals benefit large corporations to a massive degree, but others tend to fall between the cracks losing out on all those fringe benefits. It is an injustice that has been seen several times and Brexit would allow for a change that gives a level of fairness to it all (allow does not mean it will happen though). So whilst we can agree that there would possibly be an impact, there are still too many waters stirring, so any level of Brexit blame is very premature. That evidence is given additional support when we consider Reuters news from 2015 (at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-ford-asia-idUSKBN0O625Y20150521), it was already forecasted 2 years ago that “When I take a look at Ford’s growth over the next five to 10 years, we believe roughly 60 percent of the growth will be in the Asia Pacific region,” said Dave Schoch, president of Ford’s Asia Pacific region“, which was the first sign that the Ford plants in Australia were at risk. In equal measure, the slowing economy in China saw Ford sales drop, a similar event has been happening in Europe, where the drop is three times higher and here we get the issue. It had a rise for a while and the European numbers looked really good, that is, until you realise that Russia was the only strong contributor to the Ford sales. Yet the Russian slump has been in play and it is now also hurting Ford, whilst the news of ‘rapid recovery unlikely‘ to be at the head of the forecasting table. So when we see Ford media give us (at https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/feu/en/news/2017/01/18/ford_s-european-sales-rise-5–in-2016–strong-ford-transit–rang.pdf), “Ford sales rise 5 percent in 2016 to nearly 1.4 million vehicles in its 20 traditional European markets*“, with the reference to Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland.

Giving us now the one part that the papers were missing. The fact that the sales are not sliding, but the revenue is set to better profitability, in that the element becomes that the UK is only one of 20 nations for Ford and when we add the Ford Authority quote to it from February 20thIn all, the closures terminated nearly 6,000 jobs, although some number of those were merely shifted to lower-cost countries like Spain and Turkey“, as well as “Ford Europe has continued to pare down its workforce, offering “voluntary separation” packages to some 10,000 employees since early last year to help save an estimated $200 million annually” a valid tactical move by Ford going back to well before 2015. So as we see this facts, the entire Ford issue has been playing for a while and a lot of it has been out in the open. So at this point I would ask Len McCluskey where he got the idea “workers had been “kept in the dark”“. I would like to know what actions he had undertaken since December 2015 when this was already underway, more important, the move in Australia should have really woken him up. Did it do that? Because certain facts, clearly given by several sources, some of them openly Ford themselves. It is there where we now see a reason to doubt the existence of both Kim Carr and Len McCluskey (but that is just my view on the matter). Len had the option of making a clear speech to the workers in wales starting by ‘the party is over, there will be massive changes in the future, but we do not know the exact setting, but the worst case scenario is that the plant will seize to exist‘. Did he make that speech? I reckon not, most people like that tend to avoid bad news, especially when events like Brexit can be blamed and that is exactly what he did in the end.

As a final point I need to refer to the quote “We have had, as I said, dialogue with Ford. We will continue to have a regular dialogue with Ford about the ways in which government can help to make sure that this success continues“, which was exactly was happening in Australia, with the happy ending not becoming a reality. There, certain players decided to blame the newly elected liberal government, whilst we clearly see that there is plenty of evidence that Ford had already decided, and the decision was ‘vacate!’

I wonder what McCluskey does next, perhaps blame the Welsh weather?

 

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