Category Archives: Politics

Gangsters of tomorrow?

I was alerted to an article regarding ‘Facebook labelled ‘digital gangsters’ by report on fake news‘ on LinkedIn. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/feb/18/facebook-fake-news-investigation-report-regulation-privacy-law-dcms) is an interesting read, but there are issues (they always are). First of all Facebook is not innocent, Facebook has bungled a few items and they have done so several times, we have all seen that. Yet the report (at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/1791/1791.pdf) has a few issues too and it starts in the summary. It starts with “We have always experienced propaganda and politically-aligned bias, which purports to be news, but this activity has taken on new forms and has been hugely magnified by information technology and the ubiquity of social media. In this environment, people are able to accept and give credence to information that reinforces their views, no matter how distorted or inaccurate, while dismissing content with which they do not agree as ‘fake news’. This has a polarising effect and reduces the common ground on which reasoned debate, based on objective facts, can take place“, the issues here are:

  1. Magnified by information technology and the ubiquity of social media.
  2. People are able to accept and give credence to information that reinforces their views.
  3. Dismissing content with which they do not agree as ‘fake news’.
  4. Reduces the common ground on which reasoned debate, based on objective facts, can take place.

First of all, these are not lies, they are correct as elements. Yet we need to take another look at these issues. In the first the common side of social media is the part that makes all people talk to one another, even as we agree that when it comes to the display of news people do not really tend to talk, they often merely voice an opinion or a thought. Having an actual conversation in mobile distance based events is as rare of finding a £10 in the jeans you just took out of the washing machine. The second is obvious, it always has been so even before the age of social media, and the difference is that they now voice it to thousands of people at the same time, exposing millions of people to millions of voiced views. When it comes to item three, try to find an accepted labour idea in a conservative house of commons and vice versa, debunking each other’s views is a state of active mind and the non-elected get to have a lot more attention than the elected one (a weird logical truth), it has been the clear path of exposure since even before WW2, the fact that the loudest voice gets the room is not new, it is merely the fact that we get to hear twenty thousand loud mouthing opinions. It is number 4 that is the one issue that gives additional rise to the first three. When I search ‘News’ in Facebook I get the BBC, Nine News, ABC News, News.com.au, and several more. Yet the issue is not that they are there, it is what they state is very much the issue and the report is seemingly interestingly ignoring that part.

For News.com.au I get ‘Kate Ritchie smokin’ undies shoot‘ linking to: ‘Nova radio host Kate Ritchie stars in sexy underwear campaign‘, ‘Woolworths to axe $1-a-litre fresh milk but Coles refusing to follow’, and ‘Sailor from World War II kissing photo dies at age 95’, so as ‘news value’ goes, the value of news is very much a discussion a well, these organisation use social media to the max as to increase exposure to self, which is what it is supposed to do, the committee seems to have forgotten that part. The BBC is all about news, even as ’50 Cent: Claims police told to ‘shoot’ rapper investigated’ stands out a bit (it is still news). 9 News gets the attention with: “Human remains have been found during the search for a woman who went missing more than 300km away, with two people in custody over her suspicious disappearance“, it is all about the clicks as the article (on their site) gives us from the beginning “Human remains have been found in Victoria’s east“, the news themselves are exploiting social media to improve circulation (clicks are everything), yet that part is missing in all this. When it comes to ‘fake news’ the media is equally to blame, yet that part was clearly missed by the committee.

And as we see the news “There’s nothing new about personalised number plates, but soon drivers will be able to go a step further and add emojis!“, all this 2 hours ago whilst,

  • Hamas enlists female participation in border riots
  • London social housing block residents warn of ‘death trap’ conditions
  • Terror expert warns Sweden against repatriating Syria jihadists

They are merely three out of a whole range of news items that do not make it to social media. The issue of ‘the common ground on which reasoned debate‘ requires a much wider base and the media is not using social media for that, it makes the media equally to blame, a part that has not been put under the spotlight either. The media uses social media as it is supposed to be used and it seems that the committee is a little too much in the dark there.

On page 10 we get: “In our Interim Report, we disregarded the term ‘fake news’ as it had “taken on a variety of meanings, including a description of any statement that is not liked or agreed with by the reader” and instead recommended the terms ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’. With those terms come “clear guidelines for companies, organisations and the Government to follow” linked with “a shared consistency of meaning across the platforms, which can be used as the basis of regulation and enforcement”.” You see ‘fake news’ is at the heart of the matter and when we see ‘disregarded’, as well as ‘a variety of meanings’ we get the first part that this is about slamming Facebook (always entertaining mind you), yet the media is at the heart of the matter and they too need to be held to account in all this. It is enhanced by statement 16 on the next page: “proliferation of online harms is made more dangerous by focussing specific messages on individuals as a result of ‘micro-targeted messaging’“, it sounds nice until you realise that the media themselves are doing this too, so the overall view gets to be skewed by the media from the start. So consider ‘Start-up founder says employees should only work six-hour days’, whilst in the text we see (amongst more) “Next, we should cut down or get rid of tasks that “don’t add value” such as slashing wasteful meetings in half and switching off distracting notifications. For process-oriented jobs, Mr Glaveski said it was a good idea to automate where possible, and where it wasn’t, the option of outsourcing should be explored“, which largely impedes the existence of places like IBM, Microsoft, and a few other large players. Yet the idea is concept based and the optional loss of 25% income is not expressed as to the stage of who can afford to continue on that premise.

In all this, the media has its own need for micro-targeted messaging, where that ends is not a given and that part does not matter,  it does matter that the message micro and macro is enhanced by the media themselves, yet where is their part mentioned in all that?

When the reports finally makes it to Data use and Data targeting we get: “We have instigated criminal proceedings and referred issues to other regulators and law enforcement agencies as appropriate. And, where we have found no evidence of illegality, we have shared those findings openly. Our investigation uncovered significant issues, negligence and contraventions of the law“, which we wold expect, yet in light of the larger issue where we see: “the use of data analytics for political purposes, which started in May 2017. It states that it “had little idea of what was to come. Eighteen months later, multiple jurisdictions are struggling to retain fundamental democratic principles in the fact of opaque digital technologies”“, I taught it 20 years ago, although not in a political setting, yet the use of data analysis was used in political fields as early as the mid 80’s, so the confusion is a little weird, especially when the footnote linked to the report (at https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/2260271/investigation-into-the-use-of-data-analytics-in-political-campaigns-final-20181105.pdf) gives us on page 8: “Particular concerns include the purchasing of marketing lists and lifestyle information from data brokers without sufficient due diligence, a lack of fair processing and the use of third party data analytics companies, with insufficient checks around consent“, the issue not given is that marketing lists have been available for 20 years, laws had the option of being adjusted for well over 15 years, yet the players only realised too late (some never did) how affordable Facebook and other social media players made this route towards creating awareness, as well as using media to adjust a person’s view became a cheap solution for political players that had little or no budget. The paths were there for well over a decade and nothing was done, now Facebook is lashed at whilst the lists of Dunnhumby and like-minded owners (Dutch Airmiles) and several others are ignored to a larger degree, a path that has been open to adjustment for decades. The law could have been adjusted, but no one bothered, now we see the impact and the lashing out at Facebook, whilst the players were clueless to the largest extent, the 2015 evidence seen as we see: ‘dunnhumby: how Tesco destroyed £1.3bn of value in 9 months‘, the initial moment already showed the failing of insight (as I saw the entire Tesco disaster unfold when it happened in 2015), and with:

In haste to ready Dunnhumby for sale, Tesco made two critical errors that left the company unsellable:

First, Tesco terminated its 50/50 joint venture with Kroger, instead restructuring in such a way that Kroger bought out Tesco and formed a new wholly-owned data company called 84.51°. In this new arrangement, Dunnhumby USA retained its other clients and was now free to pursue new business with Kroger competitors, but no lost its access to Kroger’s customer data.

Second, Tesco capped the length of time that Dunnhumby would have exclusive rights to use the data from the 16 million Tesco Clubcard users. As outlined above, Dunnhumby relies on this data not only to derive profits from its partnership with Tesco but also from reselling this data to the manufacturers.

(source: https://digit.hbs.org/submission/dunnhumby-how-tesco-destroyed-1-3bn-of-value-in-9-months/) we see just how clueless the larger players have been and there are additional questions that this committee should be able to answer, yet they cannot and as you can read they decided not to address any of it.

Its members:

  • Damian Collins MP (Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe) (Chair)
  • Clive Efford MP (Labour, Eltham)
  • Julie Elliott MP (Labour, Sunderland Central)
  • Paul Farrelly MP (Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme)
  • Simon Hart MP (Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire)
  • Julian Knight MP (Conservative, Solihull)
  • Ian C. Lucas MP (Labour, Wrexham)
  • Brendan O’Hara MP (Scottish National Party, Argyll and Bute)
  • Rebecca Pow MP (Conservative, Taunton Deane)
  • Jo Stevens MP (Labour, Cardiff Central)
  • Giles Watling MP (Conservative, Clacton)

They should also be held to a much higher account, as I personally see this situation. Not that they have done anything wrong officially. Yet the consideration that we see on page 87 where we are treated to: “As we wrote in our Interim Report, digital literacy should be a fourth pillar of education, alongside reading, writing and maths. In its response, the Government did not comment on our recommendation of a social media company levy, to be used, in part, to finance a comprehensive educational framework“, the fact that digital literacy is missing on a global scale is a much larger concern, one that political players on both sides of the isle in the House of Commons seem to have been ignoring to the largest extent. It should be part of primary school education nowadays, yet it is not.

We see supporting evidence in the ‘Impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health‘ publication. When we read: “In 2017, however, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, reported that children were “not being equipped with adequate skills to negotiate their lives online” and that they needed help from adults to “develop resilience and the ability to interact critically with the world”“, we see one part, it comes from oral evidence Q566, which gives us the question by Stephen Metcalfe ‘There is a lot of emphasis on preparing children and young people for a digital life—on making them digitally literate. What do you think digital literacy actually means? What are the boundaries? What should we be teaching them, and at what age should we start?‘, the response is “A report I put out earlier this year, “Life in Likes,” which dealt with eight to 12-year-olds, focused heavily on emotional literacy. Schools seem to have done a decent job in looking at safety online. Children will now tell you that you should not put out a photograph of you wearing your uniform. People go to great lengths to trace you. Safety within school has really progressed, but the emotional resilience to be able to deal with it is not there yet. The key age for me is about year six and year seven. Beyond that, it is to do with the mechanics: how it works and algorithms. You do get targeted with stuff. It is not just everyone getting this. There are things coming your way because the machine is set up to work out what interests you. There are things around terms and conditions and knowing what you are signing up to. We did a big piece of work last year with lawyers that reduced and simplified terms and conditions from 17 pages to one. Of course, when people read it and it says, “We own all your stuff and we’ll do what we like with it,” it gets a different response. That is probably not the thing that will make us all turn off, but it might make us think twice about what we are doing.” Longfield gives us a good, yet in this case incorrect (read; incomplete) answer.

From my point of view through the abilities within Facebook we forget that ‘There are things coming your way because the machine is set up to work out what interests you‘, yet the numbers do not add up, you see the bigger issue behind it is that people can buy likes and some do, so the person clicks on something that has 50,000 likes, yet if they knew that 45,000 likes were bought they might not have clicked on it. It becomes the consideration of likes versus engagement. That elementary lack is important. Engagement is everything and in the consideration of item 4 earlier where we saw ‘reasoned debate, based on objective facts‘, we might seem to think that clicks are an objective fact, yet they are not. The amount of people engaged in the conversation is a subjective fact, yet an actual fact, bought clicks are not and that is an important failure in all this. So when we are confronted with upcoming 2% digital services tax, which is merely a cost of doing business, whilst the lack of digital literacy that is spawned from a lack of education is a difference that most are not made aware of.

When we finally get to the Conclusions and recommendations we might focus on: “Social media companies cannot hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform’ and maintain that they have no responsibility themselves in regulating the content of their sites. We repeat the recommendation from our Interim Report that a new category of tech company is formulated, which tightens tech companies’ liabilities, and which is not necessarily either a ‘platform’ or a ‘publisher’. This approach would see the tech companies assume legal liability for content identified as harmful after it has been posted by users. We ask the Government to consider this new category of tech company in its forthcoming White Paper” we do see a truth, yet again an incomplete one. The media is equally to blame and not holding them to account, letting them focus on populist views and pressures (apart from the authentic news bringers like the BBC, Washington Post and the Guardian), we are pushed into a skewed view from the very beginning, that part was equally important and avoided throughout the report. For example the Daily Mail gives us ‘amazing footage‘ of ‘Heartwarming moment Syria’s White Helmets rescue two puppies from being crushed to death by rubble after a building was torn apart by heavy shelling‘, yet the news given several hours ago ‘Saudi Arabia has provided more than $13 billion in support to Yemen since 2014‘ never made it did it? The Daily mail was all about on how to not open a beer keg (by making a hole in the side using a spigot and a piece of wood) and ignoring ‘UK-based man charged with inciting attack in Germany‘ (source: Washington Post). So when it comes to the entire matter of social media and their ability of being merely a ‘platform’ (which they are) the accountability of the media as a whole is a much larger failure and the fact that the committee decided to leave that on the side invalidates the report to a much larger degree (not completely though) as I personally see it.

Facebook might not be innocent, yet the media as a whole is just as guilty. They have made the consideration of what is ‘fake news’ a much larger issue. The few that do a good job are filtered into silence by the hundreds of media outlets that do what social media is supposed to do, create awareness of self through promotion of ‘self’ on a granular population, as granular as possible.

The fact that the word ‘engagement‘ is only seen three times in the report, ‘click‘ is only seen twice, ‘filter‘ (like: filtering, filtered) is seen once and so is ‘selected‘, yet the last word is not see in regards to what the user of a social media account chose to observe.

All elements at the very foundation of: ‘Disinformation and ‘fake news’‘, in that light, just how valid is that report and what else are the people not made aware of? So in light of the members of that committee and the amount of money they made (and the costs that they gave the taxpayers) through lunches, travel expenses and all other forms of remunerations: Can we get that back please?

 

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Evolving an infrastructure

The news is all over the place when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Reuters (at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-defense-naval/saudi-arabia-signs-warship-construction-deal-with-frances-naval-group-idUSKCN1Q60B0), with the headline ‘Saudi Arabia signs warship construction deal with France’s Naval Group‘, then there is Arab News giving us (at http://www.arabnews.com/node/1453471/saudi-arabia) ‘Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan‘, all opportunities lost to the US and Europe (well most of Europe). A lot of it is ‘part of its efforts to develop domestic manufacturing capabilities‘, which they have been very clear about for some time now. All options lost. In part to the circus that Turkey had put in place. Some give us: ‘Turkey Has Not Revealed All About Khashoggi Killing: President Erdogan‘, others give us: ‘Khashoggi’s remains may have been burned in well‘, items like ‘not all revealed‘, ‘may have been‘, as well as a few other implied making statements that leave too much doubt on the matter. The fact that Turkey apparently has not revealed all implies orchestration. As the lackey of Iran it makes perfect sense, the fact that the media has been skating around that issue for months now does not. The fact that Turkey is trying to push the US, whilst they should have revealed all the facts and evidence is a much larger issue.

Let’s be clear, I am not stating that Saudi Arabia is innocent (because I cannot tell), I am not stating that nothing happened (something happened that is clear, what exactly happened is another matter), I am merely claiming that there are too many issues in all this from the very beginning. When it comes to the media, we see close to 18 million placements on ‘Kim Kardashian’ and ‘boobs’, we see 889,000 placements on ‘Jamal Khashoggi’ and ‘tapes’, yet how many made a critical analyses on the tapes? We see mention in papers on: “a man alleged to be Maher Mutreb, the suspected coordinator of the mission who worked for some time in the kingdom’s embassy in London, is quoted as replying to the Washington Post columnist“, we see ‘alleged’, so how were the tapes critically analysed? We also see: “The report adds that a later recording captures another “hitman”, Mustafa al-Madani, who was used as a body double to Khashoggi, saying: “It’s really creepy that I am wearing the clothes of someone who was killed minutes ago.”” as we see ‘a later recording’ should that not be one and the same recording? Then there is ‘transcript of a tape recording’, the fact that it is stated to be ‘a recording’ not ‘the recording’ is also mind for analyses and that list goes on.

We see claims by a Kardashian getting numerous cross references, with Khashoggi there is a consistent stream of doubts and debatable issues. As I stated, I am not saying nothing happened, I am merely wondering what actually happened. The fact that Turkey goes crying to USA to put pressure on Saudi Arabia merely gives more and more debate and debatable doubt to the entire setting. We also see the mention at the UN of “The Special Rapporteur travelled to Ankara and Istanbul with British Baroness Helena Kennedy, a forensics expert who sits in the House of Lords, and homicide investigator Paul Johnston“, yet in the BBC we see: “Evidence suggests the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was planned at the highest level, Baroness Helena Kennedy says“, yet here the BBC states ‘evidence suggests’, which is something different from ‘Evidence shows beyond reasonable doubt’ and for the most that should initially suffice if the stakes were not too high for comfort. In the UK the Press Gazette gives us: “After an initial examination of the evidence, Callamard found that Khashoggi was the victim of a “brutal and premeditated killing planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia”“, yet when we look on we also get claims on quotes made in 2017. All an emotional package to push us in a certain direction, and whilst we might accept: “Woefully inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime-scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation,” the fact is that the event occurred on Saudi territory and the Turkish government has no jurisdiction there. If there was such a level of evidence with the tapes, they would have been made public, yet we see more and more games played by the Turkish government making the issue debatable again and again. We can argue that if they had gone out and revealed everything, the entire setting would be different. They basically invalidated themselves with all the preposterous claims.

This is when we go by the source I used (at https://pressgazette.co.uk/jamal-khashoggi-un-saudi-investigation/). As stated there are issues, there really are, but the emotional games played using the media takes away a lot of credibility. As we were shown “Germany halted arms exports to Saudi Arabia over what it said was the uncertainty surrounding the murder“, we now see well over $20 billion in deals going to other places. That is the name of the game. The issues are important because the governments being holier than though, yet refusing to hold Turkey to account over well over 200 incarcerated journalists is part of the entire package. It comes across as a mockery when we get treated to Turkish journalist Nazli Ilicak who is now apparently serving life plus 6 years in prison. Now we can agree that one should not be the other and I would agree with this. Yet the fact that there is doubt on many levels and the fact that the media kept on shouting and screaming ‘alleged‘ as well as ‘according to unnamed sources‘ whilst there is all kinds of issues in several directions is also a reason for some to not include certain parties. We can argue the same part in the stage with the USA, when we consider “The US Senate, in a largely symbolic gesture, voted in December to end US military support for the war in Yemen and blame the Saudi crown prince for the murder of Khashoggi“, this whilst we can agree that a partial case can be made for the Yemen conflict, the fact remains that the Houthi forces have been receiving support from both Iran as well as terrorist organisation Hezbollah, making the withdrawal by the US a bit questionable (yet not invalid), as for blaming the Crown Prince whilst there has been no evidence showing his involvement is just slightly too silly. If there was clear evidence beyond all reasonable doubt that would be one part, but that part has not been given, now once in 16 weeks makes the claim silly, France was happy though, so there is that to consider.

There is still space for the Dutch if they reconsider a few places. I am decently certain that Saudi Arabia would love to get their ships upgraded with the Dutch Goalkeeper system which is (for the most) a defensive system. And that is merely the defence part, there is a much larger goal for Saudi Arabia and the Dutch could become contenders is a few ways. And in regards to the stage, is being critical about what is written that bad a position to have? I am not stating avoiding writing anything, merely be clear and produce evidence, if we demand it in some directions, should that same request not be in all directions?

The issues evolve even now. As we were introduced to: “Jubeir said the public prosecutor responsible for the case had sought evidence from Turkey but had received no response” is the reference to Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs. The fact that evidence is not shared is also an issue; it could imply that there is no evidence at all making this hot potato no longer a potato, but a disaster in the making. If the evidence was so clear, it would have been in Turkey’s interest to share it with the world and all the media (to some degree), the media will refer to the event as leaking (like they normally do). I wonder when all the facts are clearly published, what would be left?

The fact that News24 also gives us “The CIA has concluded the Saudi operation was likely directed by the powerful crown prince” is now a growing concern. It is not ‘beyond all reasonable doubt‘, it is not ‘on the likelihood of probability‘ it is merely ‘was likely directed‘, implying that evidence is missing on a whole range of issues. So when we see all the unsupported accusations, all the calls for ending cooperation with Saudi Arabia, are we even surprised that Saudi Arabia is spending their cash somewhere else? And when we see the 500 billion and 185 billion go to alternative places, how will that impact economies? To be honest, I would love to get my fingers on the full report of homicide investigator Paul Johnston. It might clear up a whole truckload of issues, and perhaps leave too much reasonable doubt. I honestly do not know, yet I would love to find out.

So when we see that here truly is too much reasonable doubt and when the US hopes to make deals for the good of the economy, we will see what the decisions form Riyadh will be. The fact that 8 hours ago the news as given with ‘Sultan Bin Salman reviews prospects of cooperation with Russian space officials‘ is from my point of view a first message that Saudi Arabia is seeking more interactions on a global scale (read alternative cooperation partners), the fact that it is not going to Europe or the US should be a clear indication that there are troubles brewing under the Saudi sands, and more is coming when we look at the upcoming cutbacks that NASA will be facing.

When we see the amount of evolution that Saudi Arabia is trying to give its own infrastructure should be a massive input towards global economies, but so far the players needing it the most end up with the least, it could of course be a coincidence, but when we realise that it is not, can we actually place any blame, or should we merely blame our own politicians for bluffing whilst holding merely a pair of threes, I will let you decide on that one.

Too many questions and a lack of clear reporting contributed to all this, of that I personally have little to no doubt at all.

 

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Two sides of currency

There was more news yesterday. The article that gave me the previous view has been updated with a new one (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/16/shamima-begum-isis-extremism-expert-criticises-sajid-javid). At the foundation of it is the view of Hanif Qadir, CEO of the Active Change Foundation. I disagree with him on a few levels. Now before I begin, we need to look at his ‘resume’, this is important in this case. As such we see: “Hanif once joined Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, but was deterred by the crimes he saw being committed against civilians and turned his back on them. Upon his return to the UK, he vowed to safeguard young men and women from similar experiences, losing their lives and harming their communities. Having a unique understanding and hard-won experience of the modus operandi of Al Qaeda / ISIS inspired groups and individuals, he is now recognized as arguably the best violent extremist and de-radicalization expert in Europe“, the important part is that he knows the game, he knows what is at stake, yet I still disagree.

When we see: “Hanif Qadir said Sajid Javid’s reaction to the teenager’s predicament fed the narrative of Isis. On Friday Javid said he “would not hesitate” to prevent the return of UK Isis recruits, an approach at odds with Begum’s family in Bethnal Green, east London, who want the 19-year-old to return home “as a matter of urgency”“, I am with Javid on this. In addition there is: “Javid is fuelling the [Isis] narrative and giving wind to the sails of other extremists. If we continue with this trajectory we’ll be sowing the narrative for them to reap and use against us“, it is a fair enough view to have, but that is the setting when all was ‘well’ with ISIS, ISIL, Al Qaeda and such. This is no longer the case. They are not defeated, that much is certain, yet the world is very aware on how desperate they have become. The next part we see is: “If the government doesn’t change their approach to this, we potentially have a second wave of Isis coming, the connecting up and reloading of Isis, fence-sitters who are more sympathetic to another kind of narrative” and finally we get: “Baroness Sal Brinton, president of the Lib Dems, who described Begum’s radicalisation as a form of grooming. “We know that in that particular school three girls went [to join Islamic State], but probably more were approached. Surely our child protection laws have to kick in. As she returns we should look at what happens, as she was 15, and what happened out there“. I think that the cure is much simpler. It is called targeted killing, it is a simple path; if Shamima Begum wants back she has to earn this. As the Baroness points out (a little clumsy) we understand that there was grooming, we know that there was a stage, the fact that 15 year old girls got to fly to Turkey, had access to her passport, got to travel via smugglers, into Syria implies that they have optional intelligence value. It is the price for life, plain and simple. The message needs to be clear and without any level of reservation. Those who embrace terrorism will be hunted down and put to death. The European governments have a clear responsibility to its citizens. And here we see a clear field where we do not negotiate with terrorists. There cannot be a stage of some level of ‘biased’ mercy. People like Shamima Begum will optionally open options for ISIS and become the second wave. It is almost damned if they do and damned if they don’t, in this case the setting of not allowing them back, or merely long term imprisoned might be the safest route in all this.

And again we see the failing of the EU. when we see: “In Brussels the focus has been on trying to raise standards in the swift sharing of information among EU member states, and its dissemination to border databases should there be an uncontrolled wave of returnees“, we think that we are seeing something novel, yet the dangers had been shown since 2012. One year after the Syrian war there was a massive drive of refugees. In December 2012 the number of refugee’s trying to find alternative living had surpassed 500,000. At that point there was the already growing concern that if only 0.1% was ISIS minded, there would be a massive security concern in Europe, the fact that we now see ‘the focus has been on trying to raise standards in the swift sharing of information‘ is evidence that the EU has been sitting on their hands for too long a time, whilst those sitting on their hands remained to be well paid, and you still think Brexit is a bad idea? The intelligence failing in Europe had taken monumental proportions in 2014 as the Greek-Turkish events took a larger stage. Merely 4 years and as it seemingly shows, not actual quality improvement. That is the danger that the UK faces as an Island and ISIS is too large a problem to ignore, whether they get defeated or not, the timeline shows that splinter groups will form and they will take a slow silent step hoping that governments will fall asleep again, people like Shamima Begum will assist in making that happen. So when I see: “Although Begum is likely to be traumatised, Qadir said that if she received the right mentoring, counselling and passed through the necessary security protocols, she could be successfully rehabilitated“, I see a failing in the making. At this point I completely disagree with Hanif Qadir. Only the ego driven and their need for justification will give us the story that they can rehabilitate her. There are too many pressure points for Shamima Begum. At some point some radicalised person will find a way to blame the Europeans and Americans for the loss of her two children and the cloud of terror will be on route to disaster. In addition, she will need to be monitored 24:7 for years to come, if her family failed her once, it will do so again. She will play nice the first 18 months, yet at some point, she will be ‘woken up’ and that is when the problem starts. It is amazing how people cannot learn that lesson. They seem to focus on 9/11, focus on Syria and forget about the sarin attacks (in Syria), they focus on events that the media exploded on mental health cases like Sydney Martin Place, and forget the Charlie Hebdo shooting of January 2015 to a much larger degree. Two people, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi were able to kill 12 and injure 11. What is the damage when 6-8 start having fun with a Belgium FN MAG? Consider that I could with decent ammo, set the stage for a (800 m – 1,200 m) slaughter spree in London, and consider what would not be in range on that distance? It is a direct option for hundreds of deaths in the shortest time. Now consider the impact on tourism and economy if 6-8 did that. I used this example as it is relatively easy to get a hold of one in India, Egypt, and China. Consider that ISIS still has a logistic system in place and until it is utterly destroyed weapons like that can make it into Europe a lot easier than you think. Now consider that one attack will impact a little yet 3-4 events will massively upset all lives. If you doubt that, consider how long France needed to keep its soldiers in the street, merely to make the people feel safer. Consider that impact in London, Amsterdam, Manchester and Birmingham. It will end up doing a lot more than merely spook Europeans.

If a tiger gets out of the zoo, you would like to catch it, when 3 run amok you either consider the death of the visitors, or shoot to kill as soon as you can. We would all like to hide behind the tranquiliser gun, but when there is more than one, the danger of mass carnage becomes a little too large for comfort. You can do this exercise yourself. When you are in a zoo (any zoo that has a tiger), consider three tigers to get out, how much time will you get to get yourself and optionally your children safe, actually safe? How many will not make it? Try doing it on a summer day when the zoo is filled with children on school excursions. How many do you expect to die?

That is the actual situation, yet the area is not a zoo, it is a city filled with people and the members of ISIS are in their stage of ‘doing the will of Allah‘ in the end being nothing more than rabid animals. They will kill indiscriminately. We sometimes look back to videos like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LItKd2VE-NE, yet these are seemingly the most humane ones. Sources filter the video’s away as soon as they can (which we understand completely) and as such we have no reference just how inhumane the actions of these terrorists are, and as the spoof video’s come (like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Momc2e1wHG8) we end up merely persuading ourselves that it is all a joke, yet it is not. The problem is when it happens, the moment you get the real deal the first thing you will do is blame someone else, it was their fault. It is not, you will be just as much to blame as anyone else. So when we consider: “Ferdinand Grapperhaus, recently braved the critics by revealing that the government was cooperating with local authorities in Syria for the return of women accused of Isis membership and their children, and if this woman is shown to be involved with ISIS in any capacity, at that point will you blame Ferdinand Grapperhaus for allowing this to happen, or will you blame yourself for getting him elected? The problem is that until something happens there is no issue, it is the hidden trap. In my personal opinion, anyone who sided with ISIS remains a danger, to others and optionally to themselves as well. Normally we have systems in place, when someone is a mental health problem we have procedures, we have support systems in place. When they actively engage with ISIS, ISIL and Al Qaeda in the attack on others, either directly on the front lines or in support functions behind the lines, we have nothing and weirdly enough, it is the ISIS support people that become the larger problem down the line, they can really rack up the damage in whatever nation they end up living in.

That is the currency we all forget, that is the danger we allow others to be confronted with and that is why I am in opposition of Hanif Qadir and Baroness Sal Brinton.

Have a great Sunday

 

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Bread and games

We seem to ignore the past, yet a lot of our lives revolve around the bread and games of the matter at hand. Yesterday, the LA Times (at https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/herocomplex/la-et-hc-star-wars-episode-9-wrap-photo-20190215-story.html) gave us the first image of Star Wars IX, part nine, the final part of the entire saga. Principle filming and photography finished yesterday, the cast is done. They are all in a state of upper excitement, perhaps some anxiety too. JJ Abrams is all over the place (in joy) and why should he not be? A trip that started in 1977 propelling Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford to heights never imagines before, that trip that started so long ago has been completed. For good measure we saw the added Rogue One and Solo added to the fold. And there is much to celebrate, a whole score of actors added the fold down the line and even if some were not immediately recognised in America, it is people like Peter Cushing, who was the Hammer House of Horror prodigal son, as well as one of the Dr Who players who added to the shine of the Star Wars making an epic story truly epic. Now we need to wait until Christmas to see the finalised version on the big screen, dozens of special effects experts will be wielding their mouses and pens to make magic reality and make the impression of special effects fade away and show us something that DARPA might have actually created, we can no longer tell the difference, the effects have been that stunning for a little while now.

Yet it is not just Star Wars, even if that is the most visible one. We are weeks away from Captain Marvel, soon to be followed by the conclusion of infinity wars (Endgame) and that s just for starters. When Jon Favreau started the Jungle Book in 2016, he might not have had a clue on what he started, but he did start something. In that same trend we will see in 2019 Lion King, Dumbo and Aladdin. Disney just woke up from slumber and is watching billions come their way. We should have reservations on Aladdin, not because of Will Smith, merely because of the shoes he has to fill, the role Robin Williams played was more than legendary, they broke the mould when he was done and it is one hell of a shadow to live up to, I do not envy Will Smith for doing so, yet I applaud his approach to the challenge.

The movies of 2019 will be comic book driven, Joker, New Mutants, X-men, Hellboy, they will all make an appearance, as will Frozen 2, It part 2 and many more. Many of us are planning our calendar one film at a time, trying to see as many as we can, this is how many changed the approach to their lives.

Even as some give us: “the Cost of living in Australia is 3.40% higher than in United States“, than we get “Rent in Australia is 10.04% lower than in United States“, which is massively bogus (as I personally see it). I found more than a dozen 160 square meter apartments in inner city places (not in LA, SF or NY mind you) that are close to 50% cheaper than in Sydney or London. And yes, when you add those (as well as Malibu, the Hamptons and a few other places, the rental prices tumble in the other direction), in addition, the rent in Australia merely seemed lower, the numbers are a little to skewed for my liking, the truth is simple. The cost of living is up all over the place, even now, yesterday I noticed that beef was up 10% that is the way the impact goes when food is thoroughly looked at. We might see the price of beer and think that it is not that expensive, but when the price is based on the need to buy 24 instead of a singular bottle, the scale shifts and not for merely one article, too many articles have speculatively been ‘loaded’ that way. It is not merely in Australia, the UK, many places in Europe, they all have an increased cost of living whilst the incomes have been frozen, in some cases for more than two years. When we see a source give us Levis 501 Or Similar at $98,24 (AU) whilst shops at the same time have prices that vary from $119 to $249, you know that there is a selective weighting in place, or merely some aggregated average that included ‘myworstonlineshopdotwhereever‘, one item already changed the cost between 21% and 154% (if we included the most expensive solution). That is where we are at least 21% more out of pocket for one item. There are a lot of prices that are on the mark and some might even have a seasonal nice discount. So when we are confronted in that stage of live, the bread and games we face matter, they matter a great deal. A list that includes a cinema ticket for less than $20, which is often enough wrong by at least $5, so how does your cost of living add up? How do the small items like popcorn and lemonade add to the pressure of your budget?

This month seems to be all about news on how places have a cost of living that is lower than their national average. Initially it sounds great for those living there, until you realise the other news (not really given to the reader) where we see: “Columbia area named 25th most dangerous in America“, yes there is a drawback to everything. So in one of the places where I was looking, I got treated to: 3 crimes in this area. What? Are you flipping kidding me? Three crimes over the last 4 weeks and one was the disturbance involving an unwanted person. How is that for pristine living? It is not actually that rosy for the entire city there were reported 135 thefts, 106 assaults and 138 arrests, which when you consider it includes Fraud, Forgery, threat complaints, and loads of drug incidents (which mostly includes having a joint) we see a place that Sandra Dee would happily call home.

These are all elements that impact out cost of living, the paths we take to get safely from work to home, the places where we buy stuff, where we get medication and groceries. It is all too some degree connected and the bread and games we have to escape it all is very much part of our lives. For a while we had true escapism via Netflix, and even as that part is not as shiny as it was, the financial geeks still see Netflix as the escape mechanism for most of the players. In that we need to recognise that Netflix over the last year has risen 45.63% since February 14, 2018 and is up trending, we need to see that St. Valentine is definitely in play in all this. You might not find live there, but many watchers are losing their hearts on the feeling of momentary bliss. This feeling relates to the big screen as well. As we seek more ways to escape the stagnating lives we lead, we see that the cinema and the home screen are the two reliable paths to follow (apart from gaming that is).

The question is how will this go on? As the movies come, we see consistent continuation, yet there is another problem. You see even as we see that 300,000 jobs were added, the direct impact is not seen, not in the workflow and not in the US reduction of debt. Others have stated this before me, and it is an important part. The workforce in the US is changing, yet I am not convinced that this is limited to the US, it is a global change. We see more and more that there is a high tier and a low tier of workers, yet the middle tier of workers seem to have been gone. The low tier is all there is in many places and that is where the problem resides. The low tier is definitely growing and more jobs, but they are often minimum wage jobs, there is no room for quality of life, merely contending with the cost of living and whilst most parents both work to make ends meet, we see a family break in place and the only glue left are the bread and games. The view that Reuters gives with ‘the economy was running out of workers‘ is not wrong yet it is not accurate either. Most companies are focussing on cheap labour where possible and that part is now running low. I personally believe that this shifting trend will push itself into the commonwealth and Europe as well. The middle group is either reduced to the lower group or merely pushed into retirement (for as long as that exists). I predict that there will be a rude awakening when we see that the low groups have little tax to pay, but the government have been overspending for too long being in the wrongful believe that the middle tier comes back (any day now they think), the moment that they realise that this will not happen, we will see a collective 68 thousand billion dollar debt that has no place to go, because adjustments that had to be made 4 years ago were never made. They had to be made before that but I reckon the point of no return was passed 4 years ago and now we see the essential need for bread and games. The governments do not want to people to wake up and see that there are no options left, the corporations want the bread and games so that people will not realise that they ended up with a really shitty deal in the end and the rest is looking forward to finding any kind of a solution where they end up in the high tier and they are willing to sell their soul to get there, the lower tier is just a road to nowhere and nothing.

This is exactly why politics is shifting in the US, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her social agenda, we get to see the direct impact of the size of the lower tier, everyone wants her impact and the true stage where people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez never has a chance in politics is now gone, greed driven America pushed the middle tier, the buffer of reason away, now we see the high tier (a few thousand) versus the low tier of millions and now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has the platform she needed. So as we see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez versus Bill Gates who actually made a really good case (not a console case mind you) and his correct vision gets to be blasted away by the millions who have had no quality of life for the longest of times. Now that the middle tier dissipates they have no future to look forward to either and now we see that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a growing platform. And it is in that light where we see that Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman in Davos (at https://www.news.com.au/finance/money/wealth/dutch-historian-who-called-out-billionaires-at-davos-goes-viral-becomes-social-media-star/news-story/45d75de96d5161ed3bf9205d79a0c063) makes not one but three points. He mentions at 0:53 ‘What must Industry do to prevent a broad social backlash?‘, and now we see happen exactly that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the upcoming broad social backlash that none of the industrials wanted, and they did this to themselves.

If she comes with Eisenhower methods (read: solutions), she will be the bane of industrials and the darling of the working class for 2 presidential elections and generations to come. The danger of bread and games, when the games become less rewarding and the bread turns stale, people start considering the bad place they were in. That setting was shown and basically proven by the Roman poet Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis well over 1900 years ago. Interesting that the industry forgot their history lessons, it might not lead to profit, but they could have avoided monumental losses, a harsh lesson that they might get to learn in the two years ahead.

Change is valuable; it lets the oppressed be tyrants!

 

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Living with choices made

We do that at times, we also endure the bitter fruits that we gained from choices. I made some myself, in two cases I trusted the wrong person and it costed me dearly, an invoice payable over decades. I get that, it was my choice, I was an adult and therefor I accept to live with the choice made. It is partially the reason I go out and expose bullshit artists’ because of the dangers that they represent, as well as their friends who knowingly stand by them. So when I saw ‘UK will not put officials at risk to rescue Isis Britons, says minister‘, the article (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/feb/14/uk-isis-britons-officials-risk-syria-schoolgirl-shamima-begum) gives us “I’m not putting at risk British people’s lives to go looking for terrorists or former terrorists in a failed state,” I personally believe that this makes perfect sense. Some might have a bleeding heart when they see: “it was revealed Shamima Begum, one of three pupils from Bethnal Green, east London, who left to join Isis four years ago, told the Times she wanted to return to the UK“, yet there is no way to tell how radicalised she has become. In addition, even as we accept that “Wallace said that as a British citizen, Begum had a right to return home, but anyone who joined Isis should expect to be investigated, interviewed and “at the very least prosecuted” on their return“, we also need to accept that would need to be under scrutiny for some time to come, she is optionally a direct threat to the Britons around her and as such her return also means putting pressure on the budgets of GCHQ and MI5, so there is that to consider. Now, I am not stating that is a reason to keep her out, yet when people state that they are so adult, so well informed and go to places like ISIS Syria, getting married to a Muslim she did not know, have three children with two of them dead is the lifestyle she chose. In addition there is another matter that I had not considered. Even if she is not radicalised, Sir Peter Fahy (former chief constable of Greater Manchester police) gives us: “The biggest challenge if she did come back will be how the police will keep her safe and how she wouldn’t be some sort of lightning rod for both Islamic and far-right extremists“, as an optional catalyst she becomes a new threat on other levels too, as stated, that was something I had not considered and it is important to see that as a matter that could lead its own life. In all the papers and media events we focussed on radicalisation and we forgot that the threat of being a catalyst is actually a larger issue to consider.

And the news is now pouring in from all sides regarding Amira Abase, Shamima Begum and Kadiza Sultana. As all focus on Begum, we know that Kadiza Sultana is dead, the other two were alive in August 2018, and the present status of Amira Abase will be looked at in the near future. My reasons for having the position that I am showing to have is that all need to be held accountable for their actions, not merely governments and large corporations, individuals as well. So when we see “Aqsa Mahmood, a former Scottish university student, has been put under international sanctions for her role as an online recruiter, with other female jihadists including Khadijah Dare and Sally-Anne Jones have called for terror attacks on social media and called on other women to follow them to Syria” (source: the Independent), we need to realise that a governments job is to keep its citizens safe, with the danger of radicalisation and being a catalyst becoming too large a danger, there is everything to be said to leave these people to their fate, so they either become a danger or they die. It seems a simple equation. Yet, we know it is not. The move by more and more Muslim girls (and women) from the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands to step onto the ISIS platform is a given stage for dangers, more than we see at first light. You might think of Robert Ben Lobban Wallace being a softy, think again, he is Sandhurst trained, and a Scots Guard commander with 24 years of intelligence experience. He knows what he is in for and he is more aware of most on the dangers that former ISIS women present. That needs to be taken into consideration before we give rise to: ‘Let Shamima Begum come back, say Bethnal Green residents‘ (the Guardian), ‘British schoolgirl who fled London to join IS pleads to come home to have her baby‘ (News.com.au) and ‘UK schoolgirl Shamima Begum who fled to join Islamic State ‘wants to return home to England’‘ (ABC). you see, the moment she is back and some misguided catalyst event explodes (optionally very literally), we will get all the accusations and all the pointing fingers of a failed police force, yet from my point of view, the people of Bethnal Green will not be allowed to complain. It will be the direct consequence of ‘let her come back‘ and the family members of those victims can ask those people for reparations and grief counselling. So as we see the impact of Shamima Begum (19) mother of three with optionally only one child left alive is seeing the impact of what she thought would be a fairy tale in ISIS. The people who stayed awake have been aware of the danger that ISIS is more than half a decade before she left, she merely listened to the wrong people and it got her family and optionally soon enough her killed. That is the impact of terrorism.

ABC News also gives us: “Independent of this, Home Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to weigh in on whether Ms Begum should have the right to return to the UK, along with intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 and counterterrorism police, who are anticipated to conduct further investigations into potential dangers Ms Begum could pose to the UK“, the issue is not merely that, the words of Sir Peter Fahy are important too, it is not merely what she does, it is what triggers others to do because of her that counts too and that is where the problem begins. This is not merely come algorithm, it is the dimensional impact that others will trigger at her presence, merely via news, or by seeing her. The part that is not about whether she was ISIS, but the part where others see her as a member of ISIS until she is dead, that is the larger issue and there is no way to set that stage in a dependable way. It is like fishing for sharks in the North Sea. You can go to places where they are most likely to be found, yet throwing out bait and a fishing line does not give rise to catching a shark, you could end up with another fish entirely.

It is in that light that I oppose the view of Amina Mohamed, 52, a housewife, who gave us in the guardian: “She was a baby, she didn’t know what was going on there. People played a game with her and brainwashed her. She was a child“, she made a very clear choice, she decided not to listen to her parents, and it is actually that simple. I do not have much on the parents of Shamima Begum, yet the Evening Standard gave us: ‘after deceiving their parents‘, so in all that, it seems to me that a choice was made and as such, they will have to live with the consequences that they created at the age of 15.

The BBC (at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47240100) if the sides in all this as even as there are sides that give rise to the responsibility of the British government, the question that we cannot answer is how radicalised has she become? The fact that we see: “She and two friends – Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana – flew from Gatwick Airport to Turkey after lying to their parents about their plans for the day. Their aim was to join another friend, Sharmeena Begum“, there is a part that is seemingly ignored by a few people. Not only did was she able to get to Turkey (so they had passports and they tend to take a while, and apart from the fact that an unsupervised minor got one), the fact that the BBC gives us: “The trio were picked up by smugglers working for the IS group and taken across the border into the group’s territory in northern Syria” that there was a logistical support system in place that set the stage for minors to get to Syria from Turkey, the costs that is involved (three times £175 plus additional expenses), the fact that Gatwick raised no questions on unaccompanied minors, the smugglers they willingly followed (so waiting at the airport), there is a larger support system in place for this. There was a recruitment drive and there is a financial stage in all this. There are clear reasons that no one on the ISIS side wants her to be able to talk to MI5, so the issue is not that clear and it is a lot more hazardous for those around any of the optional two still alive that make it back to the UK, so from where I stand, I see that Sir Peter Fahy is correct in several ways.

Investigating these elements should be high on the priority list and they might be, yet the coverage I have seen so far does not ask any of those questions, do they?

I do realise that the entire matter is more complex that this, yet the fact that dissemination of information is lacking levels of scrutiny is a larger issue that needs to be addressed. To see this, we need to consider to parts, first a local one. In Australia Jenny McAllister has voted very strongly against more scrutiny of intelligence services & police on several occasions. Now, that is her right and partially it is her duty to vote one way or the other. Then there is the Financial Times two weeks ago who gave us: ‘Foreign Office criticised over scrutiny of UK spy agencies‘ (at https://www.ft.com/content/4a1cc4e6-2619-11e9-b329-c7e6ceb5ffdf) and we see: “The two agencies use section seven of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, often referred to as the “James Bond clause”, to authorise activities overseas that might otherwise lead to criminal and civil liability under UK law“, yet in the same trend we see a lack of questions when it can be established that 15 year old girls are recruited in the UK, there is a logistical support system to get them to Syria and the media seems to remain oblivious to a much larger degree (it is the people need not know approach) to something much more pressing in all that. I must have forgotten the lessons on common law regarding the recruitment of children for criminal purpose, how did that go again?

So when I see: “Such missions could include MI6 agents breaking into properties in foreign countries to obtain documents or GCHQ infiltrating computers and networks in ways that might otherwise fall foul of UK laws“, which is a larger implication when a 19 year old is having her third child and it raises no questions, especially as the marriage might be seen as illegal?

At that point my question towards Dan Dolan, deputy director at Reprieve, who is so about doing the right ‘thing’, will be about: What should we do? How far are we allowed to go to prevent recruitment and radicalisation of minors straight out of primary school? How far are we allowed to go to keep British children safe? I think that plenty of intelligence operators lost the plot in the Huawei events (which the Financial Times endorses with a photograph), yet when it comes to threats like ISIS the intelligence industry hasn’t even seen the outer limits lights at present, I am not entirely sure if they are able to tell the colour of those lights when asked. the larger issue is that the intelligence operators are not merely walking a tightrope, they are walking one that is covered in razor blades and at any time there is not merely the risk that it cuts into the feet, it is also a risk that it cuts the rope they are walking on, giving rise to additional hazards, Shamima Begum is merely one of several risks at present and it is important to realise that a Queensberry Rules approach is not merely making us human and humane, it is getting us killed with 99% certainty, the opposition does not warrant, endorse of accepts any kind of rules. I do hope that the recruitment of 15 year old girls will suffice as evidence at present.

 

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The Outsourcer’s Furlong

The race is on, we heard last year just how poorly the setting of Interserve was. We all head how Interserve served the people the small fact that they were half a billion (in £) in debt. I discussed it last December (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/12/17/one-to-the-hospital-one-to-the-morgue/) in the article ‘One to the hospital, one to the morgue‘, and if the previous financial model applies, there is every consideration that so far another £200 million has been added to the debt. The guardian gives us: “the directors danced around the issue. A “fully consensual” financial restructuring would be preferable but Interserve was “also actively preparing alternative plans to ensure the proposed transaction can be implemented in the event that shareholder approval is not forthcoming”“, and as they very correctly state it ‘What alternative arrangements?

In this Coltrane and Farringdon Capital Management have between them one third of the equity and the message of “the proposed £480m debt-for-equity rescue in which the banks would take control and current investors would be diluted to just 2.5% ownership“, you can imagine that these two campers were not happy. They stand to lose it all if things go pear shaped, the awkward impact of a wrong investment made bare. The fact that these two could stagger it all if there is not a full house (which is the most likely event), could stop everything and as the Guardian states (to be more specific Nils Pratley does at https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2019/feb/13/interserve-needs-a-plan-b-given-the-rebellion-over-its-current-plan), a plan B is needed. I personally think that a plan C is equally essential. At present chairman Glyn Barker has his work cut out for him, not only are 45,000 out of the 74,000 employees in the UK and they are waited with baited breath, there are more than two parties that are on the ropes and he needs the bulk to fall in line with his vision. One part is the lucrative Interserve Saudi Arabia. Even as it is profitable now, it is also in demand now, auctioning it off to Salini Impregilo could give them a decent reduction in debt overnight and with matters in Saudi Arabia as they go, Salini Impregilo needs the workforce, they are scoring job after job and at some point the workforce will not hold up to the scrutiny of deadlines. As it includes presence in the UAE, Interserve might want to choose dollars for doughnuts before the stage has changed and all that they can hope for is 10 cents to the dollar, because at the stage where two players having one third push for change, Salini Impregilo merely needs to wait for Interserve parties to become utterly desperate and that given stage is a little more realistic than some players are comfortable with.

If debt reduction is the goal and we see that their Middle Eastern part involves:

  • Hospitality and leisure
  • Oil and gas
  • Retail
  • Transport and infrastructure

I see at least three branches that could be pruned and it is a first step to push Interserve back to their core and optionally into a field where cost becomes increasingly lower than the current balance statements require them to be. A similar view could be held for the US and Asia. I wonder just how profitable these branches are, the total debt implies that it goes way beyond the UK (or the UK part is optionally mismanaged in the most dreadful way). I am not implying or judging, half a billion in debt is doing that for me pretty convincingly.

So as the Times gives us: “The New York hedge fund attempting to derail the £905 million rescue plan at Interserve is nursing losses of nearly 90 per cent on a £25 million bet that the public services contractor could recover without falling into the hands of its lenders“, we also see another side. The fact that we see someone hedging 3% into moving away from the £900 million rescue plan, and losing 90% of their attempt also implies that the tress intensifies. Another view is given by the Financial Times (at https://www.ft.com/content/8cd9d920-2b98-11e9-a5ab-ff8ef2b976c7) with: ‘Hedge fund in Interserve feud profited from Carillion collapse‘, with the addition “Coltrane Asset Management, the biggest investor in Interserve, earned £4m wagering on Carillion’s collapse by selling its shares short“, so why give them any consideration? the fact that they decided to add a 20+% share in Interserve with the assumed and highly likely path to try that trick a second time implies that they have no vested interest in the firm, merely a need for greed. So why cater to that? When we are given: “Carillion collapsed in January 2018 leaving banks, investors and pensioners nursing heavy losses and the government struggling to deliver key services such as hospital cleaning and school meals. Some 3,000 staff lost their jobs, with another 14,000 transferred to other employers, in one of the biggest corporate failures in British history“, we know that this was not the fault of Coltrane Asset Management, yet they had no issue selling it all down the drain as it allowed them to fill their pockets. We get it and we do understand that Coltrane is in it for the money, that is how the cookie crumbles, yet when we see the impact on an optional 74,000 employees, we need to look beyond. It is not like Coltrane is taking over and making it a profitable setting, are they?

We do get that Coltrane is not the actual evil party in this, unless they explored short selling here too, at that point they are on their own. Coltrane is not without teeth, the mere setting of shareholders losing out on their investment will make them gang together and plenty of them are small investors; it is their retirement that is at stake. Scottish pubs tycoon Alan Macintosh is also still an element in all this, the swap would make him massively rich so he is willing to stick with the plan, there are still 6 weeks until the deadline gives us the setting of the battle line that will be drawn, and where that ends is anyone’s guess. yet as the Financial Times points out “People close to Coltrane said it was confident of winning support from the numerous smaller investors — which include Hargreaves Lansdown and Standard Life“, those with their retirement savings in the balance will turn to Coltrane soon enough, some will be scared enough to offer their part to Coltrane at any amount that gives them more than 30 cents to the dollar, giving Coltrane the option to upgrade the size of the bat that they wield in this encounter, leaving the people at Interserve with little to work with, and in light that there is no plan B or a plan C, gives more and more the impression that they never properly prepared for this war, making the outcome of a win for Coltrane against them a rather large likelihood.

So who goes to a war theatre without at least three options ready? Anyone who starts a tactic without two alternative routes handy at any given time is merely on a one way street to defeat. That is not predictive, that is an issue that has been gospel since WW1, I would go further that the Siege of Khartoum of 1884 was another example to that premise. In those days there were thousands of Brits sneering and making fun of Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah, in the end he walked into Khartoum leaving mountains of corpses in his wake. From that setting alone, the board of directors at Interserve have made a few too many really poor decisions, when we add that to the pile, we see that Coltrane is not done, not by a long short and when it falls over, Coltrane walks away with an ox-cart of gold and a fair share of the 74,000 employees will not be that lucky.

Those who want a better stage better find themselves a new deal and set themselves as independent contractors finding new alliances. It might be easy for some where the market is vastly on the rise, but that is merely in a few places where the stage can be set to take control of the projects, making the situation of Interserve a lot less manageable soon enough.

I am merely speculating now, yet consider the projects over the last 6 months.

  • Qatar National Theatre
  • Southwark Council
  • Highways England
  • North Lincolnshire Council
  • Durham University

These are merely a few of many projects where ownership of the project could revert to other players if the pressure on that project is high enough. Those customers will need to seek a solution for their invested needs and there is now enough doubt whether Interserve can fulfil its side of those contracts, the mere absence of a plan B would essentially be enough to facilitate for change if the proper cards were played and £150 million is nothing to make fun of.

But that could be merely my wrongful view on the matter, we will know soon enough.

 

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Life without pension

Yes, that is one of the elements that are now in play, life without pension, work until death. Did you consider this danger when you woke up this morning? It does not matter whether you are 55+ and awaiting your first months on a pension, or perhaps you are a decade younger and you are setting the stage for your house, your family and your future to be decently secure. Perhaps you are young and you do not care yet on how you celebrate your golden years. Yet what happens when you are becoming aware that this will never be the life you can embrace?

For me it is not really a concern, I have always been a workaholic.

Yet the picture I am painting is slowly becoming a reality. I made mention somewhere in 2018 that there would be noise on renewing, or not cancelling the entire stimulus program. I was initially pleasantly surprised that this was exactly what happened. It did not take long, a mere 8 weeks later we see: ‘Dutch central banker calls on ECB to pause plan to ditch stimulus‘ (at https://www.ft.com/content/d42d5c12-2def-11e9-8744-e7016697f225). Here we see: “The European Central Bank should pause plans to ditch its crisis-era stimulus, the governor of the Dutch central bank has said, in a sign that concerns over disappointing economic growth have spread to the eurozone’s most hawkish circles“, In addition we see: “the central bank needed to gauge how badly the economy was faring before pressing ahead with plans to normalise monetary policy“. This is merely one part where we see that the economy is a jester and we are all playing the same card whilst the protected few get the entire deck, an economy that requires $3 trillion and counting to run through invested support is not running, plain and simple and that debt is with us, the tax payers. The idea to runt that bill up higher should outrage us all, no matter what excuses we get to hear. So when we see “he has moved into line with Mr Draghi and the majority on the ECB governing council. It shows the steep deterioration in eurozone sentiment“, I merely see that not only was Brexit the better idea, we need to get out as quick as we can, with exit deal or not.

What do you think will happen when this blows up in their faces? It will; I personally believe that there is close to zero doubt on this. The Wall Street Journal gave us two days ago: “the ECB could raise interest rates this year. If it doesn’t, the bank might turn to new stimulus measures. It has few tools left“, I will go one step further, it has no moves left other than to tap unused resources for short term gains and that is when someone will give the audience assurances with some small ‘extremely unlikely‘ or some ‘failure is too small a factor to see it as any threat‘ mention and soon thereafter that one thing happens and the pensions will be gone. The Dutch Telegraaf reported on that less than 10 hours ago where the reader gets: “De EU-landen willen volgende maand de knoop doorhakken. De PEPP moet het makkelijker maken geld opzij te zetten voor de oude dag door een einde te maken aan de lappendeken van regels in de Unie“, which translates to: “The EU countries want to make a decision next month. The PEPP should make it easier to set aside money for the old age by putting an end to the patchwork of rules in the Union“. Critical viewers see the danger as the mandatory part comes into question. So not only do we see places like Carillion (UK) with their “pension fund deficit of £800 million” a mere week ago. So what happens when this ends up being the impact on a European scale? What happens when the Dutch and Swedish systems (which are among the safest and most secure pensions) collapse? That is not fictive, that is not academic, that is a realistic danger of the PEPP, when those schemes start banking on the wrong bonds and investments there will be no pension left. Good luck getting by with that March Hare menu. The fact that this is getting pushed by more and more marketing, complete with ‘How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1 trn pension fund‘. It makes me extremely cautious. In the age where we see new stimulus replace another, whist there is no economic good to be found, we see more and more debt, the moment the ECB gets there fingers on that PEPP option the fences move and the entire herd of economic protection levels gets squashed, like grapes in a wine barrel, to be diminished to the status of vinegar. So there goes your pension that was initially a decent chardonnay at $15 per 700ml, and is now no more than $2 per gallon, so how does that go over with your planned pension outlook?

The rapid growth of all these international advisors all claiming that the Pan European Personal Pension products (Pepp) are a good idea is making me even less trusting. Having seen the eager needs of hedge funds managers over the decades and their renowned need for greed is making me worried that this will blow up and whilst they walk away with multimillion bonuses, we all end up without a pension. It does not get any better soon. That part is seen through the paper by Paul Cox, Lecturer at the Birmingham Business School (at https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/CHASM/briefing-papers/2018/BP1-2018-Pan-European-Personal-Pension-Paul-Cox.pdf), and the first thing that should worry you is: “Currently there is no specific EU legal framework on the design, provision and distribution of PPs“, so not only is this an international product limited by national law, there is every indication that once outside of the borders a lot of national legislation loses its impact and power, giving rise to all kinds of dangers. Even as we are given: “The PEPP takes the form of a Regulation. A Regulation is directly applicable in each Member State and does not need to be passed in Parliament as a Directive does.” This comes with the added danger that these regulations can be altered at any time, giving the rise to ambiguity as well as adaption to fit the need of the ECB, that same entity that callously handed over $3 trillion in stimulus with nothing to show for it. How does that fit your retirement scheme?

Even as we see: “Transfers into a PEPP from any national Member State PP is allowed but a transfer from a PEPP to a national Member State PP is not allowed” and are given the reasoning of “The aim is to prevent possible tax relief arbitrage where the PEPP tax relief is not as generous as national Member State tax relief.“, the indirect danger will be that the PEPP could face additional taxation (on top of the normal national one).

Yet the bigger danger is in the unspoken part of: “An obligation to provide a financial guarantee might lead to investment in low risk and low returning assets, such as government bonds and money markets, which would go against the CMU’s aim of fostering investment in equity and increasing private sector economic growth. A financial guarantee may also create a significant barrier to entry as only some providers would be able to offer such guarantees“, so not only the loss of optional guarantee, yet the bigger part is the danger of much higher risk investments, apart from the partially visible danger of investing in ECB bonds fuelling more non profitable stimulus, the danger of big risk as people experienced in 2004 and 2008, at that point your pension is gone.

That is a direct danger at present and there is almost zero chance that these dangers will not hit you at some point. The problem is that the closer you are to retirement, the larger the impact will be. Some of my friends were hit with their low risk investments in 2008, resulting in an added 10 year shift to their retirement, so retiring at 75, do you think you will be that lucky?

From my personal point of view, it is not the large players that are the danger, there will always be another Carillion, the danger are the dozen small players where we see people diving into a pool they do not comprehend and set aside the essential protections required, all with the view to strike rich fast. In that view, consider the “the fallout of a $235 billion dirty-money scandal that has engulfed the local branch of Copenhagen-based Danske Bank A/S“, then take “the ABLV, Latvia’s third-largest bank, accused of laundering Russian money and starved it of American dollars, forcing it to close“, add “the closure of Malta’s Pilatus Bank and a 775 million euro fine imposed on Dutch lender ING” and the clear message, given via Reuters by committee chairman Petr Jezek: “The Financial Intelligence Units of many EU member states are ‘clearly not up to the task’“, that is the PEPP picture you could face, all getting in and out quick and ransack EU pensions overnight (and all falling over at the same time). There is too much danger and as we might have some faith in the uber wealthy Larry Fink and his need to grow his $6 trillion empire, the danger of small bank barracuda’s pretending to be great white’s or their version of an all devouring Megaladon (thanks Jason Statham) is too great, there is a lack of protection in place and with pensions that is just too great a risk to face. To translate that in other terms. It is not the one player losing $1oo billion that is the danger, it is the setting that 100 players all lose $1 billion at the same time, the systems are often not ready to deal with such a situation.

I fear that the fraud and pocket filling impact by greed driven persons the next time around will be a lot higher, a lot more devastating. I always figured that I will be working should I pass the 77 mark and still be alive, that is the one benefit of a workaholic, is that the view you are having for your retirement at 40+?

BP1-2018-Pan-European-Personal-Pension-Paul-Cox

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