Tag Archives: CBS

A leaky Cauldron is a just sif!

Well, as we are moving into the final days of President Obama, we get to see one more rodeo of entertainment, amusement and comedy. You see the headline ‘Barack Obama delivers stinging critique of FBI: ‘We don’t operate on leaks’‘, we can argue that they actually do, or we can howl with laughter, because for the most, the Obama administration created leaks, it did close to nothing to do something about it that would actually work. For one, here is a quote from thinkprogress.org. It is from August 7th 2015: “Congress’s Cybersecurity Plan Has Some Major Flaws“, this is in his second presidency and we see Congress not being even close to resolving essential issues that should have been addressed well before 2008. This level of inaccuracy (read: incompetence) is shown in “Civil liberties groups including the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), New America, and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the public to call their senators to persuade them to vote against, what even the Department of Homeland Security has deemed, a flawed bill with more than 20 proposed amendments“. So an issue where the ACLU and the DHS are on the same page, even when taking decent amounts of LSD, the world would still seem more logical, when ACLU and DHS are on the same page, the matter is a lot more critical than some make it out to be.

When we look back to 2013, when Robert Gates, the former Defence Secretary, reveals in his book ““reveals the depth of Mr. Obama’s concerns over leaks of classified information to news outlets, noting that within his first month in office, the new president said he wanted a criminal investigation into disclosures on Iran policy published by The New York Times.”“, we see that President Obama, knows all about leaks, they were at the centre of his core for two terms, so when we see again and again that the ball was dropped, what does that state about the president and his administration that keeps on twisting their ‘cyber’ thumbs?

Yet in all this, it was the Guardian who gave us (at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/03/fbi-leaks-hillary-clinton-james-comey-donald-trump) an essential issue “Even some congressional Republicans, no friends to Clinton, have expressed discomfort with Comey’s last-minute insertion of the bureau into the election“, apart from what I discussed in my blog ‘As messages pass by‘ two days ago, there is one other part that must be mentioned in all fairness, because this is about the situation, not about anti-Clinton rants. The quotes are “As The Post’s Sari Horwitz reported on Saturday, “a largely conservative investigative corps” in the bureau was “complaining privately that Comey should have tried harder to make a case” against Clinton“, as well as “Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the Oversight Committee, quickly tweeted news of Comey’s letter Friday and stated: “Case reopened.” This is not what Comey said (and technically the Clinton case was never closed). But many in the media bought Chaffetz’s hype, especially in early accounts. That’s what happens when an FBI director hands an explosive but muddled letter to a Republican-led Congress. In fact, Chaffetz had already made clear that if Clinton wins, the GOP’s top priority will be to keep the Clinton investigative machine rolling“, which came from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/comey-gives-in-to-shameful-partisanship/2016/10/30/c31c714a-9ed8-11e6-8d63-3e0a660f1f04_story.html and this clearly shows two elements. One is that the republicans via Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Republican from Utah pushed. For those who think that this doesn’t matter, consider the following which we get from the FBI Website (at https://www.fbi.gov/about/faqs ). “Who monitors or oversees the FBI? The FBI’s activities are closely and regularly scrutinized by a variety of entities. Congress—through several oversight committees in the Senate and House—reviews the FBI’s budget appropriations, programs, and selected investigations. The results of FBI investigations are often reviewed by the judicial system during court proceedings…“, so when Congress pushes the FBI, it has bearing and impact (although ‘bearing’ would be allegedly). So whilst the media is going all out against Director James B. Comey, can we agree that Congress was pushing and in addition, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton could still up ending to be regarded as criminally negligent.

Now that last accusation needs explaining, and funnily enough, for the most, we all have that evidence. Those who have a job, ask yourself how many bosses allow you to do company business using your private emails? There are plenty of companies that such an action, seen as a transgression that could result in immediate dismissal and that isn’t even high dangerous secretive information. Now consider that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton submitted over 20 top secret issues via private email, in addition, the emails went to the laptop of a previous employee, basically giving classified information to a non-authorized person. The fact that she ends up not being prosecuted is a little weird to say the least. Yet, I discussed that in an earlier blog, the link remains because the issues are linked.

What is important now is that the media at large had access to more information that I had (or so they think), and they kept you, the reader in the dark. The bias against Donald Trump is THAT intense. Now, personally, I think that Donald Trump is as dangerous as a baboon on XTC, which is an issue as this primate is merely dangerous and lethal in the most docile of times. Its teeth rip through your flesh and bones in one bite. I’ll be honest, Baboons scare me, not because of what they do (they are equipped to protect, not to hunt people), they are highly intelligent, yet when cornered they can be the most dangerous animal you will face in a lifetime. Making my correlation with Donald Trump a lot more accurate than even I bargained for. His latest actions known as ‘Donald Trump’s Impeachment Threat‘ (at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/opinion/donald-trumps-impeachment-threat.html), when we see “they may well seek to impeach Hillary Clinton if she wins, or, short of that, tie her up with endless investigations and other delaying tactics“, the Democratic Party is seeing the result of President Obama’s bad presidency. The result and fallout of Benghazi, the mail issues with the Clintons and a few other matter. As stated, Congress gets to push the FBI and it is a republican congress. There is a little too much realism in the quote “Mrs. Clinton won’t be able to govern, because we won’t let her. So don’t waste your vote on her. Vote for us“, because her promise to do something about the economy will fall flat for at least 2 years. In addition, there are other matters that play, matters that involve the non-committal towards Common Cyber Sense and with the alleged Cyber-attacks from Russia (I am calling them alleged, because no clear evidence is in existence, yet clear reliable speculative data that pushes towards Russian involvement cannot be denied, not even by me), we see that Russia is instigating another cold war, one that America is unlikely to win makes the Democratic position even more weak. Even if we all admit that it is too unlikely for Russia to win this, it will work as an anchor on the US economy, so the next president has that to worry about too.

So as we are confronted with the Cyber issues at hand, in light of the extreme negligence that Hillary Clinton has shown to have, we see certain markers that weigh down on the positivity of her campaign. This might be the first election where the third party had a decent shot of winning, isn’t it a shame that Reverend Jesse Jackson wasn’t running? I reckon that unlike 1984 and 1988, he actually would have had a chance this time around, when we are brooding on which of the two is the lesser of two evils, the third player o gets be an actual contender #ThatsJustMe, wasn’t it funny that he of all people that showed up in Detroit yesterday after which he praised Donald Trump for his commitment of Diversity. Although from the news we have seen, I have to wonder if ‘diversity’ was about the sizes and shapes of breasts. I just had to get that of my chest, #Pardonemoi.

In all this, the media themselves are also a worry as they are pushing the people with outdated information. An example is the Business Insider only 2 hours ago. The article (at http://www.businessinsider.com.au/hillary-clinton-new-emails-found-fbi-2016-11), gives us “The FBI says it found new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, CBS News reported on Thursday. It is not known whether the emails are relevant to a case involving Clinton’s private email server, the network said, but the messages do not appear to be duplicates of emails the agency has already reviewed, according to an unnamed US official cited by CBS News“, the article was given the date and identity ‘Bryan Logan Nov 4th, 2016, 11:12 AM‘, yet when we look at the CBS article “In a letter to Congress last Friday, FBI Director James Comey indicated that the agency was taking steps to review newly discovered emails relating to Clinton’s private email server. Those emails came from the laptop of Weiner, a former New York congressman“, which was what I reported on 5 days ago, which came from CNBC on October 29th. So, as the Business Insider is intentionally misinforming the people. So, can we agree that the Media could now be regarded as ‘tempering’ with elections by misinforming the public? Even as we see these events evolve, we need to take heed that Donald Trump is the kind of man that large media corporations do not mind to be indebted to. Because his next crazy idea that pays off, these people will be knocking for exclusives, so when you think that you are getting informed, think again! The article never ‘lies’, it just trivialises older news and gives only part of the complete timestamp on other sides, leaving us with the message that Hillary Clinton has more eventful issues, instead of us getting the correct information that Business Insider is just rehashing old news, to get a few more cycles out of it. How is that not tempering with the view of the voters?

 

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A bit in the stream

Something alerted me towards events this morning in LinkedIn of all places. There was a reference towards an article titled ‘New Accenture boss Bob Easton throws down gauntlet to big four on digital’ (at http://www.afr.com/business/accounting/new-accenture-boss-bob-easton-lays-down-gauntlet-to-big-four-on-digital-20160829-gr3huj ).

The initial quote is “The trouble is there is a lot of people running around talking about digital“, which is true. Bob Easton is right that there is a lot of talk about digital. Yet, when we look at the definitions, I wonder how many have a true grasp of digital. Even I myself wonder when the use ‘digital’ is warranted. You see, when it is media, my photography is digital, so is my filming. Advertisement is digital as it goes through AdWords and not trough the newspapers. Here is the issue. When is something digital? Bob Easton states in the article “they are confusing the market by misunderstanding digital strategy and lacking the global capabilities of his firm“, the fact that IBM took a massive hit is not a surprise because they are confused on the best of times. They still present the 14 managers and 2 technicians approach. I cannot speak for either PricewaterhouseCoopers in this instance, or for EY, but my last encounter with Deloitte gave a much better view on them and they seem to know it (to some extent). So where does this leave Accenture?

The term “moving to aggressively compete for work in the consulting, digital and business transformation space” is only a concern if they do not meet customers’ expectations. So where should they be?

So where should you be? You see Dave Aron from Gartner (at that time) gives me: “A digital strategy is a form of strategic management and a business answer or response to a digital question, often best addressed as part of an overall business strategy“, what I liked was “Every business and public sector agency needs both an IT Strategy and a Digital Business Strategy. They must be highly aligned with each other, but they are not the same thing“, which gives part of the goods, yet when we consider his claim “All aspects of the business strategy should be informed by digital considerations“, we tend to get confused here, because different elements have the same word (read: digital), but in that the setting is not the same.

We can see it as advancements in digital technologies such as computers, data, telecommunications and Internet, which is still true, but how to go about it?

A digital media manager looks at how to get the solutions towards their ROI, which in many turns means to get it all electronically solved, whilst keeping costs to a minimum. Here we see the first failing from IBM as they are about revenue and about getting the business onto their solutions. Even in a step by step solution it is about getting one foot into the door and upsell from there. That is not a solution for the client, it is merely a solution for the sales person’s target.

And in some cases there is no digital path, but to a lot of people that does not exist so they will feign a solution. As an example I have my old dentist, he had a card system so perfect that no IT solution could bring the goods. I saw yuppies in all sizes try to sell him a solution between 1983 and 1995, one failure after another. The mere realisation that not all solutions fit and that some solutions will drive down the ROI in unacceptable ways is why several of these players will never succeed. Because what the client truly needs is never addressed. If we take the approach from Macala Wright (at http://mashable.com/2012/09/05/how-to-digital-strategy/#oc3qMBqfF8qC)

We see a decently clear path. I can quote all the steps again, but the article has them down to a nice clean size, so reading it is a recommendation.

I am downgrading it to these four steps for comfort (read: mine).

  1. Identifying the opportunities and challenges in a business where online assets can provide a solution or a difference.
  2. Identifying the unmet needs and goals of the external stakeholders that most closely align with those key business opportunities and challenges, and especially if there are threats there.
  3. Developing a vision around how the online assets will fulfil those business and external stakeholder needs, goals, opportunities, challenges and threats.
  4. Prioritizing a set of online initiatives which can deliver on this vision.

These steps also include the views Cisco had in step 3, yet it is a watered down list. I am emphasising this as the entire ‘going digital’ is larger and more complex than most realise. When I look at what can be done and what can be achieved we need to realise that this all needs the decision makers to be aligned and in that both IT and business needs must be addressed. Most people going digital seem that it is a cheaper solution towards a better ROI. Yes, it is a path towards a better ROI, which will not make it cheaper. It requires serious investments and not tinkering around with half a dozen people working from home, sending in some finished element. Whilst the Australian Financial Review gives us a chart with Revenue versus margin and adds a little hype by adding AirBnB and Uber in the new business models, we see a forgotten element. You see, these new business models come with a little hook, one was highlighted by Bell Partners, where we see “Some critics argue that Uber drivers are not subject to the same premiums for compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance as taxis, as it is harder to identify an Uber car in an accident“. Is that so? So how does this impact the passenger? Until you are in an accident you might not care, but when the hospital bills come and the Uber player does not have the coverage, you will soon learn that hospitals are very expensive.

There is a lot of truth in the article and it is well worth reading, yet the lack of threats discussed is equally unsettling. The fact that Expenses in the digital world are up and very much so with Accenture is an element, and also a threat. You see, we all understand that there are a lot more expenses coming over (nearly all tax deductable), the matter of a shifting ROI remains and until the model is used to fuel growth the benefit will not be easily seen. For this path requires a globalising mindset. If you want to remain the big cheese in Darlinghurst and that is all you want, you need to consider what sides need the digital approach and what you want to grow. This for the mere reason that costs will come in the early days and if you are ready it is not an issue, if not, your ROI went straight into the basement, good luck enjoying that view!

Depending on your market, it will be about your customers and their experience, if that is not upgraded, then why byte into the digital apple? I truly worry about the bit you do not end up with, as you would limit your position and enable your competitor overnight. This is the part that is not addressed in many places, because everyone is in a sales hat thinking bonus and saying, we can get you onto the digital path! You see, the presentation in the AFR, regarding the digital disruption framework is aptly drawn as a spear point and it points towards you! The better the comprehension and implementation, the more it becomes a weapon of offense instead of a solution to suicide. In that regard, towards the offense we see that the spear could be the stepping stone that upgrades the customer experience and as such truly grow your business, which is exactly what it is, but it is not a cheap solution or an overnight solution, it is merely a new solution to grow towards places you never grew before, so you grow the options in getting a grown customer base, which is what many want.

The only question is how correctly the path has been drawn out and here we see the elements that Bob Easton sells on. Accenture seems to know this path through and through. We have seen how IBM scuttled their knowledge and for the most, the other players (read: self-proclaimed players) are not up to scrap, but their level of failure is not clearly shown, Bob Easton points at it, but there is clear doubt if that is a given, especially in the case of Deloitte.

Finally we see the mention of government contracts, which is of course fun to read. Especially as 20 years have shown me that the bulk of government is relatively clueless on any digital path, with Defence on a whole being close to the sole exception.

In all this I find one part slightly debatable, even as the chart makes perfect sense. The quote “Digitising the experience for your customers, digitising your internal operations and the creation of the capabilities to recognise and exploit new business models” is true, yet recognising new business models is always a non-given, because that requires the altered mindset of a board of directors, which tends to focus on the golf game and less on the balls they slice, which gives weight to the debate, not the issue with the model as shown. In that for Taxi’s the model makes perfect sense, because Uber is now forcing a different mindset on the taxi corporations. Yet consider the year before Uber started, how many Taxi companies were actively looking into new business models? That list is hugely close to zero!

I say that competitors and threats, the second more than the first is driving that element, which is why even in the digital move, a SWOT analyses tends to have more decisive impact on the decisions. When we know the elements strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, we can start to look at the options we have, and they do include the two Bob Easton axis scales namely Revenue and Margin. As stated, his view is not incorrect, I personally find it a little incomplete in this instance.

And to finalise this, the problem he states is on many levels, I am not even sure if America is the largest waster of options and resources here, yet when we see politicians go with (read: Donald Trump on CBS today) “you know cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that a number of years ago, short number of years ago, wasn’t even a word. And now the cyber is so big“, in this case Donald Trump for his elections. The fact that Cyber threats have been on the FBI agenda even before October 6th 1999, stating that the damage from those threats had surpassed 7 billion in Q1 and Q2 of 1999 gives us worry that Cyber and Digital are more than words and those who are aiming to be in a seat of power have not grasped it. The entire educational system is not ready for these changes, which is not their fault. The market that Bob Easton described has grown nearly exponentially and the next generation is not aware of what is what, that whilst the current generation is not up to scrap as to what the definitions are, how they should be seen and how they apply in a real time environment and the people in charge are not getting educated either, most they get is from trade shows dying for you to buy their solution, which is not much of an education and finally the previous generation that is hoping to make it to retirement before they have to learn it all.

That is the issue as it evolves. So we are all bits in the stream, bits of what? I am not sure if anyone can tell at present, but good luck trying to figure out where you are placed and where you stand, because resolving that will place you in a much stronger position than you were in this morning.

 

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How pointless can a politician be?

That is the first part in the consideration that we see when we see the latest hype for journalists to ignore the reality of the events as they play. This presented reality was given to us today (at http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/13/mossack-fonseca-raided-offices-investigators-panama), when we consider the article. The title is only part of the deception we are confronted with. ‘Mossack Fonseca raided as investigators meet in Paris to launch tax probe‘, the first level of entertainment. The next is the quote “under the command of prosecutor Javier Caravallo, who specialises in organised crime and money laundering“, really? What education does this man have? The legality of off shore banking has been made so complex that the bulk of the Harvard professors cannot make head or tails of it. So, this Javier Caravallo, a mere prosecutor can figure it out? Who are the journalists kidding here? Mind you, this is not me trying to bring insult to a prosecutor, and I have no knowledge of Javier Caravallo, or have any issues with this man. Yet, if we can agree that Marky Mark of the British Bank (aka Mark Carney), former Governor of the bank of Canada and current Governor of the Bank of England cannot get his head around the off shore cash ‘storage’ issues, can we all agree that Javier Caravallo is out of his depth (and not by a little)?

We then get the quote “The raid comes after the leak of Mossack Fonseca’s huge database provoked international concern about the offshore industry“, which is a truth, yet there are issues, there are massive questions and they need addressing, yet in that similar way the issue is that the US is involved in this as well (personal observation). The fact that Florida is a growing tax haven and that states such as Delaware, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, in particular, are competing with each other to provide foreigners with the secrecy they crave, which is a quote I got from CBS (at http://miami.cbslocal.com/2016/04/06/us-is-emerging-as-a-tax-haven-alongside-switzerland-caymans/), this all is also linked to a Bloomberg article I discussed a few days ago in the article titled ‘Delusional‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2016/04/07/delusional/). It seems that this loud sabre rattling is more about empowering the Rothschild Empire than it is about Mossack Fonseca. The fact that the Guardian remains silent on that part 50 shades of gold, gives me the impression that this is about chastising towards hypocrisy and not about the news at all, this is not even about decent reporting of the news. Which, in my personal mind, gives me the impression that the editorial levels Katharine Viner has gone to regarding certain players is about to hit a new all-time low (but that could just be me).

Yet we are not done here, because this form of comedy is about to get new players. Australian Commissioner Chris Jordan, who in the Guardian article is introduced as a person with a “global mindset for tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance”. That might be true, it might not. For now we cannot tell because there are elements the press is anxiously avoiding, meaning that the politicians could be aiming to do the same thing.

You see, linked to this is an article from July 2013 (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/jul/14/us-tax-avoidance-google-amazon), where we see “senior officials in Washington have made it known they will not stand for rule changes that narrowly target the activities of some of the nation’s fastest growing multinationals“, 2013? Fastest growing multinationals? I personally think that these are senior ‘spokespeople’ that are in the pockets of large corporations, is that such a stretch? Consider the way that the US tax havens have been avoided by the press at large (apart from Bloomberg and a few CBS articles), consider that all these actions against Mossack Fonseca came from criminal activities, whilst so far not one clear piece of evidence is given that laws have been broken. (a 0.2% infringement does not constitute crime), in addition consider that the largest transgressor of financial ‘morality’ flushed 15 trillion (estimated loss from 2008) into the sewers and we learned this week that one of the principle parties in that event got a mere fine of 5 billion (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/apr/11/goldman-sachs-2008-financial-crisis-mortagage-backed-securities), meaning that the 8 year hardship the American people and Europe at large is paid off with a mere one year of bonuses, which is a true source of hilarity, because it truly gives vision, in my personal view that the US Department of Justice is no longer anything else than a joke.

The final quote is the kicker “The deal, however, includes no criminal sanctions or penalties and is likely to stir additional criticism about the Justice Department’s inability to hold bank executives personally responsible for the financial crisis“, I believe it to be even worse. If any fact ever emerges that the US in any form or size was, as speculated by some cyber specialists, to be behind the Panama Caper, than the transgressions that will massively rule in favour of the Rothschild enterprise will leave the mark that the US government could end up being the most corrupt one in the history of this world, how interesting that the press at large is steering clear of that little titbit.

So what kind of comedy are we seeing unfold?

A slapstick? A piece of presentation where bankers throw pies of money at each other, whilst charging the crowd for every pie, the receiver of the pie pays nothing, the taxpayer pays for the event whilst the cash stuck to the suits of bankers who will charge the government for cleaning the cash and cleaning the suits. A free for all where only the banker ended up smiling and the people paid whilst not getting any entertainment value at all (and a cleaning bill added to their tax papers)

A Farce? The improbable situation where we all look to the left where no crime was committed, we get the quote to ponder ‘A wonderful thing about true wealth is that it just destroys any kind of justice or equality‘, which is shown as the ‘criminals’ involved only pay 0.015% of the damages, the rest is paid for by those watching the damage outside the theatre.

A Satire, where we see presenters mock Mossack Fonseca, whilst they all laughingly carry the bags of ‘evidence’ into Rothschild Trust North America LLC and stating after the delivery that the carried laughter was not guilty of being un-American.

Last there is the Parody, which is exactly like the previous event, but it now just claims that the money shelves in Nevada are just so much prettier than the ones in Panama.

We ignore the Revue, as most politicians can’t sing and in addition, we prefer those who can sing not to do so!

So there are the moments of comedy, the question becomes, which version are we attending here? In this we need to look at Chris Jordan. You see, there is an additional part in this, which we see when we contemplate that this will be chaired by Mark Konza who is the head of the international tax department at the Australian tax office. You see, there is another side in all this. The side I mentioned earlier is also the biggest problem. You see, the Americans are being kept out of all this. This is in part of being confronted with a lame duck inhabitant of a not so circular white building. The quote to mind is “It occurred on the eve of a meeting in Paris of senior officials from the world’s tax authorities, who are intent on analysing the documents as part of new global strategy to crack down on offenders“, which sounds nice, but it is just an empty statement. That view can be fortified when you realise that after the President of the United States wasting the time of any officials in the Hague, we get the fact that after those events (as stated in the Guardian), that “opposition from the US forced the watering down of proposals“, which is what will happen again, but now in another way. You see, in the final moment of presidency, that person tends to be useless (not by choice), as the new president is about to be elected and can undo whatever this president leaves behind. Instead of setting the meetings until AFTER the elections, we see Saber rattling and empty actions. America is part of the problem here and until a strong legislation is placed, the only thing that this tax overhaul will do is play into the hands of Rothschild Wealth management.

Is that where we are heading to?

You see, no matter how we feel about it, we are presented a mere play where the bankers behind the screens are laughing out loud, and they aren’t even hiding that sentiment anymore. As trillions go into trusts and shelters we see no improvements, we see no changes. Until several fundamental changes are set into laws, all actions that happen beforehand are merely wastes of time. It only propagates the false image of the politician, the emptiness of sincerity of the bankers and the injustice of governments supporting these actions. That is the issue at hand and the press publications on a near global scale are ignoring this.

When you read the paper tomorrow, wonder where the US is and why the papers and politicians remain silent on all that.

Finally there is one additional point to make. It was initially mentioned by the Independent last Friday (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/panama-papers-banks-must-declare-links-to-mossack-fonseca-by-next-week-a6972971.html) where we see “Banks must declare links to Mossack Fonseca by next week“, is that not interesting? You see they are not the only players. As stated, there is Rothschild Trust North America LLC and one of the larger players namely Natixis Global Asset Management. Are those mentions not equally important? You see, if this becomes a game of discrimination, what laws can be enforced? Common law has been very clear on that over the decades. It is even a bigger issues in France where we see: “Some French politicians have intervened, demanding that the French government permits US citizens in France the right to hold a bank account that is accorded to every other resident in the country. The national ombudsman, the Défenseur des droits, has also been asked to investigate cases of discrimination by French banks” an issue that played one year ago, which makes me wonder what additional infusion Natixis Global Asset Management received over the last year. In all that, will the tax commission be a comedy, or a mere circus with Chris Jordan and Mark Konza as ringmasters, because at this point, the Americans will stay in the shadows as much as possible.

 

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The Toothless tiger

It is roughly 1,544,400 minutes since we saw this message “The newspaper and magazine industry today takes the first steps towards setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the new regulator for the press called for by Lord Justice Leveson” (at http://www.newspapersoc.org.uk/08/jul/13/independent-press-standards-organisation, in July 2013).

So when I saw the words ‘press’, ‘regulator’ and ‘sham’ together in one sentence (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/sep/07/victims-press-regulator-ipso-leveson ) I was not that overly surprised. Let’s not forget that the implied innuendo in regards to the press cleaning up its act was never a reality.

You see, after all that visibility, on March 25th we see the report from the Daily Telegraph with the headline “Flight MHG370 ‘suicide mission’“, was anyone even surprised that the press regards themselves ‘beyond the law’?

Yet, if we are to properly assess the situation, we must therefore also allow matters of defence. So what is the issue that bites us so much? The letters from the 30 victims of press intrusion stated to Sir Alan Moses the following (as stated in the article of the Guardian):

By rejecting the majority of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, the paymasters and controllers of Ipso are rejecting due process

In its current form, Ipso retains no credibility with us or with the wider British public.

It furthermore states: “it was not truly independent, breaches of the industry code of practice would go unreported and unpunished, and there would be no effective and transparent investigation of serious or systematic wrongdoing“.

Now, after what happened in the hacking scandal, I am all for bashing the press, but let us all be honest, if we are to convict a group, let us do it for valid and preferably legal reasons.

About these pictures!

This all links to several issues that I wrote about in the past few days, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton might be the most famous ones, but they are by no means to most important ones (I feel for these victims, but reality shows us bigger problems). Yes, there is an issue that links to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. If we go by the words of Reddit, we should use the quote “The site, which had an online forum named ‘The Fappening’, was one of the main places the hacked nudes were being posted and the website has now banned the page, six days after the photographs of the Hunger Games star first surfaced. It is thought the main reason bosses have finally pulled down the forum is NOT because of the J-Law snaps, but because photographs of Olympian McKayla Maroney which were also posted on the site are believed to show her underage.” which came from the Mirror. These places have been hiding behind the ‘innocent disseminator‘ flag for far too long. Their income is real and based upon bandwidth. If we want change, then perhaps forcing a tax bracket on bandwidth, especially with a bankrupt America, might be a novel way for debtors to get their coin back. Yet this is not about that. The fact that Jennifer Lawrence is now partially safe is only because another victim was a minor when the pictures were taken. This makes for a massively inhumane disaster and one that also affects the press. It is interesting that when we look at the name McKayla Maroney we see two events, both the hacked ‘under-dressed’ images as well as the Gamergate reference to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

Vox Media stood alone

It is Vox (at http://www.vox.com) who seems to be on top of it, so we see one place, which might be regarded as ‘trivial’ by some covers the real issues that many ‘major’ papers have been ignoring all over the US and in places far beyond the US. You can read their words in depth at http://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting. It is well worth reading; however, there are a few parts I do not agree with. Let’s go over those, for they are all linked.

Here is the first part: “If it was just to bring attention to Quinn’s personal life, that’s, as stated, already happened. And if it was to create better ethical disclosures in online journalism, that’s happening, too. The Escapist is drafting new guidelines, while Kotaku is now forbidding its writers from financially supporting independent designers on Patreon, a popular method for backing independent artists, unless the site’s writers need to donate to Patreon for coverage purposes (since many developers release material first to their Patreon backers). And Vox sister site Polygon requires disclosures of this sort of support“.

I do not agree for the following reasons:

  1. If we look at the press at large, Quinn’s plight is less than a hot drop on a plate. “Jennifer Lawrence”, “Nude” and “shoot” gives us 41 MILLION hits when we use all the keywords. “Zoe Quinn” gives us 70,000 hits with less than a dozen reputable sources (including Vox Media). So, I think we can safely say that visibility is not even close to being a factor there.
  2. Better ethical disclosures in online journalism? Sorry, but are they for real? Most of these writers have never seen a class in ethics, it is also likely that some of them cannot ever write ‘ethics’ correctly. That being said, many of them write for mere passion on games, their transgression of alleged ‘corruption’ usually goes no further then receiving the free game. How corrupt is that? In all this, my issue with Gamespot has almost forever been with the open sponsor Ubi-Soft. They are not hiding it, so that is good, but I seem to colour my faith to any Ubi-soft review. Overall the writers and makers like Carolyn Petit, Jess McDonell, Danny O’Dwyer, Justin Haywald, Chris Watters, Cam Robinson and Kevin VanOrd do an interesting job. Depending on their ‘preference’ of gaming we tend to favour a certain person, whilst not ‘liking’ another one. The sad news that some of these writers are leaving as Gamespot is changing should be sad news to all gamers.

Scoops

This all goes towards “forbidding its writers from financially supporting independent designers on Patreon“, why? Is the likely fact that reviewers would have the inside track on a game and by personally backing a developer they will have a scoop? Is that not what pretty much every newspaper does? If not, how about cancelling ALL advertisements from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Adobe? How long until they are missing out on scoops? I think support should not hidden, but if I was still in the business I would be funding No Man’s Sky or Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (I have been a lifelong Ultima fan), if it gives me a scoop days in advance of others, than so much the better. The question becomes is this truly about implied corruption or about mainstreaming a 100 billion dollar plus business? You see, the gaming groups was for a long time ignored (especially in the time I was involved)

True Scenario: “I went to the ‘Efficiency Beurs’ (a Dutch IT/Technology trade show) in the RAI in Amsterdam in the early 90’s (1991/1994), I forgot the exact time. Anyway, I was already deep into the gaming world and sound would be the next big issue. PS speakers were no good, Adlib was an option, SoundBlaster was the new kid and those with real money (read wealthy parents) there was the Roland card, which costed a fortune. This is the age when the PC was a wild market, CBM-64 and Atari were on a high and the PC was relying on blips and bleeps. So, I walk to the IBM representative and asked him on the new PS/2 PC’s and whether the soundcards in the growing gaming market was a field that IBM was looking at, as well as, whether IBM had considered adding a sound card to the PC-Private projects (which was a tax deductable PC scheme in the Netherlands). I was ‘walked off’ the stand with the response that IBM was for ‘professional’ use only. This same IBM is now advertising ‘Smarter Serious Games’ (at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/gaming/)“.

So, these ‘losers’ (just to coin a phrase), who would not consider this industry for a long time are now trying to leech of a 100 billion dollar industry by ‘Simming’ (Sims joke) it on, so nice of IBM to join the party almost two decades late (they did however join the party decently before 2013). So now we get this escalation on several fields and interestingly enough all at the same time. Several approaches of wild growth is seen, personally I reckon this all truly took off in high gear in September 2013 when one game made one billion in only three days and passed the 2 billion mark this June making a videogame more successful then the most successful Hollywood production in history. Now nearly everyone wants to jump on board and it also seems to allow for a ‘wild growth’ of certain ‘elements’. IBM is not a party to this (they move in different circles), yet, those growing wildly on our shores hoping for their billion are learning hard and fast that gamers can easily spot the quality from the chaff and as such we see escalations. Whether we take Forbes article (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/03/21/gaming-the-system-how-a-gaming-journalist-lost-his-job-over-a-negative-review/) for granted or not, it seems that the name Sony and the possibility of pulling away advertisements apply in several corners (like the PS4 release and Terms of Service issues). So, to avoid ‘ethical’ issues, it seems to me that newspapers at large just ignored the plight of over 60 million customers and any link to ‘changes to the terms of service’. So how does this all link to ‘corruption’?

That is the part that seems to elude many, it is not ‘just’ about corruption, it is about alleged corruption with the writers (emphasis on alleged), implied corruption with their bosses in what they publish but more importantly what they DO NOT publish. The last part is on streamlining it all. If anything, GTA-V shows us that a billion plus revenue takes more than just a good game, it is about marketing and advertising, which shows now exactly the issue on visibility.

I am not alone with these views; some of them were discussed by Ashton Liu in her blog at http://rpgfanashton.tumblr.com/. She has an interesting view I had not considered. She writers “It has been no secret to the gaming community that many video game news sites have been employing increasingly extremist and reprehensible tactics to gain site hits and forward their ideology“. In that regard she seems on top of it all, I saw the harassment of Quinn and Sarkeesian as idiots who should go the way of the Dodo yesterday, if at all possible. Yet in her view, we are dealing with more than just blatant ‘ranters’, it is entirely possible that there is a corporate push behind it all. If we consider the actions by Sony and the market they need to ‘rule’ is that such a far-fetched statement? If people are willing to sell their souls for a niche market, what is Sony willing to do to remain the number one on the market, especially if you can motivate non-journalists (read non-accountable people) to speak out loudly?

What makes a Journalist?

It is a side, that until the article of Ashton Liu I had ignored. Ashton is like me, an ideologist, we seem to share a passion for RPG games and we are willing to put some time into sending the message of the Role Playing Game, hoping to introduce it to others. Yet, part of the view she offers seems incorrect, is this all about true gaming journalists? Many of them are not journalists at all, they do not have a degree in journalism, so let’s all agree that unless the person has a degree in Journalism that this person is just a games reviewer (I myself am a games reviewer), I have degrees in Law and IT, but not in Journalism, which makes me a non-journalist!

This is where the issues become (slightly) clear. Many are not journalists at all, so journalists are compared to ranters and outspoken ideologists, whilst not getting painted on grounds of evidence, which is almost slander (I said almost). We are all in need of more clarity, clarity I am asking for, whilst trying to remain clear, clarity Ashton is trying to give the readers and there are the additional thousands online, ranting all over the place. So what is a reader to believe?

Corporations

Perhaps that is the part we all forgot about? We seem to ignore the corporate site. Is that the background of those who remained with Gamespot? Is CBS changing the gaming area by starting to cut away the ‘non-professional’ staff? I do not know, I am asking this. I have no issue with any writer at Gamespot (even if they cater to games I never play), their passion has for a long time been without question, yet, if this streamlining requires the presence of education, not just knowledge, then those without Journalistic skills to be ‘relocated’ and not all end up within the CBS structure.

So as Ashton made the statement I disagreed with “These journalists behave terribly and browbeat anyone whose opinions don’t fall lock step with their own“, the question “which are the real journalists” come to mind. This is where we return to Leveson, the issues that IPSO is accused of and how this relates to Journalism.

IPSO is regarded as a toothless tiger (perhaps correctly so), yet as papers are more and more online and as we see more and more ‘contributions’ from critics and reviewers, we will see that their painting of a group ‘as ignored’ as stated by the phone hacking scandal victims, we see a corporate move by many newspapers that employ reviewers and critics who are likely non-members of the official Journalistic core, but in the online mash no one can really tell anymore. This is at the heart of several issues, next to the editors relying on people whose family name tends to be “well-placed sources within”; I wish I had a relative like that.

This all gets me to the only part of the Vox article that I have an issue with. It is not really an issue, it is more a disagreement. They stated “Because what #GamerGate is all about isn’t who is or isn’t a gamer, or what role the press should play. It’s about what games should be and who they should be for. And that’s worth a real discussion, not just a hash tag“. I think that anyone enjoying a game is in the smallest extent a gamer, and as his or her passion grows, so will the Gamer part of that person. I think it is MASSIVELY important the part the press plays and to some extent they need to be judged on what they publish and to some extent even more on what they ignore, not unlikely for favours from the advertisers. You see, what happens when it is no longer them, but also the stakeholders? Consider the stakeholders for projects of Ubi-Soft and Electronic Arts. The moment they start ruffling feathers on ‘their’ dividend and the press ‘obliges’ that is the true moment when we will no longer see whatever ails a gaming community. When it goes through a journalist we do end up with the smallest protection, but ‘small’ beats ‘none’ every time.

It is ‘what games are and who they are for‘ is as I agree an important discussion, yet the implied evidence at present gives little support that that true vision will come from #Gamergate, because anyone willing to develop a game, no matter what gender, what topic and what ethnicity of graphics we are presented with should be a reason for bias and/or discrimination. These are parts #Gamersgate seems to be ignoring.

Streamlining is also all about who owns the IP, that is the one part they all seem to ignore, if the future is about IP (Intellectual Property), then it is the novel idea that has the future of gaming fortune, which is all about streamlining in the eyes of EA, Ubi-soft and Sony (to name a few big companies in this field), you see, who owns the IP will continue and not unlike the flaccid economists of Wall Street, larger companies have been all about continuing a brand and less about the new idea, which makes indie developers the future (consider the massive success of Mojang with Minecraft), that is the streamline part all ignored. This is why I think it is important to protect them! This is seen in the slightly dangerous statement by Vox Media in the article as they state “Some argue that the focus on harassment distracts from the real issue, which is that indie game developers and the online gaming press have gotten too cozy“, is that true, or are the larger players realising that they passed the buck for too long and driving a wedge between the press and the Indie developer is essential to their survival as they try to ‘rekindle’ the press and push indie developers towards the ‘cheap’ deals where they can take over the IP. That part is at large ignored by most. If we look at 2014 we see a massive host of new versions of the same brand, whilst none of the truly new games are coming out in 2014. Splatoon, ignored by many is the new kid and so far it seems that it might largely drive sales for Nintendo. You see these larger houses have forgotten to cater to THEIR audience (not just bring a cool presentation about something not due for 15 months) and as such are under scrutiny facing an endangered future. When we see a headline like this ‘Battlefield 4 – It’s so bad, its actually funny!‘, they know that they are in trouble, no matter how much you pay marketing to focus on the small stuff and micro transactions, which some call ‘Blood Money‘. In my view this is partially the result of letting ‘Excel users’ anywhere near the gaming market and when these investments do not pan out panic will be the natural consequence.

Back to IPSO

Yet, this also reflects on IPSO, because is the story ignored not as irresponsible as calling a tragedy a suicide mission? I wonder if the two elements would have been anywhere near as extreme if IPSO had not been toothless. I cannot state this for America, but I am certain that many gaming issues would have been a lot more visible, which might have reduced the risk and abuse of both Quinn and Sarkeesian. If you do not believe the press to have any influence, then consider the Art ‘expose’ called “Fear Google“, which is exactly the method of News the Sun used to rely on for at least one page (a page 3 joke only the British understand), or as we could call it, how Rupert Murdoch got through his early years. So here we see the beginning of the future, as Jennifer will end up getting shown to the world in states of non-dressing, her stolen pictures are less likely to be stopped as they are not getting sold, even if sold, the chance of enough people getting convicted becomes a serious question.

We can safely say that there is a group of toothless tigers, law partially became toothless as it catered to business enterprise and as we see more and more ‘free’ services we see an abundance of innocent dissemination that no one seems to be able to stop, ‘oh yes’, for some reason many were ‘suddenly’, within hours, able to stop the film where a Journalist ‘suddenly’ lost his head. It seems that ‘sudden’ acts are at times possible, so why this entire system is not better regulated is to be perfectly honest beyond me, but you better realise that someone is making loads of money, not just the hacker (read: thief) that got a hold of the pictures.

 

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No Press, No Facebook!

So, another day in the life of you, the reader, me the blogger and us, the victims of big business in a way that neither of us expected.

Why are we in a stage of No Press? Well, I cannot confirm this for the UK, Canada or Europe at large, yet in Australia it started last year, the second week of November.

Most did not ever bother to look at this, but one I found (at http://www.cinemablend.com/games/PS4-Doesn-t-Block-Used-Games-Game-Rentals-60480.html) wrote the following: “A new last minute reputation management troll-rumor has surfaced online in an attempt to curb Sony’s momentum leading up to their big launch later this week“.

This is a hilarious ‘sucking-up-to-Sony’ response! So what actually happened?

In the two weeks before the launch of the PS4, Sony decided to change the terms of service (at https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/legal/software-usage-terms). I gave the information to Channel 7, Channel 9, Channel 10 and the Sydney Morning Herald.

NONE!
I say again NONE of them did anything about it. There was a flaccid message (to follow shortly).

So what is so important?

Sony wanted to start putting in place several issues to enforce DRM and to end certain practices. As the PS4 had not launched yet, they could not be too vocal about it, which meant that those claiming to be journalists had a duty to look into it, especially as these changes affected well over 80 million consumers globally. So either journalists only care about the boobs of Rihanna and on how people prefer fake boobs (of course, the possible silicone in a chest is always more newsworthy then the silicon chip that holds an economy).

So what is the exact issue?

Two points from the terms of agreement

  1. 3. You must not lease, rent, sublicense, publish, modify, adapt, or translate any portion of the Software.
  2. 1. You must not resell either Disc-based Software or Software Downloads, unless expressly authorised by us and, if the publisher is another company, additionally by the publisher.

I will admit that 6.3 is badly phrased (a big no-no in any term of service agreement), but in this form it specifically targets one area of usage, which where at blockbusters one could rent a game for a week. An interesting try before you buy approach (not debating the validity or invalidity of this).

It is 7.1 that is the big issue, by agreeing to this (if you do not you lose your PSN account and online abilities) you confirm that you will not resell your games or buy second hand games. This was the big killer for Microsoft in the beginning in addition to the fact that this issue hits 80 million consumers. How is this not in EVERY newspaper? Perhaps their bosses where in the act of ‘hustle for advertisement coin’ (whoring seems like such a harsh word here).

When we look at Eurogamer (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-11-12-sony-reiterates-you-can-sell-and-share-your-ps4-games), we see the following: “Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida added on Twitter: ‘If you are concerned about our new European TOS, we confirm that you are able to sell or share your disc PS4 products, including in EU.’” This is the flaccid response I referred to. If this is the case, then WHY make it part of the terms of agreement? Because Sony lawyers are perhaps cheap? (They really are not!)

We do not doubt the words of the Sony CEO, yet his word can be changed in a simple board meeting, the terms of service is a legally binding document between the consumer and the corporation offering the device and the service. Why am I the one person explaining this ‘oversight’ to the press?

This is a massive issue! The impact on the software industry would be felt in several countries. The fact is that many shops are in business only because they make a few extra dollars of second hand games. If not, new games would have to rise in price. Also, there is, especially in these economic times a large group depending on cheaper game solutions. A pre-owned game, which is at times at least 50% cheaper than the new alternative is one way for some to play a few games. The simple truth is that many cannot afford a $120 game, more often; their parents also are not in possession of such spending sprees, which makes the pre-owned game market an essential part to cater for a sizeable chunk of these consumers.

The second issue is the one that we see evolving now.

I was confronted with this almost two weeks ago, but something about the list of changes seemed so horrifying that I decided not to upgrade. This is still evolving and there are genuine concerns. Yet, what is the actual truth?

If we look at the Bull (at http://thebull.cbslocal.com/2014/08/07/facebook-crosses-the-line-with-new-facebook-messenger-app/) we see the following:

  • Facebook can change or alter your connection to the Internet or cell service without telling you.
  • Facebook can send text messages to your contacts on your behalf.
  • Facebook can record audio, and take pictures and videos, at any time
  • Facebook can read your phone’s call log, including info about incoming and outgoing calls
  • Facebook can read your contact data, including who you call and email and how often
  • Facebook can read personal profile information stored on your device
  • Facebook can get a list of accounts known by the phone, or other apps you use, it can connect all your accounts and Intel together.

It is in part the worry I had when I was looking through the rights I had to agree to when installing the Facebook Messenger app, which I decided against. If I lose my messenger history, so be it!

If we consider the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/smartphone-apps/facebook-is-forcing-messenger-app-on-users-and-they-arent-happy-about-it-20140729-zycfb.html), we see the following quote “CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed during last week’s earnings call that the company eventually wants to monetise Messenger and the app will eventually ‘overlap’ with payments, though, as TechCrunch notes, he acknowledged the company still has a lot of work to do before users will see payments cropping up in the app“. It is fair enough that people will get to pay at some point. At that point people can return to the old Yahoo Messenger, which has forever been free!

My issue here is that there is a lot more visibility here, yet why this is not the lead with every news channel as this affects BILLIONS of people is also a little beyond me.

There is of course the other side. Is what ‘the Bull’ stated true? I am not stating that they were lying, but the android permissions are at times a little out there. This view is actually reinforced by CNBC (at http://www.cnbc.com/id/101911170).

The confusion seems to have stemmed from Android. “The app when you install it, it explains in a list what it needs permission to do, and this is the list that frightened a lot people initially,’ Simons said. ‘That doesn’t mean it sort of willy nilly goes about contacting friends or recording you as you go about your day using your phone camera,’ he added.

I cannot disagree with this view, yet the truth is that just like with Sony, we agreed on something, we made a binding pact and that what is and that what could be are now intertwined and as such it is not about handholding, it is about clarity! When Big Business forces you the consumer, they will be precise (example: ‘we hereby charge you $11,732.34 to be deposited within the next 10 days‘). Yet when they would like something from you, they hide in ambiguity (example: ‘we can change all your savings into a fortune, deposit all today and the larger returns could be yours quite soon’). So, how large a deposit, how much larger, how soon? These answers would not be forthcoming until AFTER the deposit I reckon.

So where do we stand?

When we consider the issues that have plagued the tech savvy population, like the TPP, Sony, even government spending seems to be missing on the glasses of those ‘considering’ themselves to be Journalists. Another bash of that seems to have missed the larger view in news (at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/05/federal-spending-transparency-money-missing/13485581/).

The first quote is “the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data on USASpending.gov is ‘fully consistent with agencies records,’ according to the report“, which makes me wonder who is keeping track of the deficit and how much larger could it be?

The second one is “The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs“, which reads like, if we aggregate numbers, you are less likely to find anything and we can hide it under a total header. Failing to report on half a trillion is a big thing, it is well over $1000 for every resident in America.

So, does that mean that the deficit of the US is a lot larger? That would indeed be news as it would put the US in a peculiar financial position, or better a position they no longer hold. I am not stating that I am right or that I am wrong (both are an option). It seems that the papers and newscasts we get bombarded with every day seem to become more and more selective on what they consider important. One article affecting 80 million (the combined population of Australia and the UK) as well as the new issue which hits over a billion people does not seems to be important. The last news of last week is one that does bear scrutiny, yet to get something from USA Today and not the Guardian or any of the Australian news bringers does pose questions.

The Facebook issue will hit us for some time and it might result in something different. The issue linked to this is whether Android has a registration system that bears scrutiny. Android has its own faults (also not too overly reported on by journalists) and just pointing the finger at Facebook is also not entirely the right thing to do.

There is also the difference on what some will do and what some could do. It is the ambiguity that is slowly getting to more and more people.

So what should the journalists be doing and what should Facebook not be doing?

 

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Billion Euro Fine

It seems that the Dutch government has painted itself in a corner. The parties involved are now back into all levels of talks to find a situation where a majority can be found that can live with the situation. This means that there is every chance that the 6 Billion Euro in cut backs will not be met. This means that an additional Billion Euro in fines will go to the Dutch treasury. So, is this a continuing level of evidence that the Dutch administration had been handing out funds it could not pay for in the end?

There is no excuse that can validly be used.

In the first degree, there is no excuse to use the economy or the recession. There are in my mind clear levels of visibility that there had been levels of ‘bad news management’. I had voiced my concerns on several occasions that the economy was nowhere near what was ‘predicted’ by the CBS. I was proven correct on more than one occasion and that whilst I have no advanced mathematics degree. It makes one wonder how those high priced calculators get to their numbers, doesn’t it?

When Germany started to tighten its belt from 2009 onwards, too many were on that horse of optimism where many stated that such rigorous cut backs were not needed. Now, four years later the cutbacks required are a lot more then would have been and that bill cannot be paid. On all sides minorities cry out that the cut backs on one side and/or tax increases on the other side are not proportional and that these actions will not benefit the economy.

I expect one more jolt of bad news and certain parties will stand up opening the retirement funds for the benefit of now. Which means that the economy will now need to rely on a jolt of ‘annexed funds’! Why am I stating this? I see these funds as the ownership of those now working. Whether you start or whether you are at the end of your working life. The funds of you and me are used to steer away from the actual issue of a parliament not able to control its spending. There are additional issues linked to this.

A Dutch blogsite called http://huizenmarkt.blog.nl from Juul Dijkhuis stated “De huizenprijzen zijn inderdaad kunstmatig hoog gehouden, maar mede hierdoor zijn de economische zorgen in Nederland ook kleiner dan bij de ons omringende landen. De gevolgen van een flinke daling kunnen namelijk groot zijn.

[translated]: The house prices are indeed kept high through artificial means, because of this the economic worries are not as high as those for the surrounding nations. The consequences of a sizeable reduction in value could be severe

This is just the first one I found and this statement does not stand alone in this matter. This article came from 2011, after the crash and in the timespan when bad news management (as I see it) was already in place. So consider the issue that the Dutch are not dealing with one issue on economy, but on additional issues in that same year we see SNS Reaal Property Finance, which is no longer here, was already dealing with minus a quarter of a billion for 2011. The Dutch site Calcasa (www.calcasa.nl), which is an independent technology firm, specialised in property value assessment reported in 2012 that in 2011 Dutch property value went down by 17 billion. As stated residential (-1.3%), offices (-1.9%), shops (-5.9%) en corporate spaces (-3.5%)
(At: http://www.calcasa.nl/nl/over-calcasa/nieuws/detail/kwartaalbericht-waarde-nederlands-vastgoed-met-17-miljard-afgenomen-in-2011/105).

So was this just another form of ‘bad news’ management? There is a lack of clarity here, yet consider that already in 2011 we see that different separate branches are trying to keep the good view, and from all indications the government did not intervene, did not (so it seems) openly correct the events. As stated, events that would have impacted the Dutch population in more than one way.

In support we see issues that are linked, but from another side altogether. If we look back to 2011 and if we look at the minister of Education, culture and Science, the honourable Mariëtte Bussemaker We see the following:

In de brief aan de Tweede Kamer «Meer dan kwaliteit: een nieuwe visie op cultuurbeleid» van 10 juni 2011 (Kamerstuk 32 820, nr. 1) wordt aangekondigd dat het kabinet wil onderzoeken of het mogelijk en wenselijk is het eigendom van de gebouwen van de rijksmusea aan deze instellingen over te dragen.

[Paraphrased] House document 32 820 nr 1, Parliament will investigate whether it is possible and desirable to transfer ownership of states museums could be transferred to the institutions that occupy them” This is fair enough, yet in that same document the next part gives us part of the light.

DTZ Zadelhoff heeft voor het vastgoed van de vier door Deloitte onderzochte Rijksmusea de taxatiewaarde onafhankelijk vastgesteld (waarde in het vrije economisch verkeer). Daaruit blijkt dat er een aanzienlijk verschil bestaat tussen de (hogere) boekwaarde van de vier musea op de balans van de Rgd enerzijds en de (lagere) marktwaarde van het vastgoed anderzijds (circa 25%). Dit verschil, dat voor een belangrijk deel kan worden verklaard door bewuste keuzes in het verleden voor maatschappelijke investeringen in een stabiele museale omgeving, kan zich openbaren wanneer er besloten wordt tot overdracht van het eigendom aan de Rijksmusea.

[Paraphrased] Zadelhoff has ascertained an independent value of four the investigated state museums by Deloitte. From there we found that there is a difference approaching 25% between the free economic value and the value in the books. The booked value is a lot higher than the actual market value. The difference, which can be explained through choices in the past of social inclined investments, could become visible when these properties are transferred.

So when we look at the links, then we see a government that is already visibly aware that there is, what I deem to be a surreal over valuation of properties. It could be that the values are actually a lot lower than what the books incline them to be. How far does this stretch? Because, if that is true and it had been known, then certain measure would have had to be taken long before July 2012. If actions were not made, then we see that the economy, linked to the value of a nation gives us a different percentage. So which additional levels of management are in play? (I actually do not know). But it seems to me that the more issues are linked, the more the evidence indicates that non-acts are beyond acceptable. Those parties now bickering over scraps to avoid hunger are either ignoring or not mentioning that the scraps will not make up for a meal to begin with. So instead of finding solutions, we witness debates (read bickering), where the result of the conversation will not be solution no matter how much a party gives in, which means that the only treasure left are the retirement funds, or more aptly put, the family silver!

That will result in the situation where all are left with less, whilst the political parties seem to remain in cycles of ‘bad news management’. When we look at the annual reports of some of these museums we see the text “De stichting beoordeelt op iedere balansdatum of er aanwijzingen zijn dat een De stichting beoordeelt op iedere balansdatum of er aanwijzingen zijn dat een vast actief aan een bijzondere waardevermindering onderhevig kan zijn.

[Paraphrased] the foundation decides on every balance date, whether indications exist that a fixed-asset is linked to a value decrease” so was it? From the parliamentary paper we saw mention that at least 4 have this issue. Was this indicated, or are we now dealing with a time zone issue where the moments of report and ‘enlightenment’ of value reduction seem to miss one another?”

Again, I actually do not know, yet we do not see too much information in this regard. So the active question of linked values are an issue not to ignore, especially if the value had gone too far down, the consequence is that cutting back 6 billion, an amount they are not able to manage now, would not have been enough. This is important to know, because there are two elements not illustrated. The Dutch government place its economy in the European rankings in the top 5 (I reckon it is within the top 10) (at http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/nieuws/2013/03/26/nederland-in-top-5-slimste-economieen-van-europa.html), in addition, the Dutch Newspaper ‘Trouw’ stated last February (at http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/4504/Economie/article/detail/3399005/2013/02/23/Triple-A-natie-Nederland-vergeleken-met-Groot-Brittannie-het-land-zonder-AAA.dhtml) that the Dutch economy is in a decent place, yet it also illustrates that the debt would rise until 2018, whilst at that point the UK debt would already be lowering. So why is this important?

Well, if this is about a percentage of the GDP, then the Dutch treasures, which includes its Gross investment and ‘net additions to capital assets’ plus ‘investments in inventories’. So, what happens then the net additions to Capital assets becomes an increasing negative number? Net fixed capital formation is linked to depreciation (and loss of value). It seems to me that if the net value of its treasures become increasingly large, then the mentioned 25% lowering would be disastrous. Especially when we see that investments toward these areas do nothing to increase net value that is linked to the GDP. The view is heavily coloured as the initial paper was only on 4 buildings, yet if we see and accept the levels of bad news management that has been in play, what else is intervening with the correct value of the GDP?

So as this (for now) is about the realistic upcoming 1.2 billion Euro additional fine the Dutch will face if they cannot keep their budget (at http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/4500/Politiek/article/detail/3516791/2013/09/26/Moet-Nederland-straks-echt-1-2-miljard-in-Brussel-afrekenen.dhtml), what other information is currently missing?

What if the Dutch need to face a revaluation of their GDP and of the elements of information that are now being ‘managed’, what will the consequence be of such a new valuation? Will the Dutch cutbacks be as severe, or worse in 2014?

What ‘managed’ information will people learn about after the retirement funds are drained?

The views I gave are important beyond the Dutch borders as well. It is a ‘sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander’ approach. From my point of view Dutch parliament is not evil, or corrupt, or criminal (there is a massive spot called grey area though). So, when these issues are detected with the Dutch, then it is important to know that others might be doing exactly the same, to some degree. The UK opposition system makes this situation unlikely but not impossible. The underlying similar dangers would then be coming from both France AND Italy (both in the economic top 5 and higher than the Netherlands). We all know that the waters of the Euro are murky. These matters might illustrate that they are also a lot less safe than we imagined them and if we accept that whatever happens in each of these nations hits all of them as it impacts the Euro, we could see this as a sign that the European economic troubles are far from over. When we have to take into account issues that were non-issues before, once this all comes out, how much damage will the Euro suffer?

 

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The Age of ‘no retirement left’ is coming

Another day and another play for one of the last foundations of wealth. As the Dutch NOS news reported, the Dutch pension funds are willing to invest in its own country. The Netherlands is currently an investment location that is receiving a very small part of that fat fund. Yet, pension funds want a level of government guarantee for these risky investments at present. That guarantee will save them for a certain amount of losses should they occur. As such the government has a level of objections. As the news reported, this plan has been a year in the making. Basically the pensions will be doing all the tasks banks are supposed to do. There is a level of risk that the pensions are not willing to carry at present. And why should they?

The reporter Jeroen van Dommelen stated “the government does not have the funds to invest, it is poor“. This is part of all the mayhem and issues on play. When the government could have stepped on the plate, they refused to do so. They pushed the bills forward. They relied on certain numbers of bettering the economy. A game played since 2006. And every time the Dutch CBS, which has government stakes and are prone to certain levels of censoring presented them. Those numbers have been downgraded quarter after quarter and as such no issues were resolved. Now this government is pretty much at the edge of viable as they received invoices from past administrations, and now, the one cauldron of cash that remains, and needs to be kept safe is being tapped on. This is not a cauldron where money renews (you know that realistic 100 coin leprechaun model), no it is like a simple soup cauldron, what is taken out, is lost forever. Starting a grab from that last cauldron that keeps an entire generation fed is not acceptable. It is too dangerous. When there were options, we were not allowed to touch it. Now that there are no options they want to touch it against our wishes and diminish it?

This is why pensions what the government to accept levels of losses, and why the buck is not passed forward, but to another person. Why should these funds be used to renovate rental properties? The rental agencies have been making a killing, or at least bosses in these places were. As examples we have the Amsterdam Rochdale scandal (Source, Dutch Parool http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/1284/Affaire-Rochdale/index.dhtml). The Rotterdam corporation PWS, where fraud was a massive tool to offset the rental market (source: http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2680/Economie/article/detail/766332/2006/02/10/Baas-PWS-ontslagen-om-fraude.dhtml). The examples do not even end there. The issues of preferential treatment and other calamities have given these issues a bad taste. In this environment there are grounds for calling the risk of these investments too high, in addition, these expensive dwellings should be providing for its own invested renovations. None of that seemed to have been happening. If we would investigate the issues as the Dutch SHC is investigated in 2011, where fraud was a factor, then we see that these events led to fusions which ended several steps, including in my humble opinion the prosecution of several people. The fusion left Miss Hedy van de Berk in charge after 25 years of service to clean up a mess her predecessors left. She had to lean on ‘lessons learned’ and interesting that Councillor for the City of Rotterdam Hamit Karakus (US equivalent of Alderman), who was present at that meeting seems not to have been that vocal on certain issues. This is not an accusation towards either, yet the foundation of pushing forward seems to be a clear given, and as such investments with retirement funds should be classified as a definite risk. As such we should wonder why these funds have to chip in in the first place. When we look at the responses from Henk Knoop (VVD) as MP of economic affairs, we see that he makes a clear good case where politicians want to make it more interesting to invest in Dutch events. I personally have the view that risk factors currently remain too high and until certain guarantees are added until there is clear evidence that sound investments are proven to be sound investments, the current level of risk should be considered too high.

The fact remains that they want certain levels of guarantees from Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. His view is that returns are founding certain levels of risk. This is a fair and realistic view. The issue that many have in this regard is that the risks are unrealistically given. That view has weight if we accept the faltering views SNS Reaal brought forward as it needed to be nationalised. Those are levels of lost investments, especially in commercial enterprises that are too unacceptable. Until those issues are resolved and dealt with, it seems that retirement funds have no business in a field with so much risk.

In addition the message by Jeroen van Dommelen at the end stating “resolving these issues would give way that on the day of princes there will also be good news” is way too thin to base the risk of retirement funds on. For the non-Dutch, the day of princes is on the third Tuesday in September when the Dutch government through a royal speech announces the new annual budget.

These dangers are not just visible in the Netherlands, yet in a place where they have been one of the most secure in Europe, the fall-back might be larger than anywhere else. In the UK, there is the case that Simon Cox of BBC4 reported on in regards to the pension liberation scheme last March. (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21844955)

The options for those before retirement could access some of this cash. The issue is not just whether people select this, it is about the dangers that the acts comprises. What people do not realise is that a person’s retirement is mostly built in the last 5 years of ones funds. At that time, the interest is so rewarding that those years are the days when a retirement almost doubles making it a good thing (read enough to survive on). To lower these amounts, means that people either work a few additional years, or fall short by a chunk of what they would need. So it is a danger one should not consider. My thoughts are not as full on extreme as those of Shaun Richards of “Mindful Money”. He is more into the question whether an economic war between the saving retirees and the youthful left with nothing (something according to those lines). I do not think it is that far, yet, the greedy and their prying eyes on those untapped resources are out there, so there are dangers. His story makes for a good read, so check it out at http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/wp/shaun-richards/is-there-a-danger-of-an-economic-war-between-pensioners-and-the-young-in-the-uk/

If there is one note of criticism from my side on this article then it is the focal view as he looked at the groups, yet outliers from those groups and whether they moved from one group to another is slightly ignored, so a possible factor of skewing from those evading the credit crunch and those who got pushed out into destitution all together seemed to have been ignored, that group might have remained too small (however, still unillustrated).

His views should not be discarded. It seems to me that his views are partially adopted by Peter Hain of the Guardian (alternative is that they came to similar conclusions). Peter was quite adamant on the loss of cohesion as he describes it. Where I disagree is the Nick Clegg view where the better off retirees should ‘abolish’ their tax benefits. Is that fair? Those who remained cautious are now better off, whilst those who ‘partied on’ need additional support. I see no reason for those who did give out those extra few bobs to benefit now should give that up again. The social structure is all good and fine, yet those who did not keep their responsible part are now, as should be suffering a little more. A model was long term agreed upon, as today’s irresponsible spending’s should not be charged to those who got charged and worked all their lives. This is where ‘the Clegg principle’ falls short in my view. Peter’s words strike goal at the end where he writes “Cutting or means-testing pensioners allowances risks turning young against old and rich against poor while making negligible savings for the Treasury“. That is a risk we should not allow. Not because of the unfairness of this, but for the risk that the young will allow the exploiting of funds that should not be touched. In the end it is not just a negligible saving for the treasury, there is every indication that this will propel certain additional costs forward. Especially considering that these costs could have been avoided all together.

These issues also raise a few questions when we look at the Swedish system. A system protected by government and is totally untouchable by people until they retire. This quote came from the Swedish national bank this year. The question on the safety of retirements as such what return on investment has been achieved. the statement was “The major Swedish banks’ liabilities in US dollar amounted to just over SEK 1,600 billion at the end of 2012. Approximately 20 per cent of these liabilities consist of deposits, above all from large non-financial and non-bank financial companies.” So at 1.6 trillion Kronor, the outsourced risk that adds up to almost to SEK 226,000 for every Swedish citizen, all those funds in one investment? That looks like a very dangerous investment indeed, as that makes it the bulk of all the retirement investments all in one fund. When I look at my Swedish retirement savings then I have seen it go up by less than 5% annually (because I have annual costs, but I no longer live in Sweden and therefor no longer add to it). So what dangers are there for retirement investments all over Europe? France is in a peril no less dangerous, especially as President Hollande is asking the retirees to fill the French Coffers. Perhaps he will add a “s’il vous plait” (‘please’ in French) to that request at the end, but the message is rather clear. (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/france-pension-reforms-hollande_n_2810024.html)

There is a European issue with retirement incomes, and it seems that the push it forward routine, as I started with in the beginning of this blog has been a blanket policy for many nations. Should they blame former president Nicolas Sarkozy? He tried to up the age of retirement by 2 years. I do not think it is fair (mainly because dangers were not reported in time). Not unlike the Dutch system as I mentioned in previous blogs. The push-it-forward routine has been employed for too long in several nations.

These retirees all worked hard until they retired. The fact that the younger generation holds those to account and not those who refused to act is unfair. We should add the question on issues that banks had like rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel. A person who decreased French bank values by almost 5 billion Euros. Even though he was convicted and he was supposed to pay this back. How much was actually paid back? Was all this money returned? It is so tearful to somehow this poor poor man has lost it all. Did he? He never owned 5 billion, so it was not his to lose. So if we see all these international trading shortfalls in France, UK, Netherlands, Italy and a few other nations (I reported on those issues in previous blogs). Those sums are more than the combined retirement funds that are about to get endangered. I think these governments should get those coins back before they go after the somewhat defenceless retirement funds.

Still today governments are setting out costs that they cannot foot the bill for. To now address retirement funds is an unacceptable step. Consider the initial Dutch version were in their own admission plans had been in the making for one year. Look at cutbacks that have not yet been met. These events show clearly that these events should have been stopped yesterday, whilst allowing them tomorrow has every realistic view that they could leave the entire upcoming retiring generation destitute.

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