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Sleeping with the enemy

We have heard the expression; most will remember the movie with Julia Roberts and Patrick Bergin. The expression is slightly harsh and a little over the top for the setting that I find myself presently in with PwC. You see, some people are playing a dangerous game. So when I see ‘UK firm PwC criticised over bid for major Saudi Arabia contract‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/31/uk-firm-pwc-criticised-over-bid-for-major-saudi-arabia-contract), I find myself on the side of PwC supporting them. The article is an issue on a few levels. I touched on a few two days ago with: ‘Oman’s neighbour‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/07/30/omans-neighbour/), so this setting is actually most informative when we consider the issues seen here. I objected to the setting that Amnesty International gave a consequence, yet the original setting that started it was missing, in all this, the fact that the Houthi forces are firing missiles into Saudi Arabia, as is Hezbollah and Iran is the puppet master behind all this, so when I see “Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs programme director, urged PwC to explain what due diligence it had undertaken before pitching for the work“, I wonder if Peter Frankental has done its due diligence into the situation where a terrorist organisation (with evidence from several sources) is operation on Yemeni soil with full backing of Yemeni officials, who are also extremely aware that they are facilitating for Iran. That part is missing from the charade that Amnesty International states is ‘the humanitarian nightmare‘. We agree that too many Yemeni are in the middle of this, no one denies that, yet the actions by Iran via Hezbollah and the Houthi’s are an issue and in this they merely ignore the founding factors.

In addition, the UK, with a desperate need to improve the economy has options and opportunities in Saudi Arabia, creating a dialogue, helping Saudi Arabia move forward. We admit that it will not be fast, it might raise obstacles, which is a fact of life. So when Peter Frankental sets ‘due diligence‘, I am of the mind that he clearly did not proceed with that duly noted diligence to a rather large extent.

So when I see “The United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights make it clear that a company may be viewed as complicit if they are seen to benefit from abuses committed by another party“, in that view, Frank please explain to me how you will prosecute Northrop Grumman, Palantir, Blackberry, Dell, Pelican and Apple? I would really like to know that at present. I am going to grasp back at an expression that we get from Robocop, it was spoken by Kurtwood Smith: ‘Good business is where you find it!‘ and Saudi Arabia has business settings for up to £825 billion, so PwC is getting vetted for a chunk of business that could optionally keep thousands employed, grow optional new businesses and industries. In addition, when exactly did Peter Frankental set the stage for a similar attack on Virgin? Are they not setting up the first Hyperloop there? So where is Frankie boy in all that? Now, it is not my intent to slam out at Frank, he seems to have his heart in the right place. Especially when we look at a paper by the House of Lords called: ‘Any of our business? Human Rights and the UK private sector‘, it seems that he has forever focussed on this, the paper (Attached) is from 2009, where we see on page 15 “In particular, we contend that the UK state could and should play a greater role in the governance of corporations so as to contribute to the protection of human rights from corporate abuse, whether the abuse occurs in the UK or abroad“, that is fair enough, yet he is setting now the acts of an attacked government into a corporate right, in that same setting all exports to the US should in that light be equally questioned and regarded as illegal, you basically can’t have it both ways Frank!

So when we grasp at: “In particular, we do support the idea of some kind of international instrument for corporate accountability within the UN system, but we agree with Professor Ruggie that such an instrument would not exist to monitor the activities of tens of thousands of transnational corporations, that would be unfeasible, but it would exist to reinforce the will of states to hold companies to account within their jurisdiction” and set the dimensionality of a flaccid UN when it comes to the events in Syria, there is such overwhelming evidence of inaction (through Veto or not), which gives us that in the faced setting PwC should not even be a blip on his radar. Not when we compare it to “the US contractors are mostly focused on supporting the 2,000 US troops in Syria by delivering hot meals, gasoline and other supplies. More than 30% of them support logistics and maintenance, according to the quarterly Pentagon report, and another 27% help with support and construction of US military outposts in the region” (source: Al-Monitor, April 2018). So how much visibility did Frank give here? In all this, he does not get to hide behind the ‘It is not linked to the UK‘ you just cannot become a ‘local’ party towards a global event when you decide it is. It just does not work that way.

In this, we also see: “PwC already has a presence in Saudi Arabia, but it is the company’s UK operation that is behind the defence project“, which is true, because I applied and they were not taking any non-UK citizens. Darn!

In addition, with: “PwC has launched a “call for resources” – asking specialists and consultants in London whether they would be interested in moving to Riyadh to start the work – because, it has said, it is “currently finalising the deal”“, we see that PwC has the setting to move people to Saudi Arabia, more employment and in addition a sector growth that could lead to 10 figure long term deals, but fear not! Peter Frankental will be there to try and undo the economic boom that will benefit the UK (was that overly simplified?)

So with the upcoming opportunity and the subsequent quote “focus on how to reshape recruitment, resourcing, performance management and strategic workforce planning, and how to manage and communicate change“, it actually goes further than that, even as a lot more performance management is likely to be shown, it will also be about what is the hierarchy and what is not. In light of work safety and preparedness (yes, even in the military), the setting of ‘Own the challenge‘ is a lot harder to scribe into the soul of the person. To set ‘solving’ the issue as the forefront of ‘that what is my actual responsibility‘ tend to be a challenge even within the most flexible workers, so I predict that there is a shift that will soon be shown in places like Saudi Arabia as well. I will admit that having never worked there, that this setting is more speculative than anything else.

So when I see Frankie give us: “As any accountancy firm involved in work for the Saudi ministry of defence must know, the Royal Saudi air force has an appalling record in Yemen, with the Saudi-led military coalition having indiscriminately bombed Yemeni homes, hospitals, funeral halls, schools and factories. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed and injured“, the equal question on how many missiles that Iran enabled the Houthi and Hezbollah forces allowed to be shot into Saudi Arabia, and there is the drone strike issues in the UAE to consider as well. In addition, it is called ‘Saudi Ministry of defence‘, not the Hezbollah missile strike team. It might be nit-picking on my side, but then, I was always willing to go for broke.

Then there is the setting of “the UK “should be focusing on trying to stop this terrible conflict, not assisting the Saudi government.”“, yes it is an interesting setting by Anna Macdonald (younger sister of Ronald). When we go to the site (at https://controlarms.org/meet-the-team/), we see Anna Macdonald, Raluca Muresan, Zoya Craig and half a dozen volunteers. Yet, lets also congratulate on the bang up (or is that blow up) job they did in Syria, as well as a few other places. So when I see: “a global coalition working for international arms control“, which is a good goal to have, the flow of missiles and arms from Iran into a few places was not really stopped was it? Iran has exported small arms and ammunition to Sudan and Syria, anti-tank missiles to Syria, Sudan and Somalia; rocket exports to Syria, Sudan, Libya as well as shipments to Hezbollah and Iraqi insurgents. So in that list, and the goal Anna Macdonald envisions is a noble one, no one denies that, in all that, with at least two dozen of export mentions excluded, I think that PwC should not be on her list either. Especially, as the Saudi Arabian civil population is still under threat of missiles from a terrorist organisation. No one denies that the Yemeni people caught in the middle are in a really unbearable place, but all these actions means that no actual actions are taken against Iran. So as we were given ‘the European Commission has moved to add Iran to the investment mandate of the European Investment Bank (EIB)‘ a mere 18 hours ago, it seems to me that in all this Anna Macdonald and Peter Frankental should be setting their focus in a different direction, or perhaps that will merely not give them the limelight that they so desperately need (for all the right reasons mind you).

In all this, the defence from Saudi Arabia in the person of the foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir was reduced to a mere: “Judeir blamed the Houthi rebels for blocking aid and contributing to the humanitarian crisis“, is that not interesting too? The actual blockers of humanitarian aid was set into a mere footnote, a mere 14 words, so in all this, where is Peter Frankental at this point?

 

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A steamy deception?

As I started to dive into the world of hardware just to satisfy my renewed addiction for Elite (now Elite Dangerous), I thought it was my duty to keep a relatively normal approach to this. This is purely because I am a student on a budget and I need to make certain that I keep a normal life after paying my bills, so as I have been weighing the options, the views of re-entering the world of PC gaming is one that comes with several traps, even though some people entering this field are not realising this.

For some this jump is riddled with confrontational choices of lesser applicability.

In my case, Elite Dangerous does not take an over the moon graphics card, so I personally have an advantage, but many other people are not gifted with that option.

So as some ‘diss’ the PS4 or the Xbox One, because they are ‘only’ consoles, be wary of the dangers of factors you might not be taking into account.

In my previous blog ‘Getting back on the horse‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2015/07/19/getting-back-on-the-horse/), where I consider the costly dangers of a PC, my alternative thought was to move towards the new Steam Consoles, let’s face it, a steam console is basically a console for PC games (via Steam). So why not consider that?

Well, let’s take a look:

As I personally see it, Steam itself is misinforming the people from the very beginning. You see, in gaming, graphics is key and when we see ‘Alienware Steam Machine‘ with the mention  NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX GPU 2GB, yet it doesn’t not mention, whether it is a Titan, a 980, or a 740 or anything SPECIFIC, you better believe that the non-mention could set you on the short end of the equation.

The steam store does however mention models that do correctly mention that part, they often mention more too, which is good, but all this comes with the hidden trap. For example, the Asus ROG GR8S, which looks extremely pretty with that aggressive redness for the FPS killer amongst us. It offers the option to upgrade memory and storage, but not the graphics card… Oops! Is that not the heart of the gaming matter? Now in all honesty, it comes with NVIDIA® GeForce® 750Ti, which is decent, but it is a little less than one third of the GeForce GTX 980, so how long until we see a 2016 game (or even a December 2015 game) that you cannot fully appreciate on your brand new console? The graphic needs of the PC gamers accelerates a lot faster than the consoles, which is why some games look so much better on PC (Skyrim is a good mention), but it does come at a price.

Now there are more and more places where you get the option of building a steam machine, of course with the added bonus of having parts that can be upgraded, yet at that point we will get too close to the PC again, which means pricing and now with the limitation that it is not a PC, so only for gaming.

So how is this a good idea, or better stated, is it a good idea?

As I go through most new upcoming steam consoles (the bulk ready for release in November 2015), I must admit that the 3XS ST15 (at http://www.scan.co.uk/) stood out of being completely adjustable, yet when we add it all up, we get a £1106.74 system (AU$ 2,355.71), which is more than the above average gaming PC, so how are steam consoles a solution against the gaming PC?

At least with actual consoles, the games will be made for that console for years to come, maximising the game, without you spending a fortune. That was clear the moment you realised that the powerful graphic cards are prices at the cost of a PS4 and an Xbox One combined. So are these ‘new’ consoles a steamed deception?

On one hand, yes, because the steam store does not mention certain essential facts, which is not really their fault, but in the case of Alienware it is likely to become an Alienware issue. As the two models state: ‘NVIDIA® GeForce® GPU 2GB GDDR5’ for a graphics card and the Alienware Alpha at $849.99 states “Fully maxed; giving you all the console you will ever need“, which is great, because from my point of view that implies that this console should come with a ‘EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN X Superclocked 12GB‘, if that is not the case than the term ‘all the console you will ever need‘ is deceptive in the very least! So as I see it, Alienware is setting itself up for one humongous issue when people (after receiving local legal advice), whilst the buyer after this will claim for the fore mentioned graphics card, as to keep the promise ‘all the console you will ever need’.

In my view, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Australian Law), might soon become popular reading with the steam console gaming community where we now see that the graphics card likely to be included is already not up to par to deal the full ability of either Tomb Raider or Metro Last Light gives voice to the limited truth of the claim and as such Alienware could theoretically end up having to upgrade their $700 system by a lot for the current customers at no charge (as a gamer, I find that path nicely amazing).

This is not a given until settled in court (if it gets there), but in all this, the slippery slope of steam consoles as their release seems to be (as I see it) is shown decently clearly.

Setting an upcoming hype in average equipment, hoping for that day one killing revenue in November 2015 is debatable at best. I wonder what happens to the sales commission in January when the consumers get either their refunds or free upgrades.

So even as we can accept that there is a market for these consoles, the fair fact is that the good machines are at the price of a PC, whilst only being able to do their console duties, which is of course the choice of the consumer. Yet, did this consumer group properly investigate their options and more specifically the limitations that their budgets would bring?

So, what do I have against these steam consoles? I personally do not care, as I decided towards the Xbox One for Elite Dangerous, but overall, when I see what people will want now on steam, and what people will desire next year on steam (like No Man’s Sky, Eve Valkyrie, Star Citizen, Survarium and Asylum). Whilst there are a lot more games coming in 2016 and even by the time Assassins Creed: Syndicate is released (late 2015), what will that game require to fill its hunger for graphical needs? Will the installed graphic card offer the maxed experience?

So even now, in foresight, there is no guarantee at all that many of the steam consoles will offer max gaming whilst the system is still in its warranty stage. The systems that do offer the options of maximising will cost a bundle, which is what steam machines were definitely not about.

For now I will call these consoles a dicey market to say the least, for the rest, time will tell!

 

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Who runs America?

This is a question that has been in the back of my mind for some time. When we consider the economic events from 2008 onwards and how slow (almost 2 administrations) it has taken for any economic legislation to take shape for the (at present) ineffective halting of moving tax dollars off shore. Even now, several economic boffins are slowly and casually mentioning that current measures are not going far enough.

The entire issue took a new foothold as we see the Ukrainian events unfold. We see how some politicians are acting so….outspokenly against certain acts. Now, I am not speaking out against these people, I believe in the freedom of speech and as such, we need to hear all sides. The issue was shown the most visible in the UK when some stated on how economic sanctions against Russia would be taken, like getting gas from a different source.

It was at that point when I saw just how hollow their boasts were. In my view those politicians would soon be dragged to a separate room where several high powered industrials would add these politicians to the Christian choir of ‘Mare Castratum’, see this as a slightly more efficient form of gagging a politician.

Why this view?

Consider that politicians would make that rash decision and also consider the fact that in the UK (amongst most EEC nations), the energy prices are way above normal. So in a place where like the US, 1 in 7 lives below the poverty line, where these people can hardly pay their bills, get confronted with a 10%-15% raise on energy bills. What do you expect to happen?

I expect something similar to happen in the US, as I see it there are two elements in play here. The first is the claim (at http://www.skynews.com.au/world/article.aspx?id=957624)

The two quotes are “The Senate on Tuesday expressed its support for Ukraine by passing strongly worded resolutions, using tough language against Russia and urging it be suspended from the Group of 8 world powers.” and “The House of Representatives also passed a resolution to condemn what House Speaker John Boehner called ‘Russia’s hostile acts of aggression’

I understand the second quote and I reckon that House Speaker John Boehner was quite correct to pass such a resolution. It is the first one that is an issue, I understand that governments want to stand in support of the Ukraine, there is no way that any objection to that is valid, consider however what the G8 stands for. If we accept the following ‘G8 nations comprise 50.1% of 2012 global nominal GDP‘, then without Russia, will the G8 be a valid office of existence and what to do to keep its validity? Replace it with China?

That part would make sense as in many ways, the Chinese economy would be much more interesting to America then Russia is for the mere fact that China imports almost 3 times more than Russia does (based on 2012 numbers). Yet, if this happens, then what will be the long term consequences? Consider that the Ukraine is in an even less prosperous situation then most EEC countries. Now consider the information (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2014/03/05/in-ukraine-crisis-russias-natural-gas-tactics-could-backfire/), basically the Ukraine was getting gas at a 36% discount. If that fell away, then what will the Ukraine do? The quote seen here “The UK National Balancing Point (NBP) futures for natural gas jumped nearly 10% to $10.28 per MMBtu, according to Bloomberg. Prices have since moderated as the political situation appears to be calming down” gives validity to my claims of the energy prices; if futures would take that must a blast, then I reckon the people could face a charge at nearly twice that percentage. There was a side in all this that I had not reckoned on. When we see the quote “The U.S. wants to become a large LNG exporter later this decade and a portion of that would be bound for Europe” we see two dangers. The first is that this is not just government, but this is definitely a ‘Big Business’ push. Yet, consider the amount of customers could be the issue as the amount needed would far outstrip what could be delivered. That part is implied in the Dutch article (at https://decorrespondent.nl/299/eerst-het-gas-dan-de-moraal/32952491-c7e501ab) called ‘Eerst het gas, dan de moraal‘, which could be loosely translated and paraphrased as: “Business before morality“, which is basically at the heart of all these events. The article states that the Russian pipeline is supplying well over 26 million households, which is well over twice the size of California (in households). There should be no illusions that Gazprom has its powerful claws firmly in the EEC.

Let’s make sure that I am not stating that the politicians are acting purely or mostly out of economic reasons. I am to a lesser extent implying that it is possible that the Natural Gas lobbyists in Washington have been speaking with politicians over a lunch or two (which is how things are done in the US and UK). That latter part was discussed in the Guardian in October 2013, as UK Labour leader Ed Miliband mentioned that these lobby groups are not getting the proper levels of scrutiny (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/07/energy-firm-lobbyists-scrutiny-ed-miliband). So it is IMHO Big Business that is the second danger element in these cases. If the politicians represent the people, yet big business has the funds, ability and know-how to override the views of the people, then what use are the people at the end of all this?

This all goes a few steps further than just the energy groups. I started all this with a mention of economic sanctions. So how does this connect? Well, it does not directly connect, yet the elements all have their political influence. Consider the needs of Apple in Russia (at http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/03/07/russias-megafon-deal-with-apple-inc-guarantees-sales-of-750k-iphones-over-3-years). This was less than a week ago. So we consider the value of a little over 20,000 iPhones a month for the next three years and we should expect that this sparks the sale of iPad and iPod and other Apple articles. Do you think that the members in charge of Apple are hindered by morality? They have parked billions in taxable dollars away from the collecting hands of the IRS (and other taxing governments). The commission these people get from their deals in Russia will not stop them in any way. Whether there will be some ‘illusive’ distributor in India, Japan or China will not matter, the show (read sale) will go on. The same could be said for Dell. You think that they stop selling to Russia and leave their market share to ASUS? I think not! These are just two examples of the dozens of massively large companies doing business with Russian one form or another, not just from the USA, but also from Europe. In that same regard, there is not export without import, so as we see the boasts of economic sanctions to Russia by politicians, remember that when we see that when Russians show off their latest Apple gadgets on TV, the question ‘who runs America?‘ should remain firmly on your mind. In the end you should also remember that the entire situation is a lot more complex then I make it out to be.

As we focus on ‘Business before Morality‘ then remember the bills most of you have in your drawer still awaiting payment. We are nearly all of us overdue to the smallest or a larger extent and as some are more fortunate not to be one of the seven people living below poverty, consider that most of us are in the same place where 45% of us are, most of these people are all a little below getting by, which comes down to one step from a total nightmare life.

I am not stating it is a good place or an acceptable place; it is merely a realistic place. It is in this realistic place the question gets the volume it needs to have: ‘Who runs America?

 

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