Tag Archives: Guardian

Choices we make under pressure

It is an odd day, one day we predict and await, the next day we see how issues are just settled out of media. Now, at times I am all for keeping the media out. Not to put too delicate a point on it, but some members of a group we at times laughingly refer to as ‘people with journalistic integrity’ seems to have a moral view that is only slightly worse than a crack user in Camden. So as I saw that Chuka Umunna was going for the Labour leadership, I took a look at him. I saw just one interview he had just after the elections and I was not impressed. That is not a measurement of anything. You see, when Ed Miliband abdicated, which is a shame in one way, but understandable in another, I expected to see a person equal to the presenting task. Mr Umunna was not it. Now, that is just a first impression. I have no idea about his family, his extended family or anything else, I do not care about them (not meant in a bad way). In my view, it is about the man/woman and his/her political ability. The rest does not matter to me. Doesn’t it seem strange that a person who fights to get on top of things, who works hard to get anywhere, that person should not be measured by anything else but him/her! If I was to be measured by my abusive alcoholic father, I would be a lot better of going to the top of the closest by high building and enjoy the view on the way down (and I do not mean via the stairs or elevator). I am my own man, I fought to get where I got and I did it mostly myself. That is how I would measure Chuka Umunna!

So when it was revealed that he pulled out, I became curious (at https://www.politicshome.com/party-politics/articles/waugh-room/why-chuka-pulled-out). It is this quote “But the 48 hours crystallised his view that he just didn’t want the level of private scrutiny that being a Labour leadership contender, let alone Labour leader or Prime Minister, could entail“, which is fair enough! Or is it?

You see people in high places always had scrutiny, they accept that, but nowadays, the press has taken all of this into a realm that is no longer acceptable. So when you see this quote: “It’s also true that his girlfriend’s elderly grandmother was contacted by the media” in that article, we should consider what level of harassment any person in public office should get, and to what degree their family members are allowed to be shielded from. Remember, this is not the media around the election, this is day 5 after the elections and the pressure is already on. The fact that Chuka is shielding his family from all this for the coming 5 years is understandable but still regrettable.

This reflects back to the beginning. Was my view right? For now, I reckon so! For now he is the starter, the newbie, likely to be prone to all kinds of beginner’s mistakes, but that is what happens in year 0 (as any faction leader would face). Yet, should we accept this? Even as a conservative, I wonder whether the press is now engaging in acts that deprives the British people from proper representation. Is Chuka Umunna the best representation Labour would get? Well, now it seems that the Labour party will never find out, the press seems to have put a stop on that. Let me be frank, as a public figure, Mr Umunna can expect all kinds of exposure, to a limited degree the immediate family too, but the pressure to the extent some people get now it is a lot less acceptable. We get back to the press and how the press is actually abusing its freedom.

Lord Tebbit, former conservative MP for Epping and Chingford once stated: “It’s better to risk the press abusing its freedom than to risk the authorities abusing an unfree press“. In my own way I would add to that, that this might have been true in the days when his lordship was young and innocent, but in today’s society we must truly consider whether the press remains such a force of consideration. The term ‘risk regarding the press abusing its freedom‘ is now with some certainty the issue of ‘the press abusing the rights and freedoms of the people for the need of innuendo and circulation‘. This goes far beyond the old Hacked off issues. From the moment that was settled we saw some articles grovelling, then hyping on how freedom is such a good thing and how the press can regulate itself and that entire matter was not even a month old we got ‘MH370 suicide flight‘, were we ever shown any actual evidence to that? Now it is likely to get worse and many of my readers from the UK have not signed up for their possible political representation to be scrutinised to such a harassing degree. Here I must oppose Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter. In the interview in the Guardian, where after only 8 seconds he goes on with ‘but we have a great range of talent out there still hoping to run‘, so the person the conservatives feared the most (me thinks not) is replaced after 8 seconds for the next person. There is something wrong here too. If Chuka Umunna is such a great person, why not fight for him. You see, either Chuka is not that great a politician (fair enough) or this is about the worry on how much limelight labour will get from the press regarding the ‘wrong’ person. That is an immediate threat to the democratic freedom of all. So this is not about NOT looking into a politician, this is about the decent level of privacy the not immediate family is entitled to.

In the Guardian we also see Mary Creagh who was quoted from BBC Radio 4 “Modern politicians with social media, Facebook and emails face pressures even 15 or 20 years ago they did not face … We are expected to be some how superhuman”, is that true, or is there an increasingly skewed action by the press to overexpose whatever is not perfectly spotless and in that manner undo whatever good a politician is trying to do.

In the Daily Mail (I apologise for using a lowly regarded source of information) we see two quotes “Chuka Umunna is the articulate politician who had hoped to make the Labour Party electable again after the humiliations suffered under Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. But many party workers were worried that this 36-year-old, 6ft-tall, well-dressed former lawyer may be just a little too smooth. The grandson of a British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war trials, Chuka was educated at a private boys’ school, and was a chorister at Southwark Cathedral. His voice can be heard singing the theme tune to the Rowan Atkinson comedy Mr Bean. Mr Umunna thinks nothing of spending £1,200 on bespoke suits from Alexandra Wood, an exclusive Saville Row tailor“.

So why would this be an issue? The terms ‘well-dressed‘ and ‘too smooth‘? The fact that he is the grandson of a former War Crimes prosecutor! That counts! Then there is the Saville Row reference, so this is not about skill, this is about the image that he inherited, the choices he made. Yet this person also decided to give his time to Labour, to champion the workers. He did not become a conservative as rich people seem to be seen as. In addition we get the quote “He was forced to apologise two years ago after it was revealed that he had once commented on a website that London’s nightclubs were ‘full of trash and C-list wannabes’“, so now people must apologise for speaking the truth? Have you seen the trash that comes out of some of these clubs? Smashed, drunk as a skunk and regularly we see how some of these places will have people leaving on all kinds of chemical trips. This is a consequence of binge drinking and slipping 1-2 pills with the white wine. This whilst many of them ladies complain on how they were entitled to VIP treatments in clubs so much better than the one they just crawled out of on all four. So perhaps Chuka Umunna is more than just a little right. Perhaps the press was worried on not having a hold on a person like this and they prefer a person slightly more ‘colourful’ (pardon the pun).

So where will Labour stand? Time will tell. Bren Bradshaw was right in one regard. The Labour party has loads of talent, no one denies that, but they’ve already forgotten that Ed Miliband was plenty talented and to some extent even visionary (in the wrong time as I saw it). So as the second talented member gets pushed off stage, are we seeing the effects of internal power plays and if so, should the press not be held to account for being the tool in all this?

I will let you, the reader mull over those facts and you should come to your own conclusions.

 

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For free or for naught?

It is less than a day after I wrote the previous blog ‘The danger ahead’, now I read in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/nsa-gchq-smartphone-app-angry-birds-personal-data) that the quote I made in yesterday’s blog “Speed and disregard of proper development has allowed for open access to many computers and devices, which allows for almost complete collection and stored and such storage can only be done by just a few. This open level of availability allows the NSA and GCHQ (amongst others) to collect open source intelligence, hoping to gain the upper hand in the war on terror.“, which is close to what the Guardian reported, as well as what is currently shown on Sky News!

At this point, I am looking at a few issues and the more I look at the data that the press is stating, the more I see that Edward Snowden is more than just a traitor. He claims being a victim in a German TV interview (at http://www.dw.de/wanted-dead-by-us-officials-snowden-tells-german-tv/a-17388431), where he speaks the fear that he is being targeted for long term sleep therapy (aka ‘terminal sleep’).

The ‘problem’ is that the issue is not just Snowden. The more I look into the breaches, the more I look into a possible functional approach on the way the NSA server parks (plural) are set up, the more I am convinced that not only was Edward Snowden not alone in this all, I feel some level of certainty that this person might still be in the NSA, endangering both NSA and GCHQ as well as other allied monitoring agencies.

The humongous amount of ‘revelations’ that are claimed in the name of Snowden do two things. First of all it turns Benedict Arnold in a stumbling saint (I just had to wash my mouth with soap for making such a claim). Linked to this is the fact that the many dozens of operations as his ‘revelations’ seem to touch on would have been on at least a dozen of servers (as projects are spread around). The fact that NSA uses an upgraded edition of SE-LINUX means that a system with logs and mandatory access control cannot get transferred to such a degree. The fact that IT and security monitors it all, as well that he was civilian contractor means that his name should have popped up a dozen times. Even if he used other accounts, the logs should have triggered alerts all over the field when they were scanned through solutions not unlike a program like Palantir Government.

The claims I am making are growing in reliability with every ‘revelation’ that is being made. There is however another side that is now the consequence of all these whingers and whiners about ‘their privacy‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/27/tech-giants-white-house-deal-surveillance-customer-data). We now enter a field where it is important to realise that the new situation could be regarded as a danger.

It is linked to a previous newscast where President Obama was considering moving telephony data out of government hands (at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/01/23/government-privacy-board-members-say-shifting-nsa-data-to-third-parties-is-a-bad-idea/)

As stated before, this is a really bad idea. Consider that criminals, if enough money is in play, can use places like HSBC to launder their money (I am not talking about forgetting your wallet whilst washing your jeans), but the idea that commercial enterprises can get away with these events for just a 5 week fee (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2012/07/16/hsbc-helped-terrorists-iran-mexican-drug-cartels-launder-money-senate-report-says/, as well as http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/01/23/uk-standardbank-fine-idUKBREA0M0LF20140123) is a lot more dangerous than many realise. Handing data storage out of government hands is just too dangerous. I am steering away from the issue whether the monitoring program should go on or stop. The intelligence community needs to do what it needs to do. Leaving that data with third parties is just not an option. The worst case scenario would see the US government paying out billions if any data leading to a registered IP ends up in ‘other’ hands. Once that evidence is ever given, the US would lose whatever credibility they ever thought they had.

At this point the title can be used as a joke. What is the difference between for free and for naught? Someone got rich for free, the US got rich for naught! That would end up being the reality of a project that was meant to map levels of global terrorism. This joke only gets stronger when we see another ‘view of shock’, but now from Google CLO David Drummond (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-25911266). It is hard to state against his view, or the premise of the company. These carefully pronounced statements from legal eagles are to be expected from many firms for some time to come. There is however a commercial positive view (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25914731). Here we see how entrepreneurs in makeup and clothing are showing options to avoid detection. In more than one instance it is stated to be metal based, so standing next to airport detectors should be fun soon enough. I wonder how much more would get checked when the boxers or briefs are also metal based.

So whether we get entertainment for free or fashion for naught will be discussed by many soon enough, the main fact remains. If we want to remain safe, then data needs to be collected. It is not for free, or for naught. It is for the simple reason that the world is filled with bad people; some will go any distance to hurt as many as they can. Our governments have a duty to keep us safe, it is only fair that they are given the tools, the methods and the opportunity to do so.

This does get us to the final part (or final side) to these events. This morning, the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/28/microsoft-rules-out-back-door-access-to-mps-electronic-communications) reported on backdoor access allegations. The quote “Both Ludlam and South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon have been concerned about the security of Australian parliamentary communications since the Prism surveillance program was first revealed by National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden.” gives the information that was the part of all this. So again we see more resources squandered in regards to Snowden. Do not get me wrong, the question by both Ludlam and Xenophon is fair enough and as such it should be looked at. Whoever wants access to certain information, which might always be the case, could consider Intruding a system, which, unless you are a real expert is getting harder and harder, as it should be.

Yet, capturing and copying frames sent over a router system makes a lot more sense. You just capture it all and decrypt it later. Now, most people will not have the ability to do this, but consider the amount of elements to get this all from user1 to user2 via server X. If you think that this is highly encrypted hard to achieve effort, then think again. The more common the method used, the easier it is to read into it. So, there is a level of entertainment as we see leagues of technicians concentrate on the door of the bank vault, whilst in reality one of the walls is missing.  To give you another example, we take a look at a paper by Daehyun Strobel, Benedikt Driessen, Timo Kasper et al (at https://eprint.iacr.org/2013/598.pdf). As we look at the quote “Despite the fact that nowadays strong and well-analyzed cryptographic primitives are available for a large variety of applications, very weak cryptographic algorithms are still widely deployed in real products all over the world.” This relates to the IT issue as, we might have secure servers and powerful password rules, but files are send from one computer to another via the ‘internet’, which goes via a router system (no matter how you twist or turn it). So, as someone gets to any router on the track and wireshark’s the traffic, the stream can be rebuilt. From there the hacker still faces a few obstacles, but you better believe that above a certain skill level, this data can be retrieved. So what exactly are we all crying about?

 

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Cooking the books?

Sky News is bringing us another update on how good the economy seems to be. The reporters are so happy and so full of joy to voice the information on strong the economy is growing. It is a worrying turn of events. So, after the IMF had voiced on how George Osborne is playing with fire, now his vision will be bringing the UK a 2.4% improvement sending the UK back on par with the pre-crash numbers (at http://news.sky.com/story/1197837/imf-upgrades-uk-growth-forecast-above-rivals). The one part I do accept is that it is growing faster than its rivals, although, I do wonder how fast the German Economy would grow. Now personally I do believe that the status of the UK has always been correct (the fact that their economy was growing). My non-economic view had been in the area of 1%-1.5%, which would have been a pretty good result considering the mess most European nations were in.

In ‘A noun of non-profit‘ on May 15th 2013 I wrote “I personally join the group “Oh ye of little faith” on that one and if they are able to get the economy up to 0.2% positive in 2014 than they would have achieved quite the small miracle.” This was my view of the Dutch economy at that time. So far I am still to be proven wrong (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/05/15/a-noun-of-non-profit/).

The second quote in this regard is “It is the latest boost to the fortunes of the Chancellor, coming barely 24 hours after the Ernst & Young ITEM Club also increased its projection for UK economic growth this year. Although the Fund’s forecast for growth this year will be shy of the 2.7% predicted by the ITEM Club, the scale of the upgrade underlines how quickly sentiment about Britain’s economy has turned in recent months.

I believe that we are being played! Let me be clear, the UK economy is getting back, it is stronger than most others and I think that this is a good thing. It is that 2.7% that I have a problem with. The number is way too high. I am not stating that the number is impossible, but it is extremely unlikely. (Feel free not to believe this non-economist blogger on this).

Why is this the view I have?

As I quoted in my blog ‘Cretan Independance‘ (on January 10th) “a senior policymaker in Brussels said: ‘The worst of the crisis is over. So the pressure to take tough measures is off. We’ve had enough of discipline, enough of sanctions, we’re sufficiently unpopular already. The worst is over, so let’s stop now.’

This view seems to hold up, but when we consider the total of debts, whilst we consider the other debt issues I mentioned, we should consider that we are not out of the woods. The UK numbers seem too inflated to me. Even though there is general optimism (at http://news.sky.com/story/1198691/osborne-hails-new-imf-growth-forecast-for-uk), there is also too relaxed a view on the damage we are all still facing. The quote “The IMF forecasts that the world economy will grow by 3.7% in 2014, up from 3.6% in its last forecast.” is one of the most interesting ones.

There are two sides. The one side might mean that the economy is going up, which could be good. Yet, the negative side is the side of government overspending all over the place. Add to that the fact that big business still has way too many loopholes to fly through (avoiding the taxation the governments are already spending), which means that no matter how good the economy, government overspending means that you and me will end up with the combined tax invoice. As balance is lost in these matters, the economy looking up, does not mean that life will get any better for you and me for 16-24 months and even though BusinessWeek had ‘good’ numbers to mention in their article (at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-01-22/u-dot-k-dot-unemployment-drops-to-7-dot-1-percent-in-lurch-toward-boe-threshold). If we consider this quote “Unemployment measured by International Labour Organization methods declined to 7.1 percent in the three months through November from 7.4 percent in the quarter through October, the Office for National Statistics said in London today.” we could consider this as good news, yet, until the February numbers are known, any party-hat shown is for now one too many.

Do not get me wrong, I would love to be wrong in this instance. Yet, I have seen several outlets blasting away the good news left right and centre, and 2-3 months after that some unfortunate bad news is thrown our way. Some message like ‘we had expected slightly better news, yet it seems that the numbers for the immediate future will stagnate‘. At that point, you better believe that you are watching a bad news management routine. The UK is on the right track and that is really good, but to weaken resolve anywhere in 2014 is in my view a really bad idea. I prefer to see the UK coming out on top at the end of 2014. George Osborne has shown that his vision was right; I reckon that the UK will be a lot stronger at the end of 2014. There is additional supporting news in my favour in regards to the picture we are getting painted (at http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-09/investors-are-getting-hungry-for-pigs-debt-again).

It seems that the 4 biggest indebted nations are at it again. The quote “Europe’s having a bond rally and the PIGS are playing host. Portugal, Ireland, Spain—and even Greece, where Europe’s debt crisis began—are heading back to the bond markets and enjoying their lowest borrowing costs in years, as investors appear reassured that the region’s sickest economies are on the mend.” is a little colourful, but it seems to fit with the picture we are offered. First we see messages of the ‘sudden’ light at the end of the tunnel as well as the mention of easing from a senior policymaker in Brussels. I think it is all about the next wave. If these bonds fall through, who will bail others out? This is in my view the fear we should have and as such it is also the fear UKIP is playing on, which is why May 2014 could change the game for all concerned, because the Eurozone will see the shape of an entirely new nightmare, one that will haunt us all for a long time to come.

The Bloomberg article does bear a nice quote “The reduction in the risk perception, and this sort of market euphoria, is leading to a rerating of sectors and countries most penalized during the sovereign debt crisis.” This reads in two directions. The first is that it implies that perhaps the most penalized nations should not have been so and the reduction of risk perception. That is in my view the real fear. It is not just about the reduction that is implied, but the extra shifting of debts. But when payment is due, which will happen and payment needs to come from new debts, what will be left?

This is the one side no one wanted to deal with. Just move on! It just doesn’t work this way, because in the end the taxpayer gets that bill and as such we must make sure that the people realise that these games on the gambling green will cost us all. Politicians and corporations will not have to pay a dime of the debt they all happily bestow onto us, what will happen then?

The entire story becomes even more fun when we consider todays mention in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/21/imf-world-economic-recovery-outlook-weo). The second quote is “Blanchard confirmed the IMF had raised its UK growth forecast to 2.4% for this year, from a previous forecast of 1.9%. It was Blanchard, who last year warned Osborne has was playing with fire with his austerity drive, but the forecast for the UK is well ahead of Europe’s largest economy, Germany, where growth is forecast at 1.6%. France’s economy would grow by a much weaker 0.9% given ‘policy uncertainty is weighing on growth’, Blanchard said.” I stepped over the first quote on purpose. The events are not as they seem to me. The first quote was interesting “The global economic recovery will pick up pace this year but remains ‘weak and uneven’, the International Monetary Fund’s top economist has said.

This is at the centre of my reasoning. The economy is weak, it is uneven and it will remain that way as long as nations keep their credit cards maxed out. That is at the centre of the issue. Those maxed out credit cards are great for the banks and great for the IMF, but you and me are only hurt by it as our utilities, our monthly costs will gain a rising momentum whilst our income rise remains nearly frozen.

Good for all except for us, the simple taxpayer! This is why I am so against the game that is getting played.

 

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Year of the last Euro?

Wednesday’s news on ‘George Osborne lays down ultimatum‘ seems to have remained a little quiet. So, was it all hot air, or are there silent runners under the waterline? The situation reminds me of a poster I once saw. It was a photograph of water, with the by-line ‘Submarine racing, a spectator sport!‘ I thought it was quite funny. Whilst scanning for the latest on this event, I find several people mentioning it, but no real update for a day. The Guardian article was quite informative (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/15/george-osborne-reform-eu-quits-tory-dismantling ). However, I regard the BBC version of it a little better (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25740462)

The BBC article does however have two items I do find interesting, but they are slightly debatable.

The first one is “I believe it is in no-one’s interests for Britain to come to face a choice between joining the euro or leaving the European Union.” Why is it one or the other? In my view, the only part keeping the EU from collapsing is because the United Kingdom DID NOT embrace the Euro coin. I will get back to this a little later.

The second part is “The 28-member group also had to do more to ensure economic competitiveness with rivals like India and China, he added.

I feel that the UK could become a lot stronger if the Commonwealth brethren embrace each other as family and as mutual protectors. This means that the UK should become the centre force in group that includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.

In my view, the issue is that Chancellor Osborne is too adamant to sing-a-long with the American tune. I view this like a game of musical chairs. An iteration game of leave one out! The problem is that this game includes one chair that is only meant for the rear end of America, so it will always have a chair to sit on. They should not even be included in this game, but there you have it, for some reason they are part of the EU game.

So let us get back to the first part as promised. The EU (or EEC if you prefer), has 28 nations. In the GDP rankings the UK is at number three. The issue is that the top 7 has Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden (these 7 are 79% of the entire EU GDP). Only Germany is in a good position, The Netherlands is on the thinnest ice imaginable, whilst Sweden in its economic state seems to remain skating on the ice it has (for now). The rest has gone through the ice and are in a bad place. So, why should the UK risk it all and add themselves to a currency that is drowning itself because the local politicians refused to stop spending when they could, they kept on spending when they should have stopped and now they are in that bad place. Many should be thankful that the UK and Sweden are not part of the Eurozone at present.

In addition, Greece, according to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras does not need any more austerity (Nov, 2013). Spain stated “The budget is based on a forecast that the Spanish economy will grow 0.7 percent next year, up from the government’s previous forecast of 0.5 percent.” (at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/business/international/spanish-budget-avoids-austerity-measures.html). Yet Bloomberg noted on September 5th “Spain’s bid to meet its budget-deficit target for the first time in five years is running into trouble, fuelling concerns that increased financial stability is masking deeper economic problems.” So, what is actually happening here? Are we witnessing new waves of creative accounting?

In light of all the bad news, it must also be noted that France is at least still fighting to keep the austerity in place, even though President Hollande is slowly becoming the least popular president in French history. I applaud him for standing firm and I do hope he will not share the fate of Louis XVI (a one-time treatment at ‘La Guillotine’). Italy is for now also on the Austerity track, but internal developments are not good and there are signs that Italy cannot continue the course it currently is going. So out of the 6 (not including UK) one is doing decently well, two are on the edge and the rest is for now in a bad place. This is not the time to switch currency, especially as the UK is slowly recovering, to add their heads to a block whilst the Axeman is spending the night away. It is more than just bad politics to do so.

So, we see percentages all over the place, but in the end, what does it mean? Well, let’s take a look at the numbers (as far as I found them, and a stern warning, the numbers are unverified and not from the best sources). In my defence, the numbers do not seem to be clearly presented anywhere.

Sweden, the smallest and not in the worst state is a little over 1 trillion debt at over 180% of GDP, Spain at 2.3 trillion, which is over 150% of GDP, Italy at 2.4 trillion, but interestingly seems to be at almost 100% of GDP, the Netherlands at 2.6 trillion, however the numbers I found place them at almost 350% of GDP, France is at a whopping 5.1 trillion and like Sweden around 180% of GDP, lastly Germany owns over 5.5 trillion at a ‘mere’ 140% of GDP.

Whatever some of these so called economists are trying to tell you (they are hoping you do not revolt against additional borrowing), the current nightmare is far beyond the issues you can imagine. the populations of Sweden is almost 10 million, the Netherlands is at almost 17 million, Spain 47 million, Italy 60 million, France 66 million and Germany at well over 80 million. You see, in the end, the taxpayer gets to deal with these trillions. So, a large nation might seem safe, but consider France, where austerity seems unbearable and with that sizeable population, the debt comes to over 74,000 euro per person. The average income for a Frenchmen is almost 32,000 euro a year (before taxation), which makes the debt more than 2 annual incomes from every implied French resident. So, when people get angry, they need to get angry at previous government administrations that had spent to such a degree that the current debt is unbearable! (Something I have mentioned in several previous blogs.)

This is also the danger of UKIP! I am against the UK moving out of the EU for several reasons, yet the changes could be forcing the current British government to consider the one step that UKIP desires most, what a mess that will make!

Part of the issue I am struggling with is actually in another article in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/15/europe-welfare-spending-george-osborne). I do not agree with parts of it, but the article is well written and the writer Alex Andreou does set out his position very well. So, please do read it for yourself. My issues is with “The fact that as a continent we have embraced values of social security and solidarity, a high standard of education and health for all, and dignity in old age, should be celebrated.” I am all for that and I am in favour of that too, yet governments all over Europe (including the UK) have overspend by such a massive amount that cutbacks in these times are extremely painful. I get it, but previous administrations lived under some umbrella with the picture of a sun, which they took as an eternal summer! Instead of caution, they ignored basic rules and just went all out on a spending spree. Now that all the money is gone, the coffers are instead filled with ‘I OWE U’ notes. When every nation spends more than they are receiving, no one will have any money left, yet governments started to borrow to one another. So, those in debt were borrowing massive amounts to one another, even though no one had any money, is no one catching on? This is my issue! I am all for social security, but if we do not have the money, how can we get it done? In addition, Latvia, the newest member of the Euro states (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25567096 ) “The former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea recently emerged from the financial crisis to become the EU’s fastest-growing economy.” Is that so, in that regard we can read the following at http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/finances/?doc=83279The state budget is projected to have a deficit in 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to the medium-term budget framework that Saeima approved in the final reading yesterday, informs LETA.” so the newest member already goes into deficit from day 1? This is quoted in the following way in the article “The medium-term budget framework is based on the following GDP growth forecasts: 3.7% in 2014, 4% in 2015, 4.1% in 2016, 4.1% in 2017 and 3.9% in 2018.” so already above the limits as stated by Brussels. Compared to the top 7, the amounts they refer to seem peanuts in comparison (al 35 billion of them), the issue is moving forward and gaining economic strength, not add to the massive debt. As I see it, the Latvians have plenty to worry about and in my view; the UK and Sweden would remain well warned and not join the Euro.

Time to get back to issue 2!

I stated earlier “the UK could become a lot stronger if the Commonwealth brethren embrace each other“. As the issues evolve, the Commonwealth should revert to a new British Empire, but only in an economic way (undoing the work of Ghandi looks wrong on way too many levels). One of the big dangers is the Trans Pacific Partnership. Australia and New Zealand are in my view to eager to add their names to an approach that is all about keeping America in ‘power’! Why do I have this view?

There are several articles, but at http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/1/14/technology/tpp-trades-us-clout-expense-innovation we see some of the issues that will bug many in the Commonwealth.

The quote that starts to scratch the surface is “in 2009, total patent applications made through the patent co-operation treaty process from applicants in these nations also exceeded those from North American applicants for the first time.

This is the fear America has, which is why they are so eager to get all the autographs. You see, as I see it, Americans became (or were in the eyes of some) complacent, lazy and greedy (the American industry, not the people). For example, as I see it, the IT industry took a page from the arms industry and stopped true innovation and replaced it with iteration. A disastrous step as you will soon see. The powers at IBM and Hewlett Packard, as I see it, decided to listen to military giants like Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. So, America went from the innovation based, which brought the leaps from the 386 through to the Pentium II, and we ended with iterations like I3, I5 and I7. Newly coated computers, which now move forward in stepwise motion. The issue is that Asia had a huge delay keeping up and this all changed as their comprehension improved, in addition, it is for technology insiders relatively easy to learn the path of an iterative technology. This is the first step of fear as America is now facing it. Asia has its own group of innovators and in my personal view the passing of Steve Jobs took away one clear path of innovation. When Apple moves in that same iterative path, the last true American innovator will be lost! Now Asia has a massive advantage and as such America needs to clamp down on whatever they can, with the massive debt and no clear future path their world will all be about Intellectual Property! The article touches on it with the following quote “But what if the real motive of one or more parties was to isolate, control, enrich, deprive, penalise and stifle? In effect, to put a toll on the drawbridge.

This is at the centre, but not at the core of all this. That is why we see the mention that India is seen as a competitor, because for America, they truly are the new competitor. That deadly error was made by the American administration in 2011. Forbes tells us about it in http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrychesbrough/2011/04/25/pharmaceutical-innovation-hits-the-wall-how-open-innovation-can-help/. They published it in April 2011. That story shows only part of it. The quote “The patents granted to these drugs last for 20 years from the date of filing, and since most drugs take 7-10 years to get to market, the pharma companies have known that this moment was coming for the last 10-13 years. It is the logical outcome of a deeper problem, which is that pharma R&D spending has been less and less productive for many years.” gives us two parts. One is that there are clear indicators that the pharmaceutical industry has been working on borrowed time. The second is that the ROI has been dwindling down and that these corporations will face the horror of generic medication as several patents hit the end date in 2015. That means in just over a year, the largest maker of generic medication (India, in case you were wondering) will get to have a go at several extremely lucrative prescriptions. Perhaps you remember news messages on how the FDA was so against Canadian medications. I personally considered that entire issue to be a joke, but the underlying horror for America was already there. I mentioned in other blog articles on the issues I have had with the Dow Jones index (‘Start making sense’, 11th march 2013). Now consider that the three large pharmaceuticals Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer represent 10% (3 out of 30) of this index, so America is plenty nervous here. Now take into account that these three will have several expiring patents by December 2015 and that means that within months India could have a quality generic alternative, which is likely to be more than 70% cheaper. Now, be aware that a generic medicine is often less effective than the original. Still, the price difference is huge. It is not just the US; the UK has its own share of pharmaceutical makers, so the knife does cut in two ways in this case. Still, when we need to cut back again and again, India could be a good thing for the Commonwealth at large. So, even though some see the TPP as an option, there is implied evidence that the TPP could strongly block innovation.

How does this link to the Euro? No matter how we twist or turn it, the hard times America will face as it has been facing them for the last few years will intensify as innovation remains absent. That will hit Europe in several ways. The Netherlands already saw that as Merck shut down activities like Aspen Pharmacare. The intertwining of corporations on that level are all over Europe, and as such as American Pharmacies are hit, their European links will suffer a lot more because of it. So, yes, India is a competitor there, but the UK together with Canada and Australia could look for a cooperative solution with India and not see them as the competitor (as America currently does).

So is this all linked to the end of the Euro? Yes! It does however depend on the actions of the UK. If is stops membership, the run on the markets and the panic Germany faces could be catastrophic for the Euro, especially as Germany cannot rely on the pillars named France, Spain and Italy. The other nations are either too weak or too small.

Could George Osborne be wrong?

That depends on your point of view and your allegiance. The latter is implied as I noted the reference to the musical chairs with the one reserved seat. News messages like “the call to end austerity by ‘insiders’ from Brussels”. Yet, in the other light governments must reduce their spending and they need to get clever about it fast. The UK non-working military recruitment solution at 1.3 billion is just one clear example. Pretty much every EU country has its own skeletons. I see that the UK could be stronger as the Commonwealth nations take a route of preference to strengthen their economies, it is clear that such a path in Europe would remain stagnate until late 2015. That does not make George Osborne right, it only means that a European route might work, however it will be a long term path and switching to the Euro (at present) does not seem to be a stable solution for the UK to implement.

 

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Internet Privacy?

There was an interesting article in the Guardian yesterday that caught my attention today. It is an article by Haroon Siddique. It deals with the view voiced by High Court Judge Navi Pillay (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/26/un-navi-pillay-internet-privacy).

I am not opposing her view, yet there are a few sides that the article was not touching on. The first quote is “Pillay has been asked by the UN to prepare a report on protection of the right to privacy” Now, I am not opposing privacy, yet it must be clear that there must be a clear separation between privacy and anonymity.

The enormous growth in trolling, online bullying and identity theft also come with a new set of responsibilities. Even though privacy might be a valid side, the anonymity that people abuse (many millions on a daily basis) must also be dealt with. In addition, there are still issues with the ‘issues’ that had been claimed by Snowden. I see the press advocating his ‘truths’ on several fields, yet the actual evidence is not shown. Let me be clear, there is no issue with the claim of mass surveillance, which has been established via several sources. The issue is that a percentage of his claims do not seem to have been scrutinized to the extent that it should have been. It is my personal view that the Guardian (and others) have been placed several articles, yet beyond “according to the documents leaked by Snowden” there has been no concrete and visible validation of the shown facts.

The next part is the quote “to protest against the routine interception of data by governments around the world” the fact that Facebook and Co are routinely doing the same to sell it on to marketeers is not a worry for anyone. There is actually more to this, today the article shown (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/27/snapchat-may-be-exposed-hackers) shows an additional side to the dangers of mass media from social media.

SnapChat has a feature where it will grab all the numbers from your address book, upload them to their server” and these issues are not dealt with? The second part can be a huge issue involving a possible start of identity theft and other forms of abuse, but they all seem to scream for ice cream! Like a horror movie they all focus on the sound, but no one seems to be looking at the actual picture. People are ‘duped’ by the millions to just go with the next hype, but it seems that no one (especially in media and social media oversight) is looking at the quality of the next hype.

It becomes even more disturbing when we see the next part “The group says they approached SnapChat almost four months ago to flag the vulnerability, but never received a response, so they decided to release the full details of their findings on Christmas Day.

So this has been going on for months?

So many people are screaming for ‘privacy’ and the fear that the government can see things. Yet, these same dopey’s (to coin a phrase) are not up in arms about commercial exploitation?
They do not seem to care that the damage from that part will be so much higher. It boils down to the fact that the people are worried about the government paper cut, whilst hype dependent social media tools like SnapChat seem to be dumping their customers on a guillotine, go figure!

The bigger issue is that other ‘hypes’ had been hit as well in the past. So, it seems that when it is free, data protection does not seem to be an issue to many people. Concluding from this there are two sides and it is not about the choice of the individual. On the one side people condone their exploitation, which means they have no need for privacy and on the other side; they seem very concerned with what the government sees. This in my view is not fear of privacy either, it is just imagined fear. In the second degree we see yet another side; there we see employers browsing through all kinds of social media before hiring a person (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/04/16/how-social-media-can-help-or-hurt-your-job-search/), which means that you could possibly lose your chance on that job depending on what they see.

So what privacy are people actually expecting on the internet?

 

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Questions at this time

I have been fighting with myself in regards to certain issues that have been rising in this day and age. When we look at the definition of treason we see this statement “In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one’s sovereign or nation.

The question is not just in regards to a nation as is the case with Edward Snowden, but what about the acts against the people? If we accept the following statement as an acceptable fact “Republicanism is the ideology of governing a society or state as a republic, where the head of state is a representative of the people who hold popular sovereignty rather than the people being subjects of the head of state.

So, if that is true, then should we consider the acts or even the absence of acts that stops dangers to the people as an act of treason? I have written about some of these parts for some time now, as per 5 days ago the guardian is now a little more vocal about it (at http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/dec/18/rich-countries-money-laundering-tax-evasion-oecd)

It seems that governments are FINALLY getting on the horse of action (as seen at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/20/us-usa-tax-fatca-idUSBRE9BI13J20131220). Yet it seems that larger tax holes are still in existence in Ireland (at http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/15/us-ireland-tax-idUSBRE99E0PD20131015)

So should tax evasion be seen as a form of treason? I am not talking about the people left right and centre trying to find every possible tax hole. I am talking about the large corporations and their boards of directors (at http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2013/7/15/social-media/looking-beyond-apples-tax-evasion-tactics). If we accept the quote “Taxed at 0.004 per cent“, then how un-national (or in this case un-American) should these people be regarded? And it goes far beyond that part. This is shown in http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-23/yahoo-dell-swell-netherlands-13-trillion-tax-haven.html as we see a glimpse of the size of evasion. It is nice to see that the Netherlands are getting of the tax evasion horse, but consider this article from the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/oct/19/tax-avoidance-in-netherlands-becomes-focus-of-campaigners) shows that this horse had a very comfortable 3 years. Simon Goodley and Dan Milmo from The Guardian reported all this in October 2011, if we consider that then the words of President Obama sound even more hollow when we read “President Barack Obama presented a series of proposals in 2009 to curb offshore tax benefits“. Hollow? Yes, because only now at the end of his second reign is he making an effort, making it clear that keeping rich friends near you is all about re-election. So, when the hard times hit in the next term he can point the finger at the Republicans. The idea that we hold large corporation’s tax accountable does not seem such an option for either administration (Democrats and Republicans alike).

So, after all these years, as the US is getting in a financial state more and more desperate actions are finally taken, which in my view is well over half a decade too late. The issue remains, as people are hit harder and harder for taxation, not just in the US, big business seems to escape their share of taxation, giving them a massive advantage. In addition, in what I would call the ‘incestual’ relationship between a board of directors and their ‘ability’ to avoid taxation on a borderline of actual fraud (example HSBC to name but one). The game does change when we read that governments themselves start to offer assistance in this field (at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/jim-love-canadian-mint-chairman-helped-run-offshore-tax-avoidance-scheme-for-clients-1.2441347)

So, as we go towards Christmas and those high and mighty people do their ‘charity’ thing, then also consider that it is not impossible that they have been paying less taxation (like in +18% less), how very adult adults!

So if you want to cheer for anyone, cheer for that 60+ person, who after getting cut on life, living standards and retirement funds, this person is still doing over 20 hours a week in a community centre getting it all done for the people in their neighbourhood, because that is true charity and one more noble then I could actually muster at present.

If we get back to Republicanism, if it was all about ‘representing the people’ and consider that the fat cats are the chosen few (like 100,000 in a nation of 325,000,000), are these acts of non-accounting a form of treason too? Especially as tax evasion leaves a nation in a state of destitution? America seems to be clear evidence of that as its total debt will be roughly $60,680,485,000,000 on Christmas evening. Still think delaying acts against tax evasion was ever a good idea?

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Two deadly sins

This is the second attempt to this story. I was still on the Sony horse when writing the first attempt. Yes, it will hurt us and it will have long standing consequences for many to come, but I realised that it was not really the story (even though the press remaining silent on it is).

Of the seven deadly sins (Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Envy, Wrath, Pride and Sloth) I only truly hate Greed! It is also represented in Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem ‘the Divine Comedy’, which actually introduces something I would like to call the 8th deadly sin, which is depicted in his 9th level of hell. It is Treason! These two sins are the most debilitating sins to consider. These sins are not against one, or against one’s self. These two sins are acts by one against many and we see the consequences every day. These are not just acts by people against people. They are also seen as acts by governments against people or even against their own nation. We must arms against these two, we must do so fast, because the liberties we lose as we allow this to go on will hurt billions and many care for one thing, they care for number one, they care for themselves!

Do not take the last sentence as an assault, I am not talking about selfishness perse, but we are in a life cycle where we are almost forced to survive. Greed and Treason pushed us there. The Dutch NOS showed us several parts in one newscast. It was the news of the 26th of November 2013. The first piece came from the news on the scale gas winning in the Netherlands. I had written about part of it in July 2013. The blog was called ‘The Setting of strategies‘ where we see that the Dutch are trying to get billions in gas using a technique called ‘fracking’. There were major concerns, but should you watch the issues, you will see that parties involved were trivialising it all to some extent. Now questions are called for a large investigation. The most interesting part is the quote they stated in the news [translated] “the NAM will not drill for any less gas as this is not a mandate handed by the stockholders“. In addition reported e-mails by the Dutch Gas drilling firm (NAM), which from their side, remarks and ‘interpretations’ seem to be taking a negative term. The mail showed that they knew that earthquakes in excess of 3.9 (on the Richter scale) were to be expected. This means that not only is this, the possible start of a class action in damages against the NAM, the NAM could be seen as a major contributor into damaging a unique Dutch landscape. Not just the land, but also the cultural heritage that the Dutch area of Groningen has. Many buildings, most of them predating WW2 are structurally damaged. It is an area that had been culturally unique for over two centuries, even by Dutch standards. Are you fracking kidding me? Stockholders are allowed to ruin the state of Groningen? So the government oversight knew this going back to 2012? So what were these investigations in 2013? Party favours? This is greed gone wild as I see it. The most important part is that the UK and the conservatives are facing similar issues at present. The conservatives are very willing to go this route. It was reported in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/03/uk-dash-gas). The question becomes whether George Osborne has been properly instructed involving the risks he would place Wales in? If he is briefed by stockholders, the UK should take another look at these proceedings. I understand that heating is hard and very expensive, but can people continue when they are faced with long term, perhaps even unrepairable damage to England itself? Can that be acceptable? I am not a geologist, so there are elements I have no knowledge of, yet it might be realistic that many Walesians did not sign up for Shale Gas experiments when it could cost them both Cardiff and Swansea, both containing the largest population in Wales. Is Britain ready to pay for 350,000 damaged homes? I agree, that is an exaggeration, yet the true damage will not be known for some time. Perhaps there will be ZERO damage. I am fine with that, but the Dutch evidence shows that greed trumped safety and health easily. Can the UK afford such a mistake?

The second link to greed, are the changes that Finance Minister Dijsselbloem is trying to push within the Netherlands. He is aiming for commissions not exceeding 20% of a banker’s income. I think that this is a good idea. I also believe that he is on the right track. Greed is debilitating to say the least. The Dutch Union of Bankers stated that this law is not needed; there are enough rules in place. The interview with Chris Buijink, who is the chairman of that union, is not in agreement. He is mentioning that with specialist jobs, temperate commissions are to be expected. You see! We all agree, so make it no more than 20%, which is temperate enough (in my humble opinion). I, personally think that a group of Dutch banks, after the SNS Reaal and other banking issues, including the RABO LIBOR fixing issue, need to expect much stronger measures. Greed must be stopped!

This is not what he called ‘a black page’ (as Chris Buijink stated), the banking issues from 2008 onwards show that there is a structural issue with the banking industry. The fact that the Yanks are too cowardly to act (see the non-passed tax evasion act and the Dodd-Frank act for my reasoning in this), does not mean we should sit still. That part gains even more weight as we read more and more about the ADDITIONAL issues the RBS is now facing (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/26/mark-carney-rbs-deeply-troubling-serious). So on one side Conservatives are trying to get the economy going and the banks on the other hand… (You get the idea).

There was a video linked to this, which states “Bank of England’s Mark Carney ‘offended’ by Labour MP’s questioning“. Is Mr Carney for real? As Labour MP John Mann asked questions in regards to the ‘distance’ between the governor of the bank and the political wings. I do not fail to see that it is about quick economic restoration, the issue that it is now likely that small business got sold down the drain into non-viability to get this done is indeed an issue for concern. Why is there no stronger oversight on this? I think that it is time for governments to intervene in stronger measures. What they are? Not sure, but it should be somewhere between nationalising a bank and barring the transgressors from the Financial industry for life!

This issue goes on in another direction too. If we accept what was written by the independent (at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/royal-charter-on-press-regulation-may-be-redundant-says-culture-secretary-maria-miller-8919775.html), we see that in the end the Press might not ever be held accountable for the acts they did. Not only are they advocated in their need for greed (as in circulation and advertisements), we see that they are in a connected center of treason against both their readers and the audience at large, again as I personally see this.

How?

Well that is a fair question. As the big papers have steered clear from the Sony issues as they became visible just over a week ago, they seem to remain extremely taken with their advertisement needs and less with protecting the audience. “£3bn: the total price-tag for Christmas gadgets” is a nice tag to have and even though we see news on Microsoft and Sony all the time, those messages are small and do not hit the bottom dollar. The small technology hit “Cody Wilson created a gun that can be download and built with a 3D printer – is he too dangerous for Britain?” is a small article and iterates something I wrote many months ago. He is now linked to advocating bit-coin, which is another matter. I have not taken a stance on it. I think it promotes white washing and I personally do not think that virtual currency has a foundation, once it goes bust in whatever way it does; these people just lose whatever cash they had in it. I reckon that these ‘victims’ when they come will have no turn back and the first case against any government should be thrown out immediately. The story how Sony (and Microsoft too) will hurt an entire industry and how they are setting up the events that could stop local commerce is completely ignored. How quaint!

I see it as a form of treason, because this is no longer ‘the people have a right to know’, but ‘the people have a right to know when we see fit’. That same application can be made for the banks. If we take the RBS case, then the people involved could be seen as committing treason against their customers. Is that not EXACTLY the issue we saw in the US where we see banks setting up mortgages and then betting on them failing? Why is this not under control?

The Dutch examples are their own version of treason. A company that seems to be betraying the people living there by submitting them to intentional dangers is no small matter. This is not the end by a long shot. Treason can go further, from governments towards allies. I am not talking about Snowden, that loon is a simple traitor for personal gains (in my view). The damage he caused will take a long time to fix. No, I am talking about the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership. I mentioned it in previous blogs linked to the Sony/Microsoft issues, but that is small fry. The big price is the pharmaceutical industry. You see, America wants it passed soon, because of the powers this partnership gives. I will not bore you with the patent law details; the issue I see is that America is afraid of India. Apart from being really decent in Cricket (a game America does not comprehend), the Indian industry had made great strides in generic medication. With a population of vastly over 1 billion, they simply had to. The changes are mentioned by IP experts like Michael Geist as Draconian. The Guardian covered part of the TPP (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/13/trans-pacific-paternership-intellectual-property), the changes could impact this market into a damaging result which will go into the trillions. My issue is that Australia sides with America. Why?

America had been asleep at the wheel. Instead of opening a market, forcing affordability towards a population, we see segregation for industry against people. How bad is that? Canada kept its consumer driven approach, which is why Americans love Canadian medication. As America does not keep its house in order and they got passed by! Do not take my word regarding these parts; you should however take a look at what Doctors without Borders think. I reckon we can agree that they have always been about healing people. I consider them a noble breed. A group of physicians, who spend a fortune on an education, making less than the personal assistant for a middle manager in a small bank, which is not much to live on! At http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/press/release.cfm?id=7161 they state “Five countries—Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore—have put forth a counter-proposal that tries to better balance public health needs with the commercial interests of pharmaceutical firms” As an Australian I state that Australia need to take the high-road with Canada and New Zealand, not follow the cesspool America is trying to force down our throats. In the end, I suspect that this is about more than just plain greed.

Consider that the Dow index is based on 30 major companies. Now consider that 10% comes from pharmaceutical giants like Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer. After the issues we had seen in the last 3 years, I started to doubt the correctness of the Dow (and I reported on that in past blogs). It goes up and up, but with JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, VISA, American Express putting pressures on those numbers, the three big boys (drugs) could rock the boat in a massive way, which scares Wall Street to no extent. India had made great strides in affordable medication; the TPP is now a danger to affordable medication for people on a global scale.

Greed and Treason, it is all connected and it hits us all critically hard sooner rather than later!

 

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