Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

“We’re all in this together” is what the UK prime minister tells us as he continues to tout out the same old line that the economy’s not his fault and it’s all down to the mess left by the last administration. Partisan politics gets a little boring when it’s so obviously untrue, Britain’s path through the current depression could have been better laid in 2008 but it’s a global recession caused by industry wide provision of sub-prime mortgages and dissemination of toxic debt. The Conservative/Liberal party’s policy of cutting back on all areas of public spending, raising taxes and increasing the retirement age are all strategies which would work in theory. Unfortunately the economy doesn’t respond well to a political agenda as opposed to thorough economic modelling and putting all these strategies in place in one fell swoop won’t, indeed can’t do what is expected of them. What happens is that they become a portmanteau of punishment directed at us, the humble citizen (we aught to remind government that we citizens will be voters and constituents in about three years and we’re not happy).

So, instead of punitively taxing banks and investment houses they are rewarded while the poorest, least economically empowered are seeing their meagre incomes reduced yet further. Instead of pulling us out of the current economic mire by the time of the next election Britain is instead facing a double dip recession which will continue well into the next administration’s purview.

Most economists would agree that the way to work ourselves out of this would be to reduce fuel prices across the board, making manufacture and transportation more affordable. Reduce, not increase VAT and income tax. People spend more when they have more money and goods are cheaper, this spending will stimulate the economy, create jobs and therefore reduce the amount necessary to spend on pensions and unemployment benefits, and generate more money for the treasury’s coffers. Increasing taxes would ideologically create more money for the government, however, in reality, people with less money facing higher prices spend less.

So, while ministers chant the mantra “we’re all in this together” and “the previous government’s mis-management…” what they’re actually doing is continuing to reward the people who caused the mess by punishing the victims of their avarice and rapacious greed.

We’re told “The Banks say we need to do this” or “The Banks are threatening more gloom if we don’t do that.” And we’re so inculcated that they’re the experts and they know best that we kowtow to their demands while they sit high on the hog after causing every recession, depression and bust that’s ever existed. If they’re the experts, how come they get it wrong every five to ten years? The last time the economy was as bad as it is today it took a conflict on a global scale to give people enough jobs to work out of it and while Europe and Asia were decimated a select few made a lot of money.

Alfred P Sloan said that “If you do it right 51 percent of the time you will end up a hero.” In economics you only have to be right in your judgment 51% of the time to become rich. That means that you only need the wit to spell your own name correctly on three consecutive occasions and the ability to toss a coin to make it big on Wall Street. The fact that banks don’t seem able to make money under these circumstances should have us all significantly more worried than we actually are!

The problem is that experts become complacent; they use their judgment and experience to inform them what they think should happen, not what will happen. This has been borne out in scientific study.Philip Tetlock reports in his book Expert Political Judgment that when experts, lay people and a chimpanzee were set tasks to see how well they could judge the future an ape throwing darts could do as well as or even better than one of these so called experts. Aside from the health and safety issues involved, would you like to see the world’s economic strategies dictated by a primate playing bar-room games? No-one would like it but it might actually be better for us!

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Dear Halifax
I’d like to write and tell you how much I’ve appreciated your service and care over the past eight or ten years I’ve been banking with you.
I’d like to, well, it’s good to have ambition but if I did so I’d be lying through my teeth.
In reality the service that you’ve provided me over the past near decade has gone from adequate to abysmal. Once upon a time, all those years I could go to my local branch. Then you started pushing all of your customers to take your paid-for accounts and people like me, who feel that the liquidity that our saving with you provides as well as the percentage that you accrue from our interest payments is probably enough considering the service you provide were sidelined and relegated.
This came to a head after I had waited in line only to be told that talking to some-one in branch was now reserved  for fee paying customers only and that in future I should use telephone or online banking. However, he did deal with my request at that time because of the length of time I had been queuing.
Your voice recognition software and interface have never been perfect but it was getting there. Until that is this summer when you started tinkering all over again and it’s now a nightmare once more. And spare a thought for your operators, the only time they get to speak to anyone is after having gone through the third circle of hell which is your 0845 number. Can you imagine if everyone you spoke to all day long was spitting with rage? Well, I suppose you can, you just have to tell them that you work in the banking industry.
Until recently I could call & pay my rent and bills as the money always goes to the same people. Thanks the latest changes I need their account details. Guess what, with these fancy new mobile phones I don’t need to be at home to do my banking so I don’t often tend to have such details at hand. Stupid me eh? Thinking I could give money to the same people in the same way that I have been for the last three years…
So, what is actually wrong with your telephone banking. Sorry if this is teaching your granny to suck eggs but from my experience it’s self evident that you’ve not put your latest incarnation through any testing (for example if the words “two” and “too” pose a risk of confusion and therefore frustration and anger, think of a different number…)
So, we have to think of a memorable number for the sake of security. So every-one uses their birthday or anniversary. Memorable numbers which are also secure and unknown to anybody else are pretty much mutually exclusive but whatever. I don’t know if I tried to put my digits in wrong one time but all of a sudden I started go through to an associate who would ask the most imponderable ‘security’ questions; such as:
“you went to the supermarket four days ago, how much did you spend?”
“I don’t know, about £10 or £20.”
“Sorry I can’t take an ‘or’ answer. How much did you spend?”
“Alright, split the difference, let’s say £15.”
“And you went to a cash machine last Friday, how much did you take out?”
“I have no idea, I went a few times and I was drunk on most of those occasions, I’d guess about £20 each time.”
“I’m sorry, you haven’t been able to answer your security questions adequately…”
Another time I rang I was able to remember greater detail of my financial activities and asked whether there couldn’t be a question I set which only I would know the answer to. It appears not. Because if some-one found out the answer then I wouldn’t be protected. Well here’s a thing, I won’t use anything as obvious as my birthday or my anniversary and I cross my heart and promise to never call you when there are muggers listening. There are other memorable questions with not so obvious answers; for example
“How are you?”
I could guess “fine” or “very well” but I, and I guess no telephone banking fraudsters, wouldn’t think of “slamming like a sh*thouse door” in a month of Sundays. As it stands anyone who has access to a diary, organiser, or a birthday card could access most people’s accounts. & I know you advise people not to use birthdays or anniversaries but get real! It’s either that or their debit card’s PIN.
And so I thought to myself it might be a better idea to try online banking instead. What a fool I am. Perhaps I’m just naive when it comes to the internet, not having had much experience of it, only having worked in online research and marketing on and of for the past 12 years, so what do I know? But here’s a thing. Having to give a name, a password AND a memorable phrase or whatever is not security, it’s stupid. The more barriers to entry (security) the more likely it is people are going to have to write down the details that they need to provide (stupidity). So, while your systems appear safe from your side, it’s bunk from ours.
The registration details I was given were in my full name, every time I register for anything online I use Dan, it’s only my mother that calls me Daniel when she’s cross with me. So that was wrong when I tried to log in the first time. Used my own password and the code that was text to me, blah blah blah, needless to say I cannot access my account online. Maybe I should phone in and go through that electronic version of Hades so I can get a new set of details every time I want to administer my account for myself.
Or maybe I should just take up someone else’s services.  I hear all the other highstreet banks have had lots of complaints. I can bet you don’t get many complaints since it’s impossible to email you a complaint unless you’re already logged in or you’re masochistic enough to instigate first contact with your phone system. A fantastic wheeze whereby you can tell the FSA in all faith that you hardly receive any complaints. My hat is off to your brilliant Machiavellian stratagem.
So, here’s how you can help me. When I phone in perhaps I could have an option to go straight into the queue for an operator. Waiting a couple of minutes is certainly better than the psychological torture of trying to deal with that cheery voiced kill-bot that would drive the Dalai Lama into conniptions of blood lust and try to imagineer a way of getting access to our accounts online which don’t result in your customers wishing your corporation was possessed of a single neck so they could cheerily strangle your entire operation in one fatal swoop.
But I doubt any of my complaints or suggestions will be heeded, I do expect a standard response which won’t even begin to cover anything I’ve raised herein, so I’m off. Toodles. It’s been unpleasant.

Update: They gave me £20 for the inconvenience I had experienced but expressed having no intention of changing their security process except for ongoing reviews & they definitely did NOT deliberately put up barriers to customer complaints.

Bitter Tears For The Dear Leader

Posted: December 19, 2011 in economics, politics

We in the west assume that all these tears being wept for Kim Jong Il must be of the crocodile variety, empty propaganda or fake tears being shed for fear of imprisonment or deportation to some snowbound labour camp where the chief of the labours are simply to stay alive. However, there may be genuine feeling behind the tears being shed today. 
When any dictator or tyrant dies there are always public outpourings of emotion, we privileged, demand economy First World residents couldn’t understand. We are able to publicly criticise our leaders, point out their faults and failings and get rid of them when they’re past their usefulness. In totalitarian states the population don’t get that luxury. If they have the feeling that their Supreme Leader is somehow faulty there is no way for them to share these opinions and, separate from others, they cannot know that they are not alone. Like children kept under the strict control of a domineering parent or religion, free thought is atrophied and a naive credulity often takes its place.
So, the tears may in fact be real, as when Stalin died there were genuine tears of grief, certainly, but, after having been kept with their faces under a jackboot for so long there are other reasons to cry. The patriarch instills his cult so thoroughly that the uncertainty and doubt that come with the vacuum of such a personality’s absence throws the nation into a miasma of fear, mistrust and anxiety. In a Stalinist monarchy such as North Korea one can imagine the transfer of power to be relatively transparent: The names remain the same, simply transpose an Il for an Un and carry on as normal. In other counties the death of a similar leader would naturally result in a civil war. And as you can see in the civil wars that have existed in Somalia,The Congo and Rwanda those wars are filthier, more violent, sadistic and brutal than national wars seem to be.
That fear, terror no less is exactly what the leaders, while alive, want. As a part of their warped, megalomaniac hegemonic process the seek to terrify their minions into blind obedience through the implicit threat of what will be the result if any action is taken to depose them: They are the capo dei capi because they are ordained by their singular ability to control their nation state. The fact that these are failing states is often used to their advantage as opposed to their detriment as one might suppose. Kim Jong Il inculcated his people to believe that their unremitting hunger, forced voluntary labour and lack of resources and energy was a consequence of the constant siege that was being waged defending North Korea from the south, and most importantly the United States. Should people ever question why the food that was provided to them came in sacks marked with Old Glory the truth, that the country was kept from complete collapse by the supply of international aid, they were told it was a quaking States’ tribute paid to Il to appease him and stay his hand from delivering his final masterstroke against the decadent west.
Now that power is gone and the stability that came with the Dear Leader is gone so the future without him is a very scary place. We all fear the unknown but in North Korea the unknown of the future is virtually unknowable, making it scarier yet.
So don’t suppose that those tears are anything less than genuine, just don’t think that they are for Kim Jong Il. They’re not, they’re tears of fear, paranoia and for a future which had always been prescribed but now leads only to an uncertain fate

Not many people would consider Paris Hilton to be an Eco-Warrior but it seems that’s exactly what she is! Of course she has a public image to maintain so she couches her advice in some typically obscure metaphors but it’s all there, you just have to listen to her.

Paris Tells Her Friends About Coastal Erosion

Paris Tells Her Friends About Coastal Erosion

Paris has more then 3 million twitter followers so if just a few percent of them could pick up what she’s putting down and tell their friends that “it’s what Paris would do” then that message would really start to get about.

Paris says: “The only rule is don’t be boring and dress cute wherever you go. Life is too short to blend in.”

What Paris means is: It’s important not to become monotonous on a particular issue. If you make your arguments succinct and entertaining and high in easy, practical advice then people will listen to you. Don’t become just another eco-bore.

Paris Says: “No matter what a woman looks like, if she’s confident, she’s sexy.”

What Paris means is: Know your subject matter and know your enemy.

Paris says: “Wal-mart… do they like make walls there?”

What Paris means is: Huge multinational conglomerations are destroying the environment with their need for cheap materials, they walk all over their employee human and workers rights, from sweatshops making their pricey running shoes in developing countries to the minimum wage, no sick pay or medical coverage that they force upon their domestic workers companies like Wal-mart build barriers to social cohesion and economic development for thousands while making their stock holders rich.

Paris says: “I don’t really think, I just walk.”

What Paris with her pimped humvee means is: Once you’ve become dedicated to environmental change it’s not something you have to think about, it’s just something you can get on with. And don’t drive a car, walk.

Paris says: “Who are you wearing?”

What Paris means is: Wearing clothing that isn’t ecologically sound or made of fur etc. makes you a nobody. Think about what you put on your body as well as what you put in it.

Paris says: “I’d imagine my wedding as a fairy tale… huge, beautiful and white.”

What Paris means is: A wedding is the happiest day in a girls’ life. The happiest day in Paris’ life will be when there is no longer any danger to the polar icecaps. They will indeed be ‘huge, beautiful and white’ we need to cut greenhouse emissions and do more to protect the environment.

Paris says: “This is Earth. Isn’t it hot?”

What Paris means is: We have to do something about global warming immediately. From remembering to turn off electrical items properly to trading in our cars for bikes and committing to only buying locally produced goods.

Paris says: “Trust me, people act differently toward you when you’ve got jewellery on your head.”

What Paris means is: It’s not just the tree hugging, hippy dippy crystal gripping beardy weirdies who have influence over issues like coastal erosion and global warming. Even people who dress in suits and ties that go to work in everyday jobs have a personal responsibility to do what they can to protect the environment. In fact the more professional you look the more import people will give you.

Paris says: “I don’t want to be known as the granddaughter of the Hiltons. I want to be known as Paris.”

What Paris means is: Just because things have been done the same way for generations that doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to do things, we need to innovate to create. Innovation is the greatest gift the human race has been blessed with and if we change the way we do things we really can save the planet.

Not many people knew that Paris was so environmentally conscious but it appears that she really is committed to improving the environment. So, like, eugh, whatever!