Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Saturday, October 31, 2015

George Orwell released after 13 years

Last UK Balagansk Detainee Lands In Britain

05 January 1950

The last British resident to be held in Balagansk Prison has landed in the UK, having been detained for 13 years.
 
Socialist writer Eric Blair was held at the Russian GULAG camp in Balagansk over allegations he had led an anarchist unit in Catalonia and had met Buenaventura Durruti, but was never charged.

Downing Street said there were "no plans" to detain him after his arrival.

Mr Blair said he felt "obliged" to everyone who fought for him to be released, and to "bring an end to the gulags".

Number 10 said Prime Minister Clement Attlee "welcomes" the release of Mr Blair.

It also said any necessary security measures "will be put in place".


Historical footnote: was the real George Orwell murdered?
http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/05/who-killed-george-orwell/


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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sussing out strangers

What do you think of David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn? Do you like or trust them? Have you met them? Do you know them well enough to have any view at all?

For the vast majority of voters, these two guys are virtually strangers, the nuances of their respective characters closed books, their suitability for an evening in the pub unknown. Although Corby is teetotal which isn’t a good start for a convivial evening. Yet even comparatively apolitical people form character views of both men. Are those views worth anything?

No - not much.

We cannot have a worthwhile opinion on the character of a stranger even if we see them regularly on TV or online. Not even if we have met them briefly in some kind of controlled context. All we usually have is reported public behaviour. For politicians that means we put them in their political context and judge their behaviour accordingly but not necessarily accurately.

Unfortunately the public domain is managed, manipulated, edited, falsified by friend and foe alike. Like football it is a game with three points for a win, one for a draw and no points for a loss. Perhaps a narrative emerges, but it is the winner’s narrative and we have to accept that winners are not always worthy winners. They and their minders call in favours, twist arms and create distractions.

This is the problem. There is no point guessing at information which simply isn’t there, guessing that it has been successfully suppressed. It isn’t enough. Instinct, allegiance and suspicion aren’t enough, not if we value our own integrity. Too often the guilty get away with it because that is the nature of the game – winners win and losers lose.

In these cases it isn’t easy to accept the role of loser, to accept that many public people successfully hide their failings and failures from the public domain. Guesswork, instinct and allegiances cannot bridge the gap, cannot expose what has been successfully hidden or spirited away. A game lost is a lost game.

We cannot know public people in a personal sense, their foibles, strengths, weaknesses and tendency to be conventional, adaptable, imaginative or whatever. We cannot know them beyond their public behaviour and we cannot substitute gossip for what we do not observe. Obvious enough, but not so obvious when it comes to stories of sexual deviancy we hear so much about these days. Here we depart from David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn who as far as we know live blameless personal lives.

Our culture expends much time and vast amounts of money creating a false sense of familiarity between celebrities and their public, including major politicians. We are excessively familiar with gossip about people in the public domain. Millions go along with the stories, fantasies and fabrications as if they actually know the people concerned. Many soap opera fans behave as if the characters are real, many football fans seem to think they know football stars personally.

There is only reliably reported or observed behaviour and evidence admitted in court. Apart from that, people in the public domain are virtually strangers and best viewed as such. Strange strangers perhaps, but still strangers.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

The year is 2030 -

Hi there

Today we are taking a look at a cool trend which isn’t new, but my how it has taken the world by storm! Yes we are talking about NoKlik Marketing, or NKM as it is called by those in the know and I know that includes you!

NKM is always moving on, developing into new customer areas and refining itself as you must be aware if you aren’t holed up in a cave somewhere like those old style hermit guys with big beards and skinny legs – only joking.

Yes there were a few teething problems such as my batch of Guatemalan racing snails which arrived only this morning. Charming little fellows they are too, but they have to go back unfortunately. Score another tick for the NoKlik learning curve I say.

As you know if you aren’t that hermit guy I referred to aeons ago, NoKlik Marketing is a great way to anticipate and supply what customers really want. Your personal web assistant or PA as we call them knows what you need anyway, so it was no surprise when a whole bunch of eggheads worked out a way to deliver your goodies without you having to do any of the donkey work such ordering them yourself.

Efficiency, it’s what the modern world is all about as I’m sure you’ll agree. It works just fine too. I listen to some great music and hey – my PA uses NoKlik to add another few tracks to my music store. It already knows I’ll like its choice and I do! My PA already knows all about my credit rating too, so wham-bam and my new music is delivered and paid for behind the scenes. I love it. I love NoKlik.

Who needs retro style choice anyway? We have supercharged choice which is kilometres better than plodding through a ton of stuff you don’t like to find that nugget of pure gold which a PA would have found in about a millionth of a second. Now NoKlik delivers it automatically.

Now here’s something you probably didn’t know. A new NoKlik app called Foney is about to make landfall. Foney knows who your friends are and in a quiet moment it phones one of them for you.

"Hmm suppose I don't have anything to say?" you ask me. Well here’s the really cool bit – Foney uses your PA to suggest topics of conversation, stuff which interests both of you. It even pops in a few comments during your phone conversation, just to keep things going. Your PA will keep you posted on that one.

Now NoKlik is moving into food as you will have heard because your PA makes sure you know everything you should know doesn’t it? What you may not know because it isn’t yet out on general release is that NoKlik food delivery is being refined before general rollout.

Yes the food delivered via NoKlik has proved fantastically healthy and nutritious, but there has been an unusual amount of helpful customer feedback. So much in fact that lessons are being learned big time.

Apparently the food delivered via NoKlik was so insanely healthy that folk were overwhelmed with it and couldn’t get started in the morning without a few cups of coffee and some other stuff delivered outside the NoKlik system. Strictly speaking that isn’t allowed but hey – it’s a free country. So no more lettuce for breakfast and food boffins are working on those bean patties.

More NoKlik news as it rolls out.

This article was brought to you by SlikGab™ the social commentary app everyone isn’t talking about because SlikGab does it for them! SlikGab If you like it you already bought it!

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Red meat - the new wonder food

Red meat
source

The Daily Mail has yet another story on the great killer food debate. This time it's... hang on I've forgotten this week's diet narrative...

Forget red meat - you're more likely to get bowel cancer from eating CHOCOLATE: Leading colorectal surgeon on why he eats meat regularly - and how sugar is the true culprit

Ah yes, it's now red meat that leads to everlasting health and sugar causes a ghastly lingering death where your innards are slowly chewed to pieces by poisonous statistics. Something like that.

We eat a lot of fish and very little meat although I wouldn't turn my nose up at a hot beef cob with lots of fried onions. Will we die from a lack of red meat or would the occasional bacon cob ensure our survival? How about a beef and horseradish sandwich with a pint of real ale?

Why shouldn't the NHS dish out these little life-savers? Hot beef and onion cobs at the local doctor's surgery anyone?

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All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The totalitarian within us

A recent Sunday found us walking the hills above Matlock. For some reason lost in the mists of time, Matlock attracts hordes of motorcyclists, especially on a fine day and especially on a Sunday.

The rumble of exhausts seems continuous. Even high up on the hill it was loud. Low frequency sound carries and motorcyclists seem to love it. At street level it can drown out a conversation. Looking down on yet another stream of big blokes on big machines it momentarily seemed ridiculous, excessive in the something should be done sense...

...but not for long. I was once a motorcyclist myself and even now I fancy a ride on a big beast of a bike. Not through Matlock though. Yet the worm of intolerance was there right enough, poking a scowling head out of its little hole when the rumble became particularly loud.

All of us seem to have these worms of intolerance, the inner totalitarian who would ban even the most innocuous activity. Politics thrives on it, but where does it come from, this totalitarian worm? Why has it become such an integral feature of modern life?

A fundamental aspect of human behaviour is the way we follow whatever path seems to lead to the minimum number of surprises. It’s a survival trait. When confronted with a range of possibilities we seem to be programmed to seek the safest and that is the one with the lowest likelihood of springing surprises. We minimise the number of situations where we may have to adapt in unexpected ways.

It’s why our ancestors formed tribes, worshipped gods, built castles, made laws, formed treaties, developed medicines and generally tried to insure themselves against all manner of eventualities. It’s why we are suckers for an infinite number of promised lands where punters supposedly live in a state of bliss and perfect safety.

The sinister link with totalitarian government is obvious. Totalitarian madness  is what we get when ruling castes rigorously root out potential surprises as a key element of their political schema and their own survival. That’s the problem, when our leaders and their senior functionaries aim to minimise surprises – all surprises - everywhere.

Doesn’t work forever of course. With totalitarian government we lose the ability to adapt and surprises become more dangerous to the rigid structures built to keep them out. Eventually a fatal combination of surprises leads to collapse, we have to adapt all over again and in so doing we pave the way for another bout of totalitarian control.

If so, then the most interesting question is where are we in the eternal totalitarian cycle? Pretty obvious I’d say.

We are on the that part of the cycle where totalitarian plans, schemes and laws are spewing all over us until we don’t know if we can get through a whole day without breaking some law. It may be a long climb to the peak though. That pesky adaptability keeps us going for a long time.

The key point seems to be that we can do nothing about it, nothing whatsoever. The ebb and flow of totalitarian rule is a feature of our mental biochemistry. We may have big brains with amazing capabilities, but the inexorable logic of personal safety always seems to screw us up.

It appears that we are unable to choose a path which is likely to lead us to more surprises than the alternative. Our biochemistry just doesn’t allow it. How could it? This is the totalitarian within us and until we untangle it, understand it and learn how to veto its imperatives, until we learn not to seek safety at any cost then the cycle is bound to continue.

In short, we sample the world to ensure our predictions become a self-fulfilling prophecy and surprises are avoided. In this view, perception is enslaved by action to provide veridical predictions (more formally, to make the freeenergy a tight bound on surprise) that guides active sampling of the sensorium. 
Karl Friston

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

The natural indifference of men

Most men — and certainly I could not always claim to be one of the exceptions — have a natural indifference, if not an absolutely hostile feeling, towards those whom disease, or weakness, or calamity of any kind causes to falter and faint amid the rude jostle of our selfish existence.

Except in love, or the attachments of kindred, or other very long and habitual affection, we really have no tenderness.
Nathaniel Hawthorne - The Blithedale Romance (1852)

Was Hawthorne right? His was a much harsher world than ours, one where those who couldn’t hack it were faced with the most miserable destitution and even starvation. Somehow we have drifted into another world where a grey official version Hawthorne's tenderness may be offered to strangers on our behalf via social institutions. We may or may not approve - the institutions are indifferent.

It is as if the concept of ‘stranger’ has become much more tenuous in our connected world. As if the horrors and tragedies of the twentieth century have squeezed out much of what Hawthorne calls the natural indifference of men by downplaying our notions of 'stranger'.

Ironically the notion 'stranger' changes into the strange one who lives within but does not conform, does not emit the right signals. The internal stranger who deserves no sympathy, support or friendship, who may be abused with impunity.    

Indifference though – it feels natural to me. An aspect of survival perhaps? A natural suspicion of strangers, indifference to their needs or their fate. It seems to go hand in hand with assessing the outsider without any confounding assumption of emotional ties, no attachment to their claims, their stories or their demands. It seems to remind us that people we don’t know are indeed strangers, that strangers still exist in this joined up world of ours.

Our world may be kinder in this respect, but also more superficial, bound up with social approval and the role of the state in setting personal standards to which we must conform. We have become enmeshed in a network of norms to which we are expected to subscribe. Or we don’t subscribe, emit the wrong signals, attract disapproval.

If we don’t subscribe then perhaps Hawthorne’s natural indifference hides itself behind a common enough type of conformity which is visibly reluctant, which conforms only outwardly and makes it obvious that this is so. None of which can be healthy.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Assange update


http://www.executedtoday.com/2014/09/06/1771-matthias-klostermayr-the-bavarian-hiasl/

Following our London visit and walkpast of the Ecuadorian Embassy last month, where perhaps the most famous victim of the abuse-inviting European Arrest Warrant is besieged by the British Government, and where the (sole) Met police guard slipped furtively round the corner when we spotted him, it has been decided:

(a) to remove the guard, after spending 10+ millions of pounds allegedly securing this fugitive from dodgy justice - and I'd really like to see the accounts for that thoroughly audited;

(b) to deny Assange his right to medical assessment - with potentially lethal consequences.

How does this look to fair-minded people? Perhaps HMG is unselfconscious - or is it simply thundering arrogance?

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion.
 
 
"History has taught me, that RULERS are much the same in all ages & under all forms of government: they are as bad as they dare to be."

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in a letter to his brother George (c. 10 March 1798)

It's odd, but in various ways - e.g. reflections on national constitutions and the abuse of State power -both sides of the Atlantic seem to be revisiting the late eighteenth century.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spivs to right of them, Dorks to left of them



A few days ago I read a piece in The Engineer about various alternatives for UK nuclear.

The situation over Britain’s proposed fleet of new nuclear reactors can charitably be described as a mess, and it isn’t one that looks likely to be tidied up any time soon. 

An interesting start but painfully familiar. Further on there is a mention of Liquid Fuelled Thorium Reactors (LFTRs) and opportunities for the UK to involve itself in what may turn out to be an important nuclear development.

If it’s true that the UK is incapable of developing a fighter jet on its own (and we gave our opinion on that a few months ago) then it must surely be beyond our capability to sort out all the problems with LFTR development. But there are interested parties in the US and thorium research is underway in China: this sounds like a prime candidate for a multinational research effort, something which would probably be more palatable to many than the current proposed Chinese investment in UK nuclear.

What struck me was not so much the content of the piece, but the political realities illustrated by the above photo. These two guys are supposed to have our hopes for the future on their shoulders. 

We must be mad.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

More things in heaven and earth, Horatio

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

- Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

In the DM today, an account of how the SAS used the occult after WWII to find the victims and perpetrators of war crimes:

"On one occasion they even called upon the spirit world, setting up a Ouija board on a table in Villa Degler’s candle-lit drawing room. Numbered playing cards were laid out, and the letters of the alphabet. An upturned glass was placed in the middle.
 
"Suddenly the glass spelt out a name, ‘F-o-r-d-h-a-m’, followed by ‘I was killed at Cirey’ - a village in the Vosges. The ‘message’ revealed that he was an Allied airman whose bomber had crashed. He and another crew member were captured and made to dig their own graves before being shot.
 
"The next morning, the team sped off to Cirey, where locals took them to an unmarked grave. When they dug, they turned up two bodies.
 
"The Ouija board also identified the German responsible for the shootings. The team ran him through a registry of suspected war criminals and discovered a man by that name had been in the Gestapo. He was arrested."
 
When I was a schoolboy, some friends experimented with Ouija. They came back terrified. You may be as rational as you like; I'm not messing with it.
 
 
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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Spiderman the fraudster

We took the children down to the library to hear a storyteller enact a West African tale about the trickster spider/man, Anansi (converted to a rabbit in the U.S. Uncle Remus stories).

The story roughly paralleled this one:

Anansi heard the birds talking about the Dokanoo tree in the river. He could only get to the tree if he could fly. The birds gave Anansi some feathers so that he could fly.

Anansi flew to the tree. He was greedy and the birds took his feathers away. Anansi was scared to be in the middle of the river.

Alligator came by, and Anansi asked him for a ride. He took Anansi to Alligator’s home. Anansi was scared to go to his home.

Alligator liked to wash his eggs in the river. He told Anansi to help him wash his eggs. They went down to the river and Anansi ate an egg. He passed an egg to Alligator and said “One.” Anansi ate another egg. He passed an egg to Alligator and said “Two.” Anansi ate another egg. He passed an egg to Alligator and said “Three.” Anansi ate another egg. This happened until Anansi had eaten eleven eggs and there was only one left. For all this time it was the same egg passed to Alligator! Anansi would rub it in the river and pass it back to Alligator.

Now Anansi took the egg basket back to Alligator’s home. Alligator’s sons gave Anansi a ride back to the other side of the river. By the time Alligator knew what Anansi had done, he was gone.

It was great. The children learned some gestures to go with it, and a little song, and a fair bit of Jamaican patois (the teller was made up as a "traditionally built" mama).

Then came a question for the children: what was the moral of this story? And they said, don't steal.

Perhaps it's because they're young. Or maybe even at that age, they know how to give the expected answer.

For obviously, the lesson is exactly the opposite. Waking up hungry and unable to access food on his own, Anansi has used his ingenious brain to cheat the birds and Alligator, returning home safely with a bellyful of fruit and eggs. Like "King Rat" and "Ivan Denisovitch", it's about survival and ruthlessly ditching conventional mores that are likely to see you stay poor, or even starve to death.

"If you can let us have a handling fee and your bank details, we can transfer a large sum into your account..."

Meanwhile, a group of fervid little minds has filed away this experience to puzzle out its deeper meanings over the years to come.


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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Evans, it's another black box

Sackers recently sent me a link about David Evan’s climate theory.

Dr Evans has a theory: solar activity. What he calls “albedo modulation”, the waxing and waning of reflected radiation from the Sun, is the likely cause of global warming.

A summary of his initial work can be found here and later work is here - far too much to summarise in a single blog post. The work is certainly interesting, but as with many climate claims the first issue is whether or not it deserves attention. The second is how much?.

The basic problem is that there is no such thing as climate science and no such tribe as climate scientists even though we use the terms in order to take part in the debate. In reality there are many specialist climate areas and many specialist scientists but unlike more established sciences, climatology hasn’t yet reached a state of overall coherence. There is no climate equivalent of the periodic table.

An alternative to absorbing the minutiae of Dr Evan’s approach is to treat the whole thing as a black box. This in no way implies that the Evans theory is not worth studying for anyone so inclined. The black box approach is merely a practical way to tackle the incoherence problem for those of us with no strong allegiances to any particular theory. Each climate theory is treated as a black box.

It doesn’t matter what is in the box.
It doesn’t matter who built it.
It doesn’t matter who endorses it.
Predictive performance is what matters.

So Dr Evan’s black box passes or fails its first test between 2017 and 2021. Even if cooling occurs on cue, this black box has only passed one simple test. A coin toss could do as much. It doesn’t follow that the Evans box will pass any other tests.

This testing process could go on for decades, but so what? Science is merely a complex way of saying “if you do this you see this”, so that’s how we test assertions about the future. We wait. Scientists may prefer us to admire their lovingly crafted box before it passes any test whatever, but that’s another and much older story - human behaviour.

Having said that, Dr Evans is in my view an interesting chap. I've been following his posts from the beginning because we need such people if we are to make progress. We need to find the climate equivalent of the periodic table because as yet we don't have it. 

Perhaps 2017 will give us our first clue but don't bet on it. 

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Krays and the Establishment

Blogger Wiggia has passed on some fascinating personal experiences relevant to a recent post Will the Establishment win again?

----------------------------------

The Daily Mail piece is correct as far as my knowledge of a small part of it goes, I lived in the area during my formative years and there were few who did not know about the Krays and many had contact of some sort with them or their organisation.

If you had a brain you had nothing to do with them it was that simple. An acquaintance, one of three brothers I knew, none of whom one would knowingly upset worked for the twins. He was the dimmest of the brothers and thought there was some kudos in what he did. It all came to an end over something very minor and he took a very nasty hiding from them for that.

There is also the myth as partly told in the Daily Mail piece that they only were violent towards their own kind, it suits a Robin Hood mindset. This is also not true as favours were done for others and people with no connection would have their meeting with some henchmen as a reward for favours. There was even a well trailed story told first hand of a car driver with his wife who recognised the Krays at traffic lights and indicated to his wife who they were. He was seen doing this, pulled from his car, beaten senseless and left in the road. There are many similar stories.

The night that Jack the Hat was murdered there was a party in a flat opposite that night to the house were the murder happened and I detail some of the party happenings here.

The following Sunday, the local was a hive of information being given as party attendees all knew of the murder. Reggie Kray had come to the door looking for old acquaintances to stand as alibis but nobody offered! The point was, the whole of the East End knew what had happened that night by the morning afterwards, yet it was I think, eight months before any move by the police was made. That in itself was hardly surprising as the local plod were all either in the Krays' pocket for favours done or bought off.

The worst police station for outright corruption was Stoke Newington. A personal incident gives a good example of their operation style. My sister who was only 16 or 17 at the time had been at a party that was raided. Several party goers were charged with drug use - cannabis. As this was the sixties, hardly surprising, but the police took all names regardless of of any evidence and no, my sister genuinely never took anything. 

The police used the incident to blackmail parents into paying money to keep names out of papers. They called at our house several times asking for my father and eventually he gave them £20 to go away. I saw this happen - they were not even trying to hide the reason for their presence.

On the larger scale that police station was some time later "cleansed" of personnel though having got wind of what was about to happen the early retirement wheeze came on strong. Amazingly, a few years later the whole cleansing procedure had to be revisited as the rot had started all over again. 

It was all common knowledge, but it gives an insight as to how things must have been at higher levels. The Boothby affair was also common knowledge in the East End long before it got out in the open, and how difficult it was to clamp down on the Krays without bringing the house of cards down.

-------------------------------------

Further reading of Wiggia's East End experiences at James' blog.


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Monday, October 05, 2015

In search of the Modern Man-ifesto

It began with someone sharing this on Facebook (to the tired smiles of schoolteachers):


Franklin turns out to be a male knitting expert:

http://the-panopticon.blogspot.co.uk/

- which is a developing thing, apparently (like the way we're currently deluged with gardening and cookery on TV):

https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=male+knitting+expert+uk+tv

... and I eventually remembered Kaaffe Fassett from UK TV years ago - male invasion of yet another female domain -

http://www.kaffefassett.com/Home.html

... So are men becoming feminised? But is sporting a beard a reaction to that? (are hipsters an outgrowth of metrosexuals - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrosexual ?)

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/oct/03/hipster-social-phenomenon-commercial-success

Like hippies in Haight-Ashbury, birds of a feather have to have a place to flock together, and now it's the East End's turn to be invaded:

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/pret-s-arrival-in-brick-lane-sparks-angry-chain-reaction-from-shoreditch-hipsters-10396112.html

- bitterly resented by an early scout:

http://metro.co.uk/2015/07/17/heres-the-fool-proof-way-to-stop-areas-like-brick-lane-becoming-gentrified-5300647/

Great food for a fiver on Sunday, though. And then a reaction from other, well, progressives?

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/27/shoreditch-cereal-cafe-targeted-by-anti-gentrification-protesters

The British: never happier than when at each others' throats.

Looks like the knitting market's been sewn up. Maybe I'll get into kittens.



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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Investment overview



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Saturday, October 03, 2015

TTIP, TISA, TTIP: in praise of Jean Arthuis

Eric Zuesse in "Washington's Blog" refers to and quotes from a Figaro article from last year, in which a centrist Euro-MP gives both barrels to the secretive hegemonic US-driven global trade deals - TTIP, TISA, TTIP and all their horrid crew:

An even bigger such conflict within the [US-EU] Alliance concerns Obama’s proposed treaty with European states, the TTIP, which would give international corporations rights to sue national governments in non-appealable global private arbitration panels, the dictates from which will stand above any member-nation’s laws. Elected government officials will have no control over them. This supra-national mega-corporate effort by Obama is also part of his similar effort in his proposed TPP treaty with Asian nations, both of which are additionally aimed to isolate from international trade not just Russia, but China, so as to leave America’s large international corporations controlling virtually the entire world.

As things now stand regarding these ‘trade’ deals, Obama will either need to eliminate some of his demands, or else the European Commission won’t be able to muster enough of its members to support Obama’s proposed treaty with the EU, the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Also, some key European nations might reject Obama’s proposed treaty on regulations regarding financial and other services: TISA (Trade In Services Agreement). All three of Obama’s proposed ‘trade’ deals, including the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) between the U.S. and Asian countries, are the actual culmination of Obama’s Presidency, and they’re all about far more than just trade and economics. The main proposed deal with Europe might now be dead.
 
On September 27th, France’s newspaper SouthWest featured an exclusive interview with Matthias Fekl, France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, in which he said that “France is considering all options, including outright termination of negotiations” on the TTIP. He explained that, ever since the negotiations began in 2013, “These negotiations have been and are being conducted in a total lack of transparency,” and that France has, as of yet, received “no serious offer from the Americans.”
 
The reasons for this stunning public rejection had probably already been accurately listed more than a year ago. After all, France has, throughout all of the negotiations, received “no serious offer from the Americans”; not now, and not back at the start of the negotiations in 2013. The U.S. has been steadfast. Jean Arthuis, a member of the European Parliament, and formerly France’s Minister of Economy and Finance, headlined in Le Figaro, on 10 April 2014, “7 good reasons to oppose the transatlantic treaty”. There is no indication that the situation has changed since then, as regards the basic demands that President Obama is making. Arthuis said at that time:
 
First, I am opposed to private arbitration of disputes between States and businesses. [It would place corporate arbitrators above any nation’s laws and enable them to make unappealable decisions whenever a corporation sues a nation for alleged damages for alleged violations of its rights by that nation of the trade-treaty.] Such a procedure is strictly contrary to the idea that I have of the sovereignty of States. …
 
Secondly, I am opposed to any questioning of the European system of appellations of origin. Tomorrow, according to the US proposal, there would be a non-binding register, and only for wines and spirits. Such a reform would kill many European local products, whose value is based on their certified origin.
 
Thirdly, I am opposed to the signing of an agreement with a power that legalizes widespread and systematic spying on my fellow European citizens and European businesses. Edward Snowden’s revelations are instructive in this regard. As long as the agreement does not protect the personal data of European and US citizens, it cannot be signed.
 
Fourth, the United States proposes a transatlantic common financial space, but they adamantly refuse a common regulation of finance, and they refuse to abolish systematic discrimination by the US financial markets against European financial services. They want to have their cake and eat it too: I object to the idea of a common area without common rules, and I reject commercial discrimination.
 
Fifth, I object to the questioning of European health protections. Washington must understand once and for all that notwithstanding its insistence, we do not want our plants or animals treated with growth hormones nor products derived from GMOs, or chemical decontamination of meat, or of genetically modified seeds or non-therapeutic antibiotics in animal feed.
 
Sixth, I object to the signing of an agreement if it does not include the end of the US monetary dumping. Since the abolition of the gold convertibility of the dollar and the transition to the system of floating exchange rates, the dollar is both American national currency and the main unit for exchange reserves in the world. The Federal Reserve then continually practices monetary dumping, by influencing the amount of dollars available to facilitate exports from the United States. China proposes to eliminate this unfair advantage by making “special drawing rights” of the IMF the new global reference currency. But as things now stand, America’s monetary weapon has the same effect as customs duties against every other nation. [And he will not sign unless it’s removed.]
 
Seventh, beyond the audiovisual sector alone, which is the current standard of government that serves as a loincloth to its cowardice on all other European interests in these negotiations, I want all the cultural exceptions prohibited. In particular, it is unacceptable to allow the emerging digital services in Europe to be swept up by US giants such as Google, Amazon or Netflix. They’re giant absolute masters in tax optimization, which make Europe a “digital colony.”
 
President Obama’s negotiator is his close personal friend, Michael Froman, a man who is even trying to force Europe to reduce its fuel standards against global warming and whose back-room actions run exactly contrary to Obama’s public rhetoric. Froman and Obama have been buddies since they worked together as editors on Harvard Law Review. He knows what Obama’s real goals are. Also: “Froman introduced Mr. Obama to Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury secretary,” who had brought into the Clinton Administration Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, and had championed (along with them) the ending of the regulations on banks that the previous Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had put into place. (President Bill Clinton signed that legislation just as he left office, and this enabled the long process to occur with MBS securities and with financial derivatives, which culminated with the 2008 crash, and this same legislation also enabled the mega-banks to get bailed out by U.S. taxpayers for their crash — on exactly the basis that FDR had outlawed.)
 
Froman has always been a pro-mega-corporate, pro-mega-bank champion, who favors only regulations which benefit America’s super-rich, no regulations which benefit the public. Froman’s introducing the Wall Street king Robert Rubin to the then-Senator Obama was crucial to Obama’s becoming enabled to win the U.S. Presidency; Robert Rubin’s contacts among the super-rich were essential in order for that — Obama’s getting a real chance to win the Presidency — to happen. It enabled Obama to compete effectively against Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to do that. His winning Robert Rubin’s support was crucial to his becoming President.
The chances, that President Obama will now be able to get the support from any entity but the U.S. Congress for his proposed TTIP treaty with Europe, are reducing by the day. Europe seems to be less corrupt than is the United States, after all.
 
The only independent economic analysis that has been done of the proposed TTIP finds that the only beneficiaries from it will be large international corporations, especially ones that are based in the United States. Workers, consumers, and everybody else, will lose from it, if it passes into law. Apparently, enough European officials care about that, so as to be able to block the deal. Or else: Obama will cede on all seven of the grounds for Europe’s saying no. At this late date, that seems extremely unlikely.
 
 
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Friday, October 02, 2015

You didn’t say ‘peanut’

One of the most enduring games in Grandson’s school playground is one I played sixty years ago. In the fifties we called ‘tick n’hit’. Grandson calls it ‘tig’ but there are many other names.

From Wikipedia -
Tag (also known as it, tip you're it or tig [in regions of Britain], and many other names) is a playground game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to "tag" or touch them, usually with their hands. There are many variations; most forms have no teams, scores, or equipment. Usually when a person is tagged, they tagger says, "Tag, you're it".

In the playground this morning one boy managed to tag another but almost before he could run off, the tagged boy shrieked triumphantly ‘you didn’t say peanut’. So that was that, he escaped because he hadn’t been legitimately tagged at all.

The rule was new to me and I've watched them play for a few years now. It still looks like fun, but it also struck me how good the game is for learning about life, for avoiding petty failures via new rules others might not be aware of, for turning an apparent fait accompli on its head at the last minute.

Learn the lesson well chaps - learn it well.

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