Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We had it with the real estate market. Billions of dollars being lent to people who obviously couldn’t afford it.

We saw the trouble, hardship, misery and financial woes that were caused as credit dried up, real estate prices began to tumble, and bankruptcies and foreclosures increased.

And we know the damage it did to the economy when irresponsible banks and other lenders went bust and almost brought down the entire financial system. 

Smart people would learn from such a situation.

Smart people would never contemplate doing such a thing again.

But despite what they would like to have you believe, bankers are not smart people. They’re dumb and they are greedy, a deadly combination.

bad credit 100 percent financing

As a result of the financial crisis millions of Americans (and people in other countries too) have been left with poor credit scores. Yet remarkably they are now able to easily obtain auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay. Even if you are bankrupt or living only on social security, banks like Wells Fargo will lend you thousands of dollars to buy a used car.

It’s called the new sub-prime boom, because the lack of caution resembles the frenzied sub-prime mortgage market before its collapse. And it is already bringing misery to many people who have been suckered into taking out loans that they clearly could not afford.

Worse than that, these sub-prime auto loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers, with interest rates that can exceed 20 percent. And many of the loans can be at least twice the value of the second hand cars they are being used to purchase!

wall street car crash

This creates a vicious circle for some borrowers, who still owe money on a car that they are trading in when they purchase another one, meaning that the former debt is rolled over into the new loan and they end up, not just paying too much for their current car, but also continue to pay off the loan on their previous car that they don’t even have!

This is the way loan sharks operate. Eventually you end up borrowing your own money and paying them interest for the privilege!

This surge in sub-prime auto lending is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in sub-prime mortgages. There is a veritable deluge of money pouring into sub-prime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors.

And just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation’s biggest banks and private equity firms are now feeding the growth in sub-prime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.

To quote some of the figures, auto loans to people with bad credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered sub-prime, that is, people with credit scores at or below 640. Wells Fargo, mentioned earlier, made $7.8 billion in auto loans in the second quarter of this year, up 9 percent from a year earlier, and has at least $50 billion in auto loans on its books.

greedy bankers

Even worse, as was the case with sub-prime mortgages before the financial crisis, many sub-prime auto loans are being bundled up into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds. They are all scrambling for these, which in turn creates ever-greater demand for loans, and leads to the banks issuing more and more sub-prime credit.

Unbelievably it’s the same crooks doing exactly the same thing, including using incorrect information about borrowers’ income and employment, so that people who had lost their jobs, or were bankrupt, or living on Social Security, could qualify for loans that they could never afford.

carbuying credit report

Admittedly, the size of the sub-prime auto loan market is only a tiny fraction of the sub-prime mortgage market at its peak, and its implosion would not have the same far-reaching consequences.

For the banks the investors silly enough to buy their bonds, that is.

But the misery is just as great for the people who are suckered into accepting credit they cannot afford.

Illegal it may not be, but immoral it certainly is.

Political leaders who sit astride high horses and purport to be working on behalf of the ordinary people should be doing something about it.

But, as I’ve said before, don’t hold your breath!

obama used car salesman

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Why Are The Bureaucrats Destroying What Made America Great?

Posted: July 20, 2014 in Business, Current Events, Factoids, Politics, Rants
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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

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Since the government and bureaucrats in the United States abandoned the business-friendly environment that made the country the greatest and wealthiest nation on earth, and replaced that with a legislative and wealth redistributing strategy that is anything but business-friendly, there has been a growing trend for successful companies to leave the US.

It should have been obvious – and indeed it was – to everyone but the morons in Washington. 

 

obama cartoon big government

The latest to try to make a move out of the United States is the pharmaceutical giant AbbVie, currently based outside Chicago, Illinois, but not for much longer if they get their way.

Using a $53 billion acquisition of the Jersey-registered, Irish-headquartered global specialty biopharmaceutical company “Shire”, a deal that will allow Abbvie to reincorporate elsewhere, it plans to leave the high tax US for a more advantageous business environment.

By making this move and escaping United States tax rates, Abbvie will pay lower taxes on its international earnings, get access to overseas cash more cheaply, and be able to acquire other companies without making their earnings subject to United States taxes.

Abbvie

And Abbvie is not alone.

There has been a rush of companies wanting to get out of the United States. Health care companies in particular, such as Medtronic, Mylan, Actavis, Perrigo, Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Endo, have pursued these “inversion deals”, as they are called, with particular zeal.

The moral of the story is simply this.

When a country forgets what has made it great and instead turns into something quite the opposite, all the reasons for its greatness disappear. And the United States is doing this at a time when it is heavily in debt – the most indebted nation in the world by a long way.

The short-termism of trying to grab as much money as possible from companies and individuals will end in failure and disaster for all. People like Obama try to put a fancy misleading name on it and call it “wealth redistribution”. What it really is, is a major disincentive for anyone to want to set up and do business in the United States.

redistribution-of-wealth

And as you would expect, the idiots in Washington aren’t scratching their heads and wondering why more and more companies are opting to leave the US. Instead the bureaucrats are trying to think of ways to make it illegal for companies like Abbvie to adopt this strategy. 

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has already sent letters to senior members of Congress, encouraging them to pass legislation halting inversions. The legislation being considered by some lawmakers would be retroactive, and if passed, could impede AbbVie’s ability to reincorporate overseas.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew

And proving that stupidity is a cross party phenomenon, on Thursday, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who is the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, responded to calls from the Obama administration to crack down on inversions by saying he supported a short-term fix, although he suggested that the administration’s initial proposal went too far.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch

It seems fairly logical in my mind that the way to stop this growing exodus, which in the longer term will leave the US a lot poorer and a lot more of its citizens out of work, is to legislate to reduce tax bills, not increase them; to give businesses an incentive to invest and expand in the United States, not to drive them away; and to encourage entrepreneurs to relocate TO the US rather than scramble to get out.

Of course, that’s just in my head. All that is in the heads of the idiot bureaucrats in Washington is self-defeating rubbish like increase minimum wages, increase healthcare contributions, increase taxation, introduce capital controls, increase government bureaucracy so more debt is piled up and the USD$ weakens further, and of course start a few more wars to distract the people from the mess that is being made at home.

So, to pose the question in the title of this post again, why are the bureaucrats destroying what made America great?

Your guess is as good as mine, although while some obviously have malicious intent, I wouldn’t entirely rule out plain old stupidity!

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Farnborough Airc Show 2014 logo

In the summer in Farnborough in Hampshire, England one of the biggest events in the aviation industry takes place. It’s call the Farnborough Air Show.

I remember when I used to work in that industry helping to prepare invitations, information packs, and all the usual PR stuff. Farnborough is THE place to meet and greet both those who buy aircraft and those firms like Boeing and AIrbus who build them and provide tens of thousands of jobs for smaller companies.

So it is an important event.

At this year’s show they named the world’s best airline, in fact they named the top ten best airlines.

And despite the United States building some of the best airplanes in the world, and despite the United States having some of the world’s largest and busiest airlines, do you know how many United States airlines made it into the top ten?

The title of this post probably gave it away. The answer is….

None. That’s ninguno, aucun, keiner, zero!

Even the regional category for North America was won by Air Canada.

cartoon intrusive airport searches

Apparently, not only are air travelers in America to be treated as potential terrorists, herded and prodded and scanned and humiliated when they are trying to get on to an airplane. But when they do, the comfort and service they can expect will be second rate.

I think that’s a disgrace. America should be leading the world in the standard of their airlines. They should be at least one, if not more, of the top ten list every year offering a consistently high standard that their customers (that’s you and me) deserve.

And this award is decided by the votes of millions of travelers, so customers’ opinions do count.

So time for United States airlines to ditch those bureaucratic bean counters who decide that they can squeeze just another row of seats into an airplane so that everyone is uncomfortable. In the long term this kind of thinking doesn’t save you money, it loses you money. And when your customers vote for the best airline, they don’t vote for you!

For those of you who are interested, this year’s best airline was the Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific. They were voted best performer across all types of travel, economy, and luxury.

Cathay Pacific World's Best Airline 2014

Cathay Pacific World’s Best Airline 2014

Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines placed second and third respectively in the global category, with last year’s winner, Emirates, slipping to fourth. Fifth to tenth places went to Turkish Airlines, ANA All Nippon Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Asiana Airlines, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa respectively.

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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It’s an interesting question.

But worry not, I am not going to try to sell you an insurance policy nor even recommend one.

Quite the reverse in fact.

Many people have some kind of life insurance for the financial protection of their families if they should be unfortunate to pass away unexpectedly.

It is usually for enough money to pay off the mortgage with a little left over to provide some kind of income for the wife and kids.

At least that’s how it should be.

dead peasants indursnce

But there is a growing trend for employers to insure their employees. A nice gesture you might think at first. Until you find out that the beneficiary of the insurance would not be the survivors or estate of the insured employee, but the corporate pension plan!

It is unofficially known as “dead peasant” insurance, and hundreds of corporations have already taken out policies worth hundreds of billions of dollars, on thousands of employees, providing companies with a steady stream of income as current and former employees die  -  even decades after they have retired or left the company.

And new “dead peasant”policies worth at least $1 billion are being put in place every year!

Unsurprisingly the greedy money-grabbing banksters are especially fond of the practice. Bank of America’s policies have a cash surrender value of at least $17.6 billion; Wells Fargo’s at least $12.7 billion; and JPMorgan Chase at least $5 billion, according to filings with the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

corporate greed

Of course the tax-men are to blame too – aren’t they always? – because so-called company-owned life insurance offers employers generous tax breaks. For example, company-paid premiums are tax-free, as are any investment returns on the policies and the death benefits eventually received. Although having said that it has to be admitted (grudgingly) that the I.R.S. has taken companies including Winn-Dixie and Camelot Music to court for using such policies as tax avoidance schemes.

Many people faced with a request from an employer to consent to such a policy are too afraid not to comply in case it affects their job or promotion prospects. They shouldn’t be because that would probably be illegal as well as unethical. Class-action lawsuits against several companies with such policies are already underway or have been settled. Several companies, including Walmart, settled the suits, paying millions to low-ranking employees who had been covered.

So if you are uncomfortable with the thought that your company might profit from your death, don’t sign up.

And as for the corporations? I’m as fond of making a few bucks as the next man, but you have to draw a line somewhere and I think corporations should be content with the contribution their employees make to their company profits when they are alive, instead of conniving to profit from their deaths also.

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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We all know that one of Steve Jobs favorite things was selling people well designed goods at vastly over inflated prices. People who were obsessed by having the latest gimmicks, bought his stuff in droves at whatever price Jobs put on them and in the process made Apple one of the richest companies in the world.

That’s what you call business, not quite ethical perhaps, but if you can get away with it and you can find people who are silly enough to pay far too much for your goods then why not?

What the creation of this ‘new’ market also did was spawn clones or look-a-likes from companies wanting to cash in on the windfall initially created by Apple.

Many of these are quite legitimate, like the Samsung Galaxy models which have become just as popular as the iPhones and are just as good, if not better, IMHO.

But what has also happened is that the same success has spawned a series of non-legitimate clones – from China – which look the same and provide many of the same functions, although the build quality as with much of the junk emanating from China is very poor.

smart phones

Apple Iphone, Samsung Galaxy S5, Star N9500

So, getting back to the question posed in the title of this post, if you are thinking of buying yourself a smart phone – and you are also thinking of saving a bit of money and buying one of those iPhone or Samsung Galaxy look-a-likes from China – think again.

This week a German firm called ‘G Data’ (which has a US subsidiary) released information that a popular brand of Chinese-made smart phone, the ‘Star N9500’, which is sold internationally by several major retailers, including Amazon.com, has been found to contain pre-installed monitoring software – that’s spy software to you and me.

G Data said it discovered the spy software hidden deep inside the proprietary software found on the Star N9500, which is a cheap smart phone based on the popular Samsung Galaxy S4.

malware

The hidden software contained within the phone’s operating system includes applications that could allow a third party to access and steal the telephone user’s personal information.

There are also secret applications that could permit a hacker to place calls from the telephone, or utilize the device’s microphone and camera without the consent of its owner.

And malware like this can not only allow hackers to access the telephone, but also any computers connected to it.

spy software

It was also discovered that the stolen data was being sent to a server based in, where else, China.

Adding to the intrigue, G Data’s team of experts and several journalists tried for “over a week” to track down the manufacturer of the Star N9500 by contacting several companies located in China’s southern province of Shenzhen, known as the center of the country’s telecommunications industry, but were unable to do so.

This isn’t the first time hidden spyware has been discovered in the operating software of telecommunications hardware made in China, and it probably won’t be the last.

But don’t get completely paranoid just because you read this post or other articles like it.

Just realize that the convenience that this latest technology provides, also provides criminals (which includes spying governments, you listening ennn esss ey?) easier access to your personal information.

And act accordingly.

Phone Spy Software

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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It had to happen eventually.

Admittedly we’ve been waiting for a long, long, long time, but finally the bureaucrats seem to have done something sensible.

Sort of.

But hold on!

US citizens, fear not, your bureaucrats are standing firm. They are not included in this minor breakthrough.

It’s all about the snoopers.

In this case Google, who thinks it has the right to collect any and all information it can from people who use its search engine to find things on the internet.

But as a result of a recent European Union Court of Justice ruling, EU citizens have been given the ‘right to be forgotten’. Certain users can now ask search engines to remove results for queries that include their name, where those results are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”

Google is complying, but reluctantly, making the whole process anything but straightforward and easy. It is launching a service that lets European users ask for personal information to be deleted from the search engine, but on its ‘right to forget’ form users will be asked to provide links to the material they want removed, their country of origin, a reason for their request, AND also attach a valid photo identity.

And keeping its options as open as it can, Google has also said, “In implementing this decision, we will assess each individual request and attempt to balance the privacy rights of the individual with the public’s right to know and distribute information. When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there’s a public interest in the information — for example, information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.”

Who defines “the public’s right to know” has not yet been clarified, but I bet you if it is left up to Google what is in the public interest will be remarkably similar to what is in Google’s interest too.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Come on all you American bureaucrats, America used to lead the world, what are you waiting for?

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Many Happy Returns Webby!

Posted: May 10, 2014 in bankers, Business, Computers, Current Events
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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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World-Wide-Web

The World Wide Web, created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, turned 25 years old this year, 2014.

There has never been anything like it before, certainly not as regards the impact it has made on society and the way we live our lives. Many of those changes are good, many are not so good and a few are downright annoying.

Here’s my take on some of them.

To concentrate on the good parts first, the one thing the www has done, for those who can use it effectively, is to give access to information that was previously only available to the elite few who managed to claw their way into the lofty heights of academia, or who worked in places where information was readily available. Now the same information is accessible at the touch of a button to anyone and everyone with a smart phone, tablet or computer.

Another benefit, in my view anyway, is that is has sent a massive wake-up call to telephone providers world wide, many of whom were fast asleep, content to rake in healthy profits from antiquated systems. No longer do we have to settle for slow and temperamental data transfer lines. Nowadays, particularly in the last few years, people are demanding systems that can cope with download streams in the gigabyte range. If you are old enough to remember the first modems you will know you wasted too much of your life trying to download at 12Kb/sec., sometimes less.

Freedom is also a welcome by-product of the World Wide Web.

The freedom to work in any country in the world, from virtually any country in the world is one big plus – it is for me anyhow. Another one I particularly like is the freedom to watch TV programs that I like, when I like, no longer tied to the schedules of some brainless bean-counter working for a broadcasting company. And the freedom to have your say on things as and when the mood takes you – they call that blogging don’t you know! – is also a great advantage to the ordinary person.

www words

As is the freedom to disseminate information across the globe instantly, as Mr Snowden ably demonstrated, although I would hazard a guess that the powers that be would not agree with me on that one.

Indeed, this is the one aspect of the www that really bothers big brother.

China for example is one country where access is controlled by the state. Coincidentally this year also marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, you’ll find articles about that if you do a search, but probably not in China. They get away with it because they are not a democracy and do not pretend to be one.

In other countries, like the good old Land Of The (Not So) Free (Anymore)), the powers still like to con their people into believing that they are living in a democratic nation and that the people have the power to vote for this or that. But think for a moment, when was the last time you got to vote on whether to start a war, or whether to give $billions of your money to the greedy banksters to pay themselves huge bonuses and gamble away the rest?

It is because they need to keep the pretence of democracy going, that they do not yet have the confidence to start overtly censoring the internet. But they do all they can to snoop on what people are reading, or writing, or looking at.

This is where the freedom the www and associated technology provides can also be a negative, when it is used by governments to surveil us and record every piece of data they can. If they were doing this selectively and targeting terrorists and criminals no one would be too worried. But they are doing it to all of us, guilty and innocent alike.

big brother is watching

They are also doing everything they can think of to impose taxes on internet commerce – of course they have to coz they’re stoney broke.

The www has revolutionized business practices and created all sorts of new commerce opportunities, Amazon perhaps being the best example of a company that has gone from nothing to a multi-billion dollar business in just a few years.

Communication and social interaction are also areas where the www has liberated the ordinary person – first with email and more recently with social media. In the near future expect to see social media expanding to become much more than individual platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. We are already seeing many new applications that are allowing people to communicate more widely, more easily and more often.

social media

Another negative is that the World Wide Web has unwittingly facilitated the proliferation of pornography and violence, and is teaching a generation of morons all the wrong things. Things that will ensure they become a burden on society, not an asset.

And it has also opened a whole new environment in which criminals can operate. Millions of dollars are being stolen every day through scams, confidence tricks and outright theft.

You could say (and I frequently do) that people dumb enough to fall for these scams deserve all they get, or all they lose, is perhaps a better way of putting it. You know, the idiots who believe they really have won a lottery they didn’t buy a ticket for, or who think that Dr Umbungo Watanga from Nigeria is being truthful when he tells them that someone they never heard of has left them $25 million and all they need to do is send all their personal details and a few thousand dollars to unlock the fortune that awaits them. There really is one born every minute it seems!

All that said, and twenty-five years on, the www is still in its infancy. We have come a long way in the past 25 years, but we have really only scratched the surface as regards what the web has the potential to do to further improve our daily lives.

Where the vision to develop the www will come from in anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for sure is that the initiative won’t come from governments or their bureaucratic servants, simply because the people we elect to those positions do not have the required intelligence.

So its up to you. If you have any great ideas you want to share, send me an email.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the World Wide Web.

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

You know there is something very wrong with your society when it allows vociferous minorities to dictate how the majority of people are allowed to live their lives.

They still call it democracy, but it is not.

And it is happening more and more in Western nations, particularly America and Europe, and affecting more and more areas of our lives.

The reason it happens is not because loud mouth minority interests demand this or that or the other, but because the majority have lost any backbone they ever had and capitulate in the face of almost every demand, no matter how nonsensical.

It never works the other way because when Westernere go to other countries we abide by the rules of that nation. We do not try to impose our beliefs on them, not nowadays anyhow.

For example, if I end up in a Muslim country where alcohol is not permitted, I respect their laws and don’t drink alcohol. Similarly, if I want to visit Israel, I’ll eat kosher. Or if I go to India I won’t demand that they slaughter a sacred cow just so as I can have a juicy steak!

We’re on the subject of food and drink because the latest to buckle under is the fast food chain ‘Subway’ in the United Kingdom and Ireland. (Watch out, you’re next America!)

Because of the demands of a few within the Muslim community, Subway has chosen to ignore the wishes of the great majority of its customers and has removed ham and bacon from nearly 200 of its stores.

The meats that they still serve are also to be Islamic hal-al only.

Subway hal-al

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In case you don’t know, hal-al is not the Israeli national airline (that’s El Al), but is a specific way of slaughtering animals for human consumption.

Traditionally in halal abattoirs the throats of the animals are cut while they are fully conscious – an act many campaigners say is inhumane and needlessly cruel – whereas in non-halal abattoirs, livestock are stunned before killing to prevent any unnecessary suffering.

So if you are in the UK or Ireland and looking for any of the following “Subs” you are in for a disappointment.

Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt  -  BANNED!
Steak and Cheese  -  BANNED!
Meatball Marinara  -  BANNED!
Subway Melt – ham, bacon, turkey breast and cheese  -  BANNED!
Italian B.M.T. – pepperoni, salami and ham  -  BANNED!
Spicy Italian – pepperoni and salami  -  BANNED!
Chicken Avocado  -  BANNED!
Mega Melt – bacon, sausage, egg and cheese  -  BANNED!
Sausage, Bacon, Egg and Cheese  -  BANNED!
Sausage, Egg and Cheese  -  BANNED!

As regards me personally, it’s Subway that is in for the disappointment, because I’ll be deliberately missing them the next time I get hungry enough for some fast food.

I fail to see why I should support a company like Subway for whom my tastes, as part of the majority of its customers, means nothing.

So well done Subway, you’re stock value should be heading the sub way too if you continue to show contempt for your core customers who made your company what it is  -  er, make that, what it was.

Now where did I put that Burger King menu???

Burger King logo

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“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

Bankster pyramid of greed and corruption

They say rats squeal when they are being hunted and nearing capture and they’re right.

None more so at present than the rat banksters and nowhere more so than on Wall Street. If you listen carefully you can hear them squeal even above the noise of the New York traffic.

And the reason for the squealing?

Only that federal authorities are at long last closing in on some of the worst culprits whose greed and contempt for their clients caused the financial crisis we have all be suffering from during the past decade and more.

But before you start clapping the feds on the back, let me say it is too little and too late. None of the banksters are likely to face jail sentences which is what they deserve for their crimes against the people.

Foreclosure-Homes

However, it is something and these days that’s about the best you can hope for.

In terms of the numbers, the banksters are facing fines of something in the region of $63 billion.

Wow, listen to them squeal!

It seems like a lot of money – and it is a lot of money, it could keep all of us blogging away happily for the rest of our lives and then some. But put in the context of what the banksters defrauded their clients out of and what they lost it is just a pittance.

Putting the figures into context, J P Morgan Chase’s $13 billion mortgage settlement in November was probably some kind of record, but they issued more than $460 billion in mortgage securities.

To illustrate it in numbers people can relate to better, that’s like a thief stealing a thousand dollars from you and getting away with it if he paid you back $28.

I bet the amount of the settlement doesn’t seem so big now. Nor is it commensurate with the size of the crime. But that’s what they’ll probably get away with. And they’re not even grateful for this small smack on the wrist, hence all the squealing.

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