I’m Back …….Well Nearly

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Hi folks. Hope you are all keeping well. I’ve missed you. Hope you can say the same.

I’m back, sort of. I had a sudden enforced blogging break thrust upon me when I received an SOS from a good friend of mine. His company was in need of help.

desk full of files
I thought at the time that it would be a two week job at most, but when he said he was in trouble he wasn’t kidding. We’re still not done, but at least now things are looking a little bit better.

I’m in “Yurp” right now, watching the refugees take over. More of that in a future post perhaps. In the meantime take Trump’s advice a close your borders or you’ll end up like this place.

refugees europe
I could have done some blogging when I was travelling around, I certainly had plenty of time at airports, in between flights and wading through the dumbest security checks you could imagine, but I wanted to take a bit of time to prepare my next post. Hopefuly I’ll get to it next week.

Meantime, if you can believe WP stats, this blog has whizzed through the 200,000 views landmark without me and there are actually MORE daily hits now than when I was blogging almost every day.

Do you think the world is trying to tell me something?

Maybe I should stay away?

Actually I don’t know whether to be pleased that I have created something with a life of it’s own or dismayed that I’m not really needed.

puzzled
Now in an effort to get some of my dignity back I think I will indulge in a quick gloat.

This is not going to be pretty so feel free to skip over this bit if you haven’t got a strong stomach.

I’m having a laugh at the stupidty of the Fed again and the dumb financial journalists and fund managers who hang on their every word despite a mountain of evidence that should lead them to do otherwise.

Federal Reserve

The Fed has wimped out AGAIN. Lost their nerve. Promised and hinted and leaked stories to the financial press for months that an interest rate rise was imminent – and then they bottled out.

No surprise to me. At the beginning of May I wrote a post explaining why they wouldn’t put up interests despite all the pifle they were saying. (if you want to read it  click here.)

Then in mid-June I did another one ( click here for that one), saying there was no way the Fed could make good on their threats to raise the rate in September.

Of course nobody listened and the meeting on Thursday was one of the most anticipated Fed meetings of all time. And it all came to nothing. No interest rate hike.

And I don’t think they’ll do it next time either. There’s talk about December, but as far as I see the Fed’s hands are tied and rates are going to remain at zero or close to it for years.

Good news for borrowers. Not so good for savers with all the traditional yield opportunities such as bonds, Treasuries and bank CDs offering little or no returns. If you have cash to invest you should be looking at solid low risk undervalued stocks with a decent dividend. Otherwise your savings will be eroded by inflation for at least another year, proably longer.

Having said that, no rate hike is on balance good for the economy as a whole.

That will do for the gloating for now. Not sure when the next post will be exactly. Hopefully next week so if you’re interested keep a look out for that.

Meantime warmest regards to everyone who visits – even when I’m not around.

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Twitter Treasure

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Twitter logo transparent

Twitter is a good invention. It’s easy and fun. Much less demanding and intrusive than Facebook. So much so that many millions of people, from the famous to ordinary people like you and I, use it every day.

On the back of that success the Twitter company is doing very well. But recently it did even better when its shares jumped four per cent in a matter of minutes.

It all happened after a buyout story appeared on the internet that claimed that Twitter had received a significant offer. It started off, “Twitter is working closely with bankers after receiving an offer to be bought out for $31 billion…”

fake-twitter-story

Investors piled in. And not just the amateurs, lots of the ‘professional’ Wall Street guys too.

The trouble was, however, that the internet story was on a bogus web site and was completely fake. The site was called “bloomberg.market”. It was not “Bloomberg.com” the official name of the web presence for the Bloomberg financial organization.

“Bloomberg.market” was what they call a ‘mirror’ of the genuine “Bloomberg.com” website. Whoever designed “bloomberg.market” set it up to look like “Bloomberg.com”. They copied real headlines and linked them back to the real dot-com website. With one exception: the fake Twitter story, which was dressed up to look like a legitimate webpage.

The spike in the Twitter share price only lasted about 15 minutes before Bloomberg denounced the story as fake and the share price dropped back to its previous level. But 15 minutes is a long time in the world of finance and plenty of time for someone to profit substantially from the scam.

spike in the Twitter share price

No one yet knows who owns the dot-market domain – except the people who own it, of course –  but it was registered just days before the scam message, using a proxy service called “WhoisGuard”, based in Panama, that protects registrant details by offering its own address and contact numbers. But the details of “WhoisGuard” on its own website at “WhoisGuard.com” also appear to be fake, listing a telephone number that is disconnected. Emails to their contact address have not received a response either.

The significance of this incident is not that some greedy and stupid people lost money rushing to buy Twitter shares on the back of this fake announcement.

The problem is that so many new dot word domains have recently been allowed – hundreds of them in fact – that the whole internet is becoming bloated and confusing. And expensive.

If you are a company that wants to protect your online identity and integrity it could now cost you tens of thousands of dollars to cover all the permutations. Not many companies, even huge affairs like Bloomberg, will choose to do that.

That leaves the way wide open for cyber criminals to take advantage of gullible internet users.

I am certain they will.

Like the Twitter announcement, it’s just too good a deal to refuse.

online-scam_gullible-investor-cartoon

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I’ve Heard Of A Plane Going Missing – But An Entire Airport???

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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lost

Bureaucrats lose things because they are incompetent and stupid.

We all know that.

My posts on the debacle at the US government’s Office of Personnel Management, where they lost over 21 million records of government employees and those who had applied for government jobs, was a good example.

I though at the time I read about this and did my blog posts that this would be a tough one to beat as regards stupidity and incompetence.

I was wrong.

Shannon-airport-building-2008

 

Enter the Irish.

Irish bureaucrats have lost an entire airport.

And it only cost them €27 million  to do it.

A bargain one might think in terms of bureaucratic faux pas.

Up until last week you could find Ireland’s Shannon Airport, in Shannon, County Clare.

Sounds logical enough. If I was looking for Shannon Airport, Shannon is the first place I would look for it. They have had an airport there for over seventy years.

Now, however, after the introduction of Ireland’s new €27 million postcode system, the ‘Eircode’, you can now find Shannon Airport in – wait for it – a different county, County Limerick.

mapofcountiesofireland

If that isn’t funny enough, the system also has a ‘mapping’ option which the bureaucrats say can identify the exact latitude and longitude of 2.2 million individual addresses. They’ll most likely be in the wrong latitude and longitude, but at least you know exactly how wrong the location is.

Naturally there are other problems with the ‘Eircode’ postcode system, ranging from other incorrect addresses to data protection concerns, but the airport one is the star of the show.

In typical bureaucratic fashion, despite the fact that the whole thing is an almighty mess, Communications Minister Alex White defended the new national system.

He even claimed it would make postal deliveries much easier in the long run – the ‘long run’ presumably referring to the distance traveled by your mail going to the wrong delivery address and confused users of the system going to all the wrong places.

Communications Minister Alex White

Not only do the bewildered Irish users of this new system get wrong addresses for their €27 million, but they are only allowed a miserable fifteen searches per day, meaning you would need to persevere with it for more than a week if you were organizing a big event, like a wedding or anniversary do.

There is an option to search for more wrong addresses but the fee for that dubious privilege is between €60 and €180 a year, depending on the number of searches performed.

Good luck with selling that too!

Now where did I put the milk for my coffee?

Ah yes, in the garage next door.

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America Just Can’t Make It Anymore.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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USA industrial economy

The statement in the title is not true, except that it is.

If you are a little confused stay with me and let me clarify.

The United States used to be the industrial power house of the world. Its industries generated unprecedented wealth for the country, creating the world’s first self-made billionaires and productive wealth creating jobs galore for everyone. The whole country prospered.

Today, however, the United States has become the world’s second biggest importer of goods. Worse than that, even though America still exports billions of dollars’ worth in oil, consumer goods and automotive products, it imports even more. This creates a trade deficit ($471 billion according to recent figures).

US Trade Deficit

So what are all these imports into the US?

Well, they include industrial machinery and equipment ($681 billion), automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($309 billion), miscellaneous private services, primarily financial services ($201 billion), cell phones ($90 billion), travel passenger services ($86 billion), pharmaceuticals ($84 billion), computers ($65 billion), chemicals ($61 billion), other transportation services ($59 billion), computer accessories ($57 billion), telecommunications equipment ($54 billion), royalties and license fees services ($42 billion), apparel ($49 billion), petroleum products ($48 billion), fuel oil ($44 billion), industrial supplies ($29 billion), U.S. Government service imports primarily defense ($25 billion), fish ($18 billion), fruit ($13 billion), and vegetables ($11 billion).

Cartoon imports

If you are a bit shell-shocked by all those figures let me phrase it a bit differently using as examples the types of goods you would tend to buy.

  • 100% (almost) of the shoes bought in the U.S. come from China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mexico;
  • 90% of white goods (washers, fridges, etc.) and consumer electronics are imported;
  • 85% of household furniture is imported;
  • 80% of cars on U.S. roads come from Canada (31%), Japan (24%), Germany (16%) and Mexico (12%); and,
  • 65% of U.S. clothing is imported from China (37%), Vietnam (9.4%), Indonesia (7.2%) and Bangladesh (6.7%).

Probably the saddest part is that even things you thought were “American” are now actually made overseas and imported.

I remember while on a business trip to the US many, many years ago I bought a gift for the young son of a friend of mine. He was a big sports enthusiast so I reckoned that one of the most iconic symbols of sport from America would be a baseball. I bought one in Wal-Mart. It was marked with all the different holding positions for the various ways to throw a baseball (fast ball, curve ball and all that). The perfect gift.

I gave it to him on my return feeling ever so pleased with myself. The kid opened it, showed momentary delight, then looked up at me accusingly. “It says ‘Made in China'” he told me.

Baseball made in China

But it’s not only baseballs. Similar types of product that you would think are all-American, like Converse All Stars, Levi’s, Huffy bicycles, televisions, Monopoly, Etch-a-Sketch, Radio Flyer wagons, Barbie dolls, and last but by no means least, most of those American flags just ain’t American no more.

modern monopoly board

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Apple, for example, doesn’t have to become the richest company in the world by manufacturing its products in China and storing its vast hoards of cash overseas.

Or does it?

Everything on the lists above could still be made in the US and surpluses exported to other countries. But the US government and its moronic bureaucrats are spending their time and our money thinking up new ways, not to help American businesses, but to add ever-increasing amounts of rules, regulations and bureaucracy on to American companies.

American businesses can no longer compete, because their own government has ensured that the deck is stacked against them.

In the mind of a bureaucrat losing a million productive wealth creating jobs, for example, in the automotive industry, and replacing them with a million more administrative jobs that cost the country money evens things out.

It doesn’t. Simple math will tell you that. Every time it happens things get worse and America gets poorer.

So America just can’t make it anymore, but not because China has stolen the jobs. It’s because the US government bureaucrats gave them away.

Put the blame where it should be.

StimulusBureaucrats

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At Last A Little Good News About The Banksters.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Bank Logos-2

Don’t get too excited, it is only a little, but it is good news.

In a recent ruling by British regulators, the top executives and managers at banks operating there (which is practically all the major banks) could have their bonuses clawed back for up to ten years after any finding of misconduct. It will also prohibit bonuses for nonexecutive directors and for the managers of companies that are receiving financial support from the government.

The move, which is long, long overdue and still does not go far enough, extends a seven-year clawback period that one regulator, the Prudential Regulation Authority, (part of the Bank of England), introduced for so-called variable pay (read ‘bonuses’) last year as part of tougher accountability rules.

Prudential Regulation Authority

The new rules announced by the authority, which is part of the Bank of England, and by another regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, are the latest effort by financial regulators in Europe to hold the banksters accountable for improper actions that could play a role in precipitating future financial upheavals.

The regulators say they are trying to “embed an accountable culture” in the City of London, which actually means that the authorities realize that the banksters have learned nothing from their previous catastrophic frauds and thefts. They know when the chance arrives these greedy and immoral people will try to do it all again.

bankster caricature

The new British rules, which apply to banks, building societies and investment firms regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority, including British units of United States banks and other financial firms based outside Europe, mean that senior managers, risk managers and others at banks will also be asked to defer more of their variable pay for a longer period, making it easier for regulators and financial institutions to recover bonuses if misconduct is uncovered.

Other countries in Europe are also enacting new regulations for their banksters. Dutch lawmakers, for example, capped bonuses this year for employees in the banking, insurance and other finance sectors that limits variable pay to 20 percent of their fixed salaries. The Dutch have also banned bonuses for executives at bailed-out banks.

European rules already limit bankers’ bonuses to the equivalent of their annual salaries, or to two times their base salaries if the company’s shareholders approve it. But they know they are so greedy that they will try to find ways round that.

breaking the rules

Already some banks are making moves to get round the limits by introducing role-based remuneration and other payments, so the regulators have their work cut out for them keeping a step ahead of the thieves.

What they really need to do is confiscate ALL their ill-gotten gains, impose severe additional financial penalties AND throw these criminals in jail – for a long time.

America, which always likes to consider itself as the leader of the world, should lead in this regard too. It would be better than starting another war in some far off God forsaken country.

Unfortunately I think it will be an equally long time, and a lot more frauds, before they get to that much needed stage.

And you can take that to the bank!

Give a man a bank

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I Said He Would Be Entertaining.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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donaldtrump

Say what you like about him, but he is entertaining. Trump is already making what was looking like one of the dullest election campaigns in history into something worth looking at – just now and again though.

The latest nonsense comes from the business world, namely Macy’s, NBC and Univision.

Macy’s has decided to drop Trump-related merchandise, and the other two are going to break off ties (pun, tee-hee!) with the Donald.

The Macy’s decision is fairly clear, they’d rather run away from controversy and lose money than ride out the storm. I wonder do they sell goods manufactured in the sweat shops of the world, often by children? Maybe we should look in their hypocrisy department – fourth floor next to the white flags if I remember correctly?

waving white surrender flag

However, no one knows exactly what the NBC and Univision decision means in practical terms. For example, will they sell their half of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants and if they do who will they sell it to? Or will they buy Trump’s half which will mean giving him top dollar for the shows because I don’t think he will let them away softly. In fact he would be within his rights to sue NBC for breach of contract relating to the pageants if this dodgy decision leads to a cancellation.

Either way it will be more wealth for Trump, which is probably what the move was designed NOT to do when they were thinking about it. That’s assuming they did think about it, which appears increasing unlikely.

trump two fingers

Neither has NBC given great thought as to who is going to host “The Apprentice” in a post-Trump era. They’ve hinted that they are going to look for a new star to replace Trump on the long-running reality show, but he’ll be a hard act to follow. Maybe it’s a chance for another dose of the limelight for the Shark Tank’s Mr Wonderful or even Mark Cuban, both of whom seem to thrive on the small screen and both of whom seem to have egos on the grand scale.

This hasty decision also leaves a BIG question mark about the partiality of these TV companies during the election race. Will they – or perhaps better, can they – continue to cover Trump fairly as a presidential candidate?

Former President Bush, President Bush and Governor Bush depart the christening ceremony of the USS George H.W. Bush in Virginia

Then there’s former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, part of the Bush, Bush and Bush super wealthy and well connected dynasty who want the big seat in the White House again. Jeb has said his decision to run for the Republican nomination will be based on two things: his family and whether he can lift America’s spirit.

After the great job his father and big brother did as President in lifting America’s spirits (a little sarcasm there) how could the voters do anything other than make him the GOP Presidential candidate? Oh dear me!

Despite the family history, Bush seems to be making good progress so far. But he had an easy start, because prior to the arrival of Trump on the scene he had no high profile rival. He still holds a significant lead over the second-place Trump.

Some think Jeb Bush would be the best candidate to handle illegal immigration and social issues. Just like his brother perhaps, see video.

On the economy Trump would probably be favorite, especially after the way Dubya Bush let spending go out of control during the latter stages of his war-mongering Presidency.

Apart from these two, although there are numerous others in the field,there does not seem to be any other close runners. Not yet anyway. But things in election races can always change suddenly as a skeleton or two tumble from their closets.

Trump is trying to capitalize on his business background. There is no doubt that that gives him an advantage over the career politicians. In business Trump lives or dies by his decisions. As for the Senators and Governor would-be’s, they are used to other people paying for their mistakes not them personally. It’s a significant difference in the mindsets of the two types of contender.

There is no doubt that Trump is correct when he says that the “American public is ready for a leader with a proven track record of success.” This is particular so after eight years of a dithering Obama administration.

Whether or not “Eighty percent of Central American girls and women are raped crossing into the United States,” one would have thought that America was ready for someone who wasn’t afraid to tell it how it is, instead of trying to pander to every minority viewpoint be it legitimate or crazy.

In politics a bit of controversy is always…

what’s the word….

“Entertaining?” That’s it.

trump with hand mic

As if to emphasize the fact, contrast what is going on in the Republican camp with the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton launched her presidential bid via a lackluster video message on social media way back in April and she continues to be the overwhelming front-runner among Democratic hopefuls for the White House job.

In fact the Democrat competition has turned into an amalgamation of Dullsville & Boringtown. There’s only one horse (make that horse’s ass) in the running. What she needs to blow all that cash for I don’t know. Build a hospital ward for the poor you dummy, you’re already selected.

hillary rodham clinton presidential bid 2016

Vice President Joe Biden, who has twice before made unsuccessful bids for the Oval Office – in 1988 and 2008 – might make another one, unsuccessful one that is. Recently he has said he thinks he’d “make a good President.” He is perhaps basing that on comments in the press that he is known for his foreign policy and national security expertise. He shouldn’t, because during the past eight years he has shown absolutely no grasp of either foreign affairs or national security.

Of course, it may well be that come the actual Presidential election next year, it will be Jeb versus Hillary and dull as they are the Democrats may win again. In a democracy the voters sometimes get it wrong.

In the meantime I’m still finding the Donald’s entry into the fray, what’s that word again….

“Entertaining!”

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The Greeks Can’t Afford To Bear Gifts These Days

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Greek financial crisis

I used to love listening to George W Bush when he talked about the ‘Grecians’. He was an idiot, but unlike some holders of his post I think he secretly knew it.

But, enough of that, let’s concentrate on the Grecians.

Their financial crisis is deepening and they’ve shut down all their banks. They’ve also imposed what are called ‘capital controls’, in other words what you can and cannot do with your own money –  assuming you could get to it in the first place.

Several Western countries, including the US and Britain, have issued travel warnings for Greece. Not a warning about the place being very dangerous, just a warning to have enough cash to be able to pay for things now that the banks are shut and presumably their ATMs as well.

queue at Greek ATM

This recent activity by the Greek government is because of the breakdown of talks between Athens and the European Union concerning the Grecians’ enormous debt that they clearly can’t afford to pay back. EU finance ministers rejected Athens’ request to prolong a financial assistance program.

It is also about a bit of timely government blackmail.

The Greek government has so far been unable to formulate any meaningful plans to curtail their spending significantly. The Greek people likewise have become used to living beyond their means and are reluctant to tighten their belts. The people are blaming the government and the government is blaming the people and nothing is really getting resolved.

So Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, shut the banks and said they would stay shut until July 6, conveniently the day after a nationwide referendum on whether to accept the bailout terms proposed to Greece by its creditors.

Some commentators also think that the banks may have been shut because they don’t have enough cash left. The Greek people think the same and are panicking to get their money out of the banks. Runs on banks inevitably lead to disaster.

As Greece is part of the Euro zone it does not have control of its own monetary system. In other words, unlike America which can simply print more money if and when it needs it, the Grecians have to rely on the European Central Bank giving them cash. and it has refused to give them any more Euros.

That decision could prompt Greece to default which would probably lead to it being kicked out of the Euro zone and possibly out of the EU itself, which would be an historic first and something that would be done very reluctantly.

Greek financial crisis cartoon

The rulers of the EU are in what is known as a ‘tight spot’. If they don’t take a tough line on the Grecians they can be sure other poor countries in the EU will follow suit. If they do take a tough line, then the upheaval will undoubted have an impact on the Euro currency.

A Greek default would also be another kick in the greedy teeth of the big financial institutions who own a good part of the massive €300 billion debt – you see there are positives in every situation if you look hard enough.

So it looks like emergency meetings and frantic discussions all over the place in Europe.

Despite the fact that Dubya is long gone from the political scene, I don’t think we’ve heard the last about the Grecians just yet.

By the way, Happy Independence Day to all my American visitors, bet you’re glad you’re not part of Europe these days.

Happy 4th July USA

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