Last week several of the ‘BIG’ banks – you remember, the ones that are too big to let go bust – were fined in the region of $5.7 billion for illegal manipulation of the currency markets.
The usual suspects were included, J P Morgan, Citibank, Barclays and RBS all pleading guilty – but only after they were sure what the medicine they would be getting would be.
It’s a huge amount of money, there’s no denying that. And losing it will make the banksters hurt a bit. But only a bit.
And that’s the problem.
Yet again the United States government has failed to bring these criminals to justice after more of their deliberate fraud and theft.
In other words, they let them get away with it AGAIN!
Now, if I walk into a branch of, for example, Citibank and try to steal the money that their customers have deposited with them for safe-keeping, I would be videoed, photographed, and if I was lucky enough to get out of the premises, pursued by the police and even the FBI for as long as it took to capture me.
And I couldn’t have any complaints because that’s the way it should be. Thieves should be sought out, captured and after due process thrown into jail.
However, if I am a bankster, have good government contacts, and ply money and favors to those in government, then I am treated very differently.
I can embark on insider trading (which is essentially what the banksters were doing when they were illegally manipulating the currency markets), I can sell loans to people that clearly can’t afford them, then take their houses away or sell on their debt wrapped up in a ‘AAA’ bundle to my richer customers, and after all that steal even more of the money my customers have entrusted to me by awarding myself and my collaborators big bonuses that none of us have earned or are entitled to.
In this scenario am I pursued by the police and FBI?
Am I thrown in jail to be the bitch of Skull-cracker Jones or Scarface Smith?
Will I have to personally pay back the money I stole?
So what will happen to me if I am a bankster?
At worst I will get a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again. Even though recent history has proved that this is no deterrent and I will do it again at the first opportunity I get.
And, of course, I don’t have to personally pay the government’s fine no matter how big it may be. Instead my company has to cough up on my behalf.
Not that the company is much bothered either because when it runs out of money it goes back to the government which hands it back at least the value of the fine and usually much, much more.
One thing that America and Americans have always been noted for is their generosity to the less fortunate. Billions of dollars have been donated over the years to one good cause or another. It is a record to be proud of.
Now, however, it seems that the idiot bureaucrats are going to take even that away.
Now it is apparently a crime to feed the homeless.
To emphasize the point, 90 year old Arnold Abbot, who has been preparing and distributing food to the homeless in Ft Lauderdale, Florida for more than two decades, is now deemed to be committing an illegal act and has been arrested for his charitable work.
It’s all because some morons, in government jobs, paid for by the taxpaying public, and who have never themselves been homeless, decided that feeding the poor is no longer to be tolerated.
Abbott and two South Florida ministers, pastors Dwayne Black and Mark Sims, have been arrested as they served up food. They were charged with breaking an ordinance restricting public feeding of the homeless. Each faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Fort Lauderdale is the latest U.S. city to pass restrictions on feeding homeless people in public places. In Orlando, a similar ordinance requires groups to get a permit to feed 25 or more people in parks in a downtown district.
Advocates for the homeless say that the cities are fighting to control increasing homeless populations, but simply passing ordinances does not solve the problem, it just pushes it into someone else’s back yard.
It all smacks very much of bureaucratic stupidity. Leave the disease unchecked and concentrate on legislating for the symptoms.
If the government is willing to waste time and money making criminals out of those who wish to feed the homeless, why can it not use its resources to try to grips with the root causes of that homelessness and do something about it.
The US is $18 trillion in debt, and counting, but if government money can be found to give to foreign countries to alleviate hardship, why can money not be found to alleviate the same hardship in the homeland?
I’ve never been homeless and I don’t want to know what it’s like. But a lot of ordinary people hit hard times and lost their homes thanks to the theft and fraud perpetrated by the banksters whose greed created the property crash.
Many billions of dollars were given to these crooks by the government to bail them out, money that was then gambled away or stuck in the banksters own pockets in the form of ‘bonuses’ they did not earn nor deserve.
Thankfully ordinary citizens are coming to the aid of Arnold Abbot. He has received public statements of support and even some financial contributions this Christmas past to assist with his helping the homeless.
I doubt, however, if the bureaucrats are finished with him, after all, who better for cowards like them to pick on than a 90 year old man?
I wonder who is right and who is wrong? Let’s check the real rule book…
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
If you think you are a criminal mastermind it is usually a sure sign that you aren’t one. But stupid people are usually full of self-delusions – because of their stupidity.
And if you are a stupid thief, in your head you might have figured out that when you steal, for example, a TV from someone, the person most likely to need a replacement TV will be the person you stole it from.
Therefore, in stupid logic, what more cunning plan could you have than to break into a house, steal a lot of stuff and then sell it back to the victim of your crime. After all, you just know they need it.
In normal, sensible logic, however, the scenario is somewhat different. Because anyone sensible will know right from the start that the person you stole the goods from will immediately recognize their own possessions and more than likely call the police.
Which is exactly what happened in the case of three teenage morons who snatched a video-game system and then tried to sell it back to their victim.
It happened in Denver and, according to the police, a woman returned home to discover her home had been burglarized, with the thieves apparently gaining entry through a window.
Among the items missing were a portable gaming system and a jacket.
The woman immediately called the cops.
But the robbery had unnerved her somewhat, so rather than waiting at her place, she arranged for officers to meet her in the parking lot of a nearby restaurant.
While waiting there, three teenage males sauntered up to her and asked her if she wanted to buy – you’re probably way ahead of me – a portable gaming system, one that bore a remarkable resemblance to the one that had just been stolen from her place.
If that were not bad enough, one of the trio of teenage morons was wearing a jacket that looked a lot like hers.
As luck would have it, an off-duty cop was at a gas station next to the restaurant. He approached the trio of criminal masterminds and called for backup. Within moments they were placed into custody on suspicion of burglary.
You would hope that it would be a lesson to them but I think it’s safe to surmise that they are too stupid to learn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today started off as just another quiet Sunday. I was going to write a short sermon, but decided against it since you’d already had one of those from me on Wednesday.
Then I got a life changing opportunity from the most unlikely of sources. On offer was a cool $5 million!
How good is that!!
I just had to tell you about it.
The opportunity came from my good friend General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, one of the generals who have defected from the Syrian Army.
It turns out that the office of General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal monitors and controls the affairs of sensitive institutions in Syria that takes to do with foreign contract payments.
It also turns out that General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal thinks that I am a respected and honest person suitable for handling this project/transaction with sincerity, trust and confidentiality. Perhaps he had read some of my posts about the folly of getting involved in the Syrian conflict.
Luckily – for him – before he defected, the General was able to get his hands on all the paperwork necessary to retrieve unclaimed deposits and over invoiced sums to do with foreign contracts.
And luckily – for me – he can arrange it so that it appears that all this unclaimed money is owed to me. All I have to do is agree to give him 70 percent of the proceeds, and for my trouble I can keep 25 percent, with the remainder going on expenses.
That’s a cool 25 percent of $20 million for me!
Have I ever been this lucky?
Well, no I haven’t. Never. Not once. And sadly I’m not lucky this time either.
You see I know that the General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal who emailed me isn’t the real one, this one only exists in the mind of a Nigerian crook.
I also know that this is the latest variation of the infamous Nigerian 419 scam, designed to con greedy and gullible people out of money, not give them the opportunity to make money.
And I know that if I was foolish enough to reply to General Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal all that would happen is that eventually the fictitious money transfer would run into problems that would either require me to pay some cash upfront to clear the way for the transfer (known as Advance Fee Fraud) or hand over bank account or other personal details that would allow these criminals to try to steal my money.
So will I be taking advantage of this great life-changing opportunity?
The only reason I am mentioning this at all is to highlight the scam for those who maybe have not yet fallen victim to it, and as a warning to ignore all such “opportunities”. And there are a lot of them.
So why do scams like these keep happening?
Sadly the answer is, because a lot of the time they work, and they continue to work because people are so bloody stupid!
It has been estimated that there are a quarter of a million active scammers and that they cause $1.5 billion in losses each year, an average of $20,000 per victim. Some of the victims are just greedy idiots who think they are on to an illegal windfall, but others (also idiots) think they are contributing to things like charities and orphanages. On occasion some of these hapless victims have suffered more than financial losses, having been beaten, tortured, and even murdered.
There are two rules in life that you should apply to everything.
Rule # 1, believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see, and
Rule # 2, if it sounds too good to be true then it usually is.
No matter how great the temptation always try to remember these.