Other Stories of the Week

As usual too busy at work to blog, but thought I’d do a catch up…..

Woman in a coma told to get a job
There have been numerous accusations of serious errors within the governments, so-called “welfare reforms”…or kicking disabled people out of wheelchairs as others see it. Many of those who’ve been assessed by the Tories contract company such as ATOS had their benefits stopped, then had them reinstated on appeal. Leading to the accusation that ATOS was more interested in meeting targets and cashing in, than doing the job properly.

Indeed realising they’ve become a lightening rod for public anger, Atos are trying desperately to back out of their contracts, even threatening to simply walk away from them.

Now to cap it all we have a story suggesting that a woman in a coma was sent a letter by the DWP threatening to cut off her benefits if she didn’t go out and get a job (one has to wonder if it stands for Work and Pensions or “whipping” and “poor” :no:). It is all too common of the Dickensian attitude the Tories are bringing to the DWP, where they seem to automatically assume that everyone on benefits is a scrounger, even though the statistics suggest that only a tiny minority are actually engaged in benefits fraud.

The ignorance defence
Rebekah “sideshow” Brooks has tried to defend herself in the phone hacking trial by preposterously claiming that she didn’t realise that hacking people’s phones was illegal. Of course she merely serves to illustrate the moral vacuum under which the Murdoch media operates under.

The Fracking truth
Readers may well recall my previous article detailing the woes of fracking in Romania. Now many of you would have probably said, oh isn’t that terrible, but that’s some rural Eastern European backwater, why this sort of thing could never happen in a Western Country. Couldn’t it?

Well look no further that the Fracking boom in the North Eastern USA for proof. Here we hear tales of worker exploitation, where many who flocked to the jobs on offer, like some modern day Grapes of Wrath. Now they have to work long tiring shifts for limited pay, often living in their cars or in trailer parks without access to running water. Indeed running water is now so scarce local businesses in the area have to lock their toilets to stop them being turned into impromptu shower cubicles by oil workers!

Those lucky enough to secure a roof over their heads have seen rents sky rocket. A beat up motel room in Hicksville North Dakota will now set you back more per month than an apartment on Manhattan. And given the nature of fracking, whereby wells tend to have a very short active life span, there is a constant need for such operations to move, uprooting workers and all the associated hardware and leaving an awful mess in their wake.

And if a shale gas well blows up in your back yard, what can you expect from Chevron? A free pizza! So okay, not quite as bad as Romania! :**:

In short the Shale oil and gas fields of the US are starting to resemble something of the wild west. Now while some Americans, who have learnt their history via Hollywood movies, have various romantic notions about the cowboy era, in truth it was an era when crime, violence, prostitution and debauchery were rampant (and indeed there has been a jump in crime in some areas where fracking is taking place). An era where the only real winners from oil booms of the past were the “robber baron” billionaires (such as Rockerfeller) of the time who’d make the Koch Brothers look like Gandhi.
And we have to ask aloud the question, do we really want to see this played out in the UK?

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing…if you live in a tax haven!
An interest set of demographics about tax for high earners from the beeb. They show how high the actual take home pay is for high earners, and thus inversely how much the wealthy are actually paying in tax. So surprisingly the wealthy of France actually take home slightly more than the wealthy in the UK (despite all the huffing and puffing from Hollande… I was referring to his tax policy btw with my “huffing and puffing” statement, not the other stuff! ;D). And a millionaire in Germany actually takes home more of his money than his colleague in the US, despite Germany’s higher rates of taxation.

So if you fall for the Tories propaganda, that many billionaires are in the UK purely due to the country’s low taxes and they’ll leave if they go up to the sort of rates in Germany or France, you’d have to wonder why are so many of the world’s wealthy really hanging around in London?

I mean if saving a bit on tax was the plan, the take home pay of a Russian is vastly higher (about twice the amount) as British based businessmen and a Saudi pockets virtually all of his earnings, paying almost nothing in tax. Tax in some of parts of the world is for “the little people” to pay, not the wealthy.

Well perhaps the real reason why billionaires are here is because they view the West as a safe haven. In Russia millionaires need armed body guards for them and their family 24/7 given the very real risk of being killed and robbed or kidnapped. And the fact the local cops will be of little help, indeed they’ll likely be getting kickbacks from the criminals! And should one fall out of favour with the regime in many non-Western states, you can be all but assured of losing everything and spending the rest of your life in prison on trumped up charges.

Hence the reason for the presence of so many billionaires in New York and London is I would argue nothing to do with tax, we could double the top rate of tax and they’d scarcely notice. No, its because want a bolt hole somewhere in case things go pear shaped back home and they need to flee somewhere quickly. And thanks to the UK’s multiculturalism and EU membership (both of which the Tories are seeking to end) it makes the UK a good place to do business.

What Katy didn’t do
Not that I’m much of fan of the music “talents” of Katy Perry, but it would seem that some wannabe jihad’s have decided to take offence at her latest video. Don’t ask me to explain why, I don’t speak crazy Jihadi :crazy:. And given that they’ve similarly taken offence against such things as Teddy Bears or cartoons, I’m at a loss as to what they’ve taken offence too. But one has to assume it’s more a case they aren’t happy about Western pop culture. Of course not wanting to look like a bunch of out of touch loons, offended by the sight of a woman’s body and this thing called “rock and roll”, they’ve instead invented some other excuse to find it offensive.

Consider the controversial “cartoons of Mohammed”. When the issue was raised in the Muslim world by Danish Islamists, they weren’t initially considered particularly offensive…until someone decided to place an image of a Frenchman dressed as a pig into the portfolio (nothing to do with the matter and not part of the original Danish magazine cartoons). Similarly South Park had included a representation of Mohammed years earlier (in the super friends episode) with barely a whimper from anyone. However blink and a few years later and not showing Mohammed (dressed as a bear) was considered too much for American TV.

In short, when exactly did we have the referendum that said that Islamists have a right of censorship over Western media? If Islamists find Western culture offensive, here’s a thought, don’t watch TV, don’t use the internet and move to a country like Saudi Arabia where you will never have to worry about being offended by western culture, gaining all the benefits and freedoms Saudi’s enjoy.

Sun life and Scotland
The insurance company Standard life have threatened to move out of Scotland if the country votes for independence…so no more of those annoying ads with Parkinson then (can they move out right away by any chance!). However, before the No campaign could exploit this, up pops the head of British Airways Willy Walsh who gives a very Irish sur be grand and be garra and down with that sort of thing, a sure it’d be grant by us if Scotland leaves :))

Now while I won’t be surprised if there are many companies would will relocate at least some staff south if Scotland does vote for independence. It’s a bit ironic the Tories trying to make political capital out of this given that some are practically queuing around the block to point out the catastrophic consequences to the UK economy if the Tories/UKIP has its way and pulls out of the EU.

Bitcoin bankruptcies
Now while I’m open to the ideas of alternatives to the current monetary system, bitcoin continues to show all that’s wrong with the alternatives. The largest Bitcoin exchange in the world, MtGox went bankrupt over the week. This occurred with howls of protest from those who claim the company has cost them millions, largely due to mismanagement and errors in the Bitcoin security that allowed coins to be stolen (something that isn’t easy to trace).

I think we can learn a lot about the issues here from the comments at the base of this Robert Peston article on the topic of Bitcoin. Clearly there are quite a number of people whose sole reason for backing Bitcoin is driven by ideology rather than sound business acumen. However they fail to consider that even if digital currencies take off, there’s no guarantee that the one that succeeds will be Bitcoin. Consider that the world’s first video game console maker was Atari, anyone bought one of their products recently?

Secondly, while I can see a virtual currency being used as a means for paying for stuff in the future, I don’t see one ever acting as a reserve currency (i.e. the sort of currency you keep you’re savings in). Even if you buy into the Libertarian propaganda that the Fiat currencies such as the Dollar, Euro and Pound are all going to hell in a hand basket, the fact is that these currencies have been around for decades and not collapsed, yet Bitcoin’s barely a few years old and we’re already hearing stories of people who’ve lost their life savings as a result of its shortcomings.

And again, if indeed Bitcoin falls by the way side, and given that anyone can theoretically set up their own digital currency, it is never going to be sensible for anyone to invest a large proportion of their wealth in such a currency, as there’s no guarantee it will still be around long term.

In short there are things a future virtual currency can do and there things it can’t and won’t be used for. In much the same way that libertarians often advocate the gold standard, despite actually not understanding the real reasons why it was abandoned and why most central banks are dead set against returning to it, libertarians also fail to understand why their delusions towards how a currency should function aren’t ever going to work.


One thought on “Other Stories of the Week

  1. did you ever want to be a jounalist or news reader ? You seem to like to doing news roundups.

    I’d like to see Salmond Prime Minister in An Independent Scotland and Farage PM in a chaotic England or restUk.


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