Category Archives: Economics

Don’t panic

I mean it. My own life has taught me that the biggest killer out there is panic. Flailing or running around and shouting will not help. So don’t do it. Trust me on this. A cool head will get you through more scrapes than being a drama queen and expecting other people to take up the slack. Indeed I have found my own personal policy of walking softly and taking a step back when faced with the unfamiliar and occasionally dangerous has often gotten me out of a tight corner.

In this vein we’re having to think ahead with regard to Elderly Friend. Her rapid slide into dementia has both us and the care home thinking that she’s not long for this world. She may even die while we’re in London. So. Funeral home fees and arrangements have to be checked, funds set aside for end of life care, nursing etc. All that stuff you get the joy of as power of attorney. However, this is the job we signed up for and it has to be done. The grunt work of signing off on those details like funeral services and ensuring the right ashes go in the right urn. Just in case.

However, a little foresight has often proven useful too because it’s of limited use being cooler than liquid Nitrogen if the ground is literally crumbling under your feet. Having a fallback option, just in case, isn’t needed that often, but I like them as they are very reassuring. Doesn’t have to be much, just simple stuff. For example, on road trips, I carry enough first aid stuff to be able to suture moderate wounds and stop bleeds whilst being able to provide some form of pain relief or sluice out a dust afflicted eyeball or contaminated cut. My credit cards are kept separately in case I get my wallet nicked. We always have double travel insurance and I never enter a place unless I already know where the best exit is. Mrs S often jocularly chides what she calls my ‘paranoia’, but despite the odd minor faux pas it’s been a long, long time since I was caught properly left footed.

We’ve gotten lost in the wilds of Ontario with dwindling fuel, but not unrecoverably so. We’ve lost money on investments, I lost five thousand dollars on three particular stocks last year, but more than made it back on others and spent a meagre two fifty on advice of how to set the loss against tax. Then made all my money back and then some on the same stocks by June this year. We try to invest across a wide spread, never put all our fiscal eggs in one basket and try not to panic if there’s a short term drop in the market like over the New Year 2018-9.

Because having at least one alternative is way better than being caught with your financial unmentionables around yer ankles. So it is with a WTO or ‘No deal’ Brexit. Now being a suspicious sort when it comes to news media, reading all the “Noooo! We’re all going to DIE!!” nonsense being peddled even in the FT. I really am thinking of cancelling my subscription. Fortunately I have my own sources. So I did a little digging.

Here’s what I found; imports will not grind to a halt. There are structures already in place to allow imports without delays at all major UK ports. Same for exporters. If you don’t already know, then you haven’t been listening. The tax authorities have been ready for a no deal scenario for over two years. I got that via Pinsent Mason (Major UK law firm who deal in international law by the way). Also from the guy who has just transferred out from being in charge of the port of Dover says they’re ready for ‘No deal’. HMRC have set up 190+ ‘pop up’ customs posts, in addition to the normal ports facilities who deal with clearing import and exports. The only problems will be from EU customs, so you’re more likely to run out of Cheddar at Calais than Brie and Avocados in Birmingham. Besides, where in the EU grows Avocado’s for heaven’s sake? Oh yes, France and Spain. The Netherlands are a major distribution hub and exporter, but don’t actually grow any. The major growers range from Israel to Mexico, New Zealand to Kenya, then there’s Colombia, Morocco, South Africa and the USA. Can’t get your Dutch Avocado? Fine, there are plenty more sources out there with produce to sell. Cut out the EU middle man. Ship direct from the growers, and don’t think there aren’t deals already being cut by the buyers for Messrs Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Sainsbury.

Even if the EU embargoes all imports to and from the UK, remember this; they need the UK markets more than the UK needs the EU. Never mind not getting a GBP39 billion payday, if they tried cutting UK Plc off without a cent they’d bankrupt a large proportion of their own internal economy. According to a financial report I read 12th September 2019, the European Central Bank is going to cut interest rates and start printing money, a failed policy by the way, which has already hit the Euro. Internally, they are already in trouble.

For expat UK pensioners in European countries (No names, no pack drill) this drop in the Euro means their UK pension will be worth more as the pound sterling will buy more. Expats I know they have been hit badly because of all the Remainer panicmongering driving the value of sterling down at least twelve percent lower than it should be. It would be nice to see them better off.

Me, I don’t put my faith in state pensions, mainly because I like to know where my money is and what it’s up to. As well as the payout of any given state pension being less than likely to support me in the style to which I wish to become accustomed in my forthcoming frail dotage. Also because I don’t trust politicians, any of them, not to plunder public coffers for their own short term gain. They can buy votes with someone else’s dime.

Oh yes, and I’ve finally bowed to Mrs S over buying a new cell phone so she can keep tabs on me, investing in a dual sim Samsung A20 with case and armoured glass.

Looking ever more forward to London, when I will be trying to console those of the Remain faction I encounter by speaking soothingly and gently holding their hands to reassure them.

Why specifically hold their hands? Just to make sure none of the nasty little sods manage to take a swing at me. Like I said, foresight.

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Lucky for me….

…I never signed up for one of those fancy tax shelter loan remuneration schemes when I was a contractor. Turns out that HMRC in the UK has begun a draconian enforcement of a law passed in 2017 which allows them to charge for taxes they say are owed as far back as twenty years ago. Even if the arrangements were considered legal up until 2017. The UK tax grubbers want their pound of flesh and they want it now. According to the FT HMRC even sent out letters telling fifty thousand people that they should go into debt to pay the back taxes (a.k.a. ‘The loan charge’) being demanded.

Although I’m not affected, this news has made me very angry. Chasing debts for a legal exemption up to twenty years old? During a time when these schemes were not legally proscribed? Who keeps tax records for twenty years outside of the corporate sphere? Judas Fucking Priest! The backdated legislation behind this is heartless, dishonest and unnecessarily draconian. Not to mention that those affected are Doctors, Nurses, IT Contractors and even Social Workers. Back dated and estimated tax bills of up to a hundred thousand pounds have been sent out to the affected. Bills they have to pay or go to jail for tax evasion. Even if they weren’t evading tax at the time, merely using a legal loophole. If found guilty of tax evasion, or bankruptcy, all these people will be, in the case of Doctors, Nurses and Social Workers, disbarred from their professions and forced to take jobs far below their competence to make even a modest living.

One suicide has been recorded so far. There will be more as people are asset stripped, their houses sold to pay the bills and pension funds drained. Thus creating yet more poor people who need to subsist off the public purse.

Let me explain my anger; back in the day when I was an independent contractor I paid my taxes (Income and corporation thank you). Employers and employees NI contributions too. Until IR35 came into force and I reluctantly rolled up what had been a very enjoyable way of life before going back to being a wage slave. Which I hated. Because there’s nothing quite like running your own life to your own timetable. You may end up working fifty to sixty plus hour weeks, but at least you know who you are working for. All your profits go to you. And I’ll tell you this, I loved being my own boss, even if it meant working four extra hours at the end of each week to see my finances and tax affairs were in apple pie order.

When you work for yourself there’s a sense of freedom you can’t get anywhere else, even when you’re working twice as hard as you would if you were an ordinary employee. The lack of office politics was also refreshing. There’s a pride in being an independent too. You might have had to work a crap contract occasionally, but at the end of the day it was a lot easier to quit and find new work than if you just had a job as a full time wage slave. Losing that feeling was the worst. HR had no hold over my life outside of what I did for a company. For example, they couldn’t fire me for having a wrong opinion or looking the wrong way at someone outside of work. Or even being falsely accused of doing so. Or the hundred other excuses HR can screw with your life outside of work. In short, I loved, and still do love being my own boss. Even when times are hard there’s nothing quite like it. And there are always hard times to endure. Self employed or not.

The only real problem I had with being my own boss was the petty jealousy of the employed. The whiny crab-bucket bitches who saw what you got paid but never understood that you often paid more tax than they did. You organised your own taxes, paid accountants and book-keepers, paid extra health and professional liability insurance, the rent on office space and all the hundreds of details the self employed individual or company director deals (Or employs people to deal) with as a matter of routine.

Despite this, some wage slaves are unhappy at not being free and hate the merest thought of anyone else being happy or even moderately prosperous. I see these small minded curtain-twitchers, who decry any form of legal tax avoidance as ‘tax dodging’ or ‘not paying your fair share’, as those who would cheer at an execution without realising that their feet are also on the steps of the scaffold. None of us knows when it is our time to be strung up by the tax man, we can only take precautions, knowing that our date with the tax inspector is only a twist of fate away. There will be no sympathy, because in the tax authorities eyes, none are virtuous. Now HMRC can go back over your affairs for the last twenty years? Clucking bell. This is a truly dangerous precedent.

The main issue is that UK tax law is now so complicated, with so many exemptions and even contradictions that it is hard, even for accountants and other financial professionals, to know what is ‘legal’ and what is not.

New Labour (Blair & Brown) started this tax snatching trend and Blue Labour (Cameron & May) continued it, slicing the economic pie ever smaller instead of encouraging the production of more for everyone. All I can offer is my heartfelt sympathy to their victims. There by the grace of God go we all.

Localised cooling

We’ve had yet another bout of snow last night. Nothing much, it just looks worse than it is. A couple more inches. Still, it’s been rather chilly of late, with the outside thermometer dipping well below zero Celsius most days. Not double digit low, but getting there. But hey, it’s Winter. Nothing really out of the ordinary for this time of year. Maybe a tad chillier, but then we haven’t been getting the sixty below recently experienced in Minneapolis and the Midwest USA. I think we may have hit minus ten Celsius last night if you factor in the wind chill from a Pacific storm that plonked itself unceremoniously on the region just after midnight.

Have just had the mixed pleasure of spending five figures of my own money on stocks and shares. An act which brings the shared assets of Mrs S and I closer to the magical seven figure mark. Which is quite good. We’ve effectively doubled the amount we both started with, which is nice. Far better than property and far less risky. To me, buildings are just non-realisable assets, or as I like to call them ‘dead money’. I’ve been a landlord and quite frankly the only way you really make money is capital gain over a ten year term (Don’t even think about the repair and maintenance costs). We’re not quite due a 1991 or 2008 event where property prices take a massive hit, leaving many with what is called ‘negative equity’ for five or more years, where the value of the property is less than the outstanding loan to pay for it. Our cousins down south refer to this financial state as ‘underwater’. A state I am taking great pains never to be caught in. Others have, and they have my sympathy. It’s easy to be smug when you’re doing well, but I’ve lived too long and hard to remember that the only difference between me and a poorer person is paying careful attention to my finances, squirrelling my gains away and not going crazy when lady luck is (Very rarely) generous. Yes I’m dull, but better dull than destitute.

There’s an interesting story bubbling up about the Trudeau regime intervening in a court case (SNC Lavallin). See Conservative MP’s little video below. If what she says is true then the suckers of Liberal Party corruption are firmly wrapped around the pillars of power in Ottawa. Not only that but it already looks like all the lobbying and crony capitalism has paid off. The company in question is already off the hook. However, the Trudeau Government may have taken it’s place. They were seen tanking the backhander. Mind you, if they run true to form, the right judge will be appointed and the case against Trudeau et al will disappear. Such is Ottawa politics under the current administration.

Here’s the National Post take on the situation;

Fortunately none of the companies I have put money into have any links with SNC, so I’ll just invest in more popcorn futures. Well I would if the power didn’t keep going off. Fortunately we had the foresight to invest a few pennies on a camping gas stove so we can have a cup of tea when out in the middle of nowhere on road trips. Well this is Canada and we do have a lot of nowhere to be in the middle of. Having dug it out of the closet I christened said piece of kit this morning when the power was out for twelve hours. Reminder to self; must get a manual coffee grinder because Winter is not only coming, it’s right here and it will test the best of us. And I will not be deprived of my fresh ground coffee.

Otherwise, Bacon; check. Flour; check. Water; check. Coffee; Yep. Tea; plenty. Salt, spices, a freezer full of provisions and a few cans of baked beans, just in case. One should always have a few cans. Just in case the power goes off for more than three days, which if the gales come again, is more than likely.

Put not thy trust….

“Put not thy trust in Princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no hope.” Goes the old scripture verse (Psalms 146:3) or the words of The Earl of Strafford in 1641 when he heard King Charles 1st had signed his death warrant. Which is one of the odd pieces of wisdom scattered across that venerable tome. Hey, just because I’m an agnostic doesn’t mean I can’t cherry pick my references. Wisdom is wherever it is found and even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Even Noam Chomsky gets it right sometimes. Not often but sometimes.

A while ago, my financial advisor pressed me to put money into Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet, the Google parent company. I strenuously declined, describing them bluntly as ‘bubble stocks’. On reflection I think my pejorative was unfair. They’re more ‘Tsunami investments’. Which isn’t a bad analogy if you think about it. Such stocks arise and move very quickly and do a lot of damage when the wave breaks on the shore of reality. The trick is to stop surfing the crest just before it starts breaking. Buy low, sell high and cash out just before the market peaks. A worthwhile piece of investment advice is when everyone else is buying the answer is to look elsewhere. By the time the press get hold of a gold rush story it’s usually far too late to make real money on a buy-in. Unless you’re in the middle of a serious bull market.

Facebook broke last July and its value has been like a dead cat bouncing down the stairs ever since. Despite the latest scandal, Twitter is still at the beginning of this process so there’s still time to get out with minimal loss. Their market peaked in mid 2018. Indeed Google (Alphabet) share values are down about USD 200 since then. Peak value was slightly over the USD 1280 mark, now Google shares are bobbing around USD 1080. None of these three are worth the buy in. Facebook is heading the way of Myspace. Twitter will follow (Are following?) As will Google. There is a slow fragmentation of Internet related services as increasing numbers of people seek alternatives.

Expect Microsoft to follow next year as people increasingly look for alternatives to the utter abortion that is Windows 10. A well-marketed strain of Linux might just do it. The Microsoft product is rotten to the core. They’ve tried to turn what was a moderately useful but buggy operating system into a ‘service’ and come up with an appalling piece of crap. Full of bloatware I can’t get rid of.

Corbyn is a moron

Winnipeg today. Just passing through and trying not to break our suspension. Only a relatively short hop, which means that I have the opportunity to catch up on what is going on in the old country. At least in terms of politics. I’ve been amused at the antics of the current Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and having watched his performances on TV and elsewhere have come to the following considered conclusion; he’s a fucking moron.

Whilst his ability to hang on as Labour leader inspires, if not wonder, then at least a kind of awe, Jeremy Corbyn does not come across as all that bright. Certainly from a Historical and Economic standpoint. Nor do those who think he’s some kind of towering intellect. Particularly as he seems determined to crash and burn the entire UK Labour party. Especially as he’s probably going to try and ‘purge’ Labour of the ideologically impure by insisting on mandatory reselection. A process which will allow embedded party activists to get rid of troublesome backbenchers who can’t be trusted to vote the party line and instead, the bastards, defy the sainted St Jeremy by voting against it. Those class traitors who have even talked of walking away and forming a new political party. Christ on a unicycle and juggling! It’s like listening to one of those room temperature IQ’s that make up the Socialist Worker’s Party.

Unilateral disarmament? When did Britain last try that? Me, sir, me sir, I know! I know! The 1930’s. Allowing the military build ups that led to World War Two. Peace in our time? Like hell.

All of the hard left policies he’s proposing are left wing failures dug up from a political time capsule from the 1940’s 60’s and 70’s. Nationalisation for one. What happened there? British Rail was a joke and a very bad one. British Coal and British Steel died long and painful deaths, sinking without trace (Apart from the name, British Steel, which has been reborn as a private concern) Oh and British Telecom, previously part of the GPO? We used to joke that their technicians retired the moment they qualified. 90 Day waiting lists to get a new phone put in were the industry standard in the 60’s and 70’s. That’s right, ninety days. Almost three months. British Leyland, later Rover? National Freight Corporation? Every single nationalised industry; fail, dead, fail, fail, dead. Mortis portalis tintaculum every single one. At least until sold off, restructured and recapitalised to emerge blinking and stammering into viable commercial life. Agriculture wasn’t nationalised because even Socialists can remember what happened to the Ukraine in the 1930’s.

Ah, then there’s ‘Soak the rich’ (Actually ‘tax the rich until the pips squeak’-aimed at those who speculated in property) a Labour policy that lasted less than a week after being announced in 1976. In the USA it was tried back in 1935, reinforced in 1937 due to tax evasion, but quietly dropped when all the smart money simply vanished from the US economy and went off to play where it was more welcome. Some of which almost certainly financed the rise of Fascist regimes during that time as a counterbalance to Bolshevism.

What lefties like Corbyn don’t seem to be capable of understanding is this simple truth; money is not a thing, it’s a process, the means of exchange, the very gasoline for the many everyday economic engines that keep people fed and paid. Simply confiscating it and spending it on non-functional unproductive parts of society is like cutting the fuel line of said metaphorical engines or draining their tanks. As the Venezuelans are finding, eventually the economy stops running, splutters, dies and you get riots in the streets. Money must flow to power the working economy. That is its function. I’m no towering intellect and even I understand this simple principle.

As Corbyn doesn’t understand any of the above, there is only one possible conclusion; he must be a moron. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. I rest my case, M’lud. Take away the fool, gentlemen. Or go with him to the garbage can of political history.

Items of interest

Aside from the French elections, there are a number of issues bubbling under which as a small time currency trader I find of particular interest. These are as follows; the French Presidential election and how that will impact on Sterling and the Euro, also a mini trade war between the USA and Canada over a particular type (‘Ultrafiltered’ milk used in cheese making) of Dairy produce which the Trudeau government have implemented. Which is odd, because by doing so the Canadian Government are dictating that Canadian cheese makers cannot import and use a product which no-one in Canada makes.

For the curious this article may explain matters. However, it is worth noting that to get into the supply management chain to access Canadian markets, a license to produce is required. The cost of which varies from Province to Province, but effectively means that Canadian Dairy farmers have to pay the Government to produce Dairy products. Which effectively keeps small producers out of the marketplace. Farmers can keep cows, but unless a farmer has a permit, they can’t sell the milk or any product made from that milk (As well as needing a processors licence). So only the big guys or large co-ops really get to be players.

This trade conflict’s issues balance on a two edged sword of supply management (Canada) vs subsidies (USA). Although from my perspective I don’t need to know all the ins and outs, just the effect they are likely to trigger. Canada will lose this fight as the USA is already complaining about those north of the 49th who haven’t been paying their share of their NATO commitment. Which is another bone of contention.

Now which do I think is more important? For me the answer is a no-brainer. It’s the low level trade war over Dairy produce and collapse of the North American Free Trade Agreement these issues look like triggering. Which means taking a short position on the Canadian Dollar looks to me like a good idea. Not that I’m not going to go short on the Euro, but if the French popular vote goes the way of Macron and not Le Pen, then the profit I stand to make over the shrinkage of the Euro will be much less. Macron is very much the establishment candidate and unless put under extreme pressure (And perhaps not even then) won’t give the French a referendum on membership of the EU or do anything on French border control. Although I did say that about Cameron and BREXIT. However Macron is being backed by such august personages as Jeremy Corbyn which is probably the kiss of death on anyone’s electoral campaign.

Interesting times

My, my. We do live in interesting times. Niall Ferguson argues in his “Five ingredients for a populist backlash” talk about why we are where we are using history, from 1873 onwards;

While he doesn’t give any definitive answers, he does give a broad brushstroke picture of what will result. Which for small time investors and currency speculators like me are useful straws in the wind. I like Niall, he’s not afraid to admit when he gets it wrong, especially over BREXIT. Unlike so many others in academia.

What I’m hearing about is political and economic forces similar to those which resulted in ‘la Belle Epoque’. There will be a few hiccups along the way, but as the EU collapses because that organisation is correctly observed to be little better than a hollow bureaucratic shell to fund lavish lifestyles for European ‘elites’. I foresee a new, more localist optimism driving economic growth, and the fading of many bugaboos like the anti-human notions of man made climate change and similarly pointless divisiveness of identity politics. A new liberalism of less government, greater individualism and wealth awaits over the next decade or two for those who are willing to embrace this nascent trend. Those that do not face obscurity and the scratching pens of scholars trying to work out how ‘progressive’ politics got it so badly wrong. The ‘elites’ amongst them. Word is leaking out that they’re beginning to lose big, and like Soros and his ilk, are doubling down on political interventionism while billions leak out of their back pockets.

There’s a lot going on out in the big wide financial world with talk of Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French Presidency and possible ‘FREXIT’ vote. Not to mention the possible Italian ‘Uscitalia’ (Thanks Peter) I’ll also be keeping a close eye on the proposed Catalonia referendum vote scheduled for late 2017. As well as the Chinese doing a possible deal with the US over Alaskan oil. Which will spell yet more pain for the politically hobbled Alberta oil sands. Which are some of the reasons why I’ll be going short on the Euro and Canadian Dollar but long on the US Dollar and Sterling.

Not doomed then…

There’s a lot of doom and gloom being talked at the moment, and what Julie Birchill calls ‘poncing around on twitter’. Seriously, she’s in good fooling with this article (Thank you Bishop Hill). If you take all the pessimistic views from the bought and paid for lamestream and all the ‘Remainder’ twats panicking on twitter, then everything in the UK is going tits up in a massive way. Which back in realityville, just isn’t happening. The market has taken a hit, that much is true. Sterling is down over ten cents against the Canadian and US Dollars, but it was far lower when Harper was Canadian Prime Minister.

Yesterdays rate is about the same as back in September 2014, (around CAD$1.72). If you go back to my 2013 screenshot, the exchange rate was even lower.Currency screenshot November 2013 So it’s not the ‘lowest in 31 years’, far from it. As for ‘dollar parity’, that’s just a wild guess invented to scare the peons. As someone who needs to move money between countries a few times a year, I’m not panicking, far from it.

Actually I have a more positive view. I’m actually quite sanguine about the whole ‘out of EU’ business. Which my instincts tell me will be good for UK businesses and their trading partners after this short-term glitch, thus good for those who need a job, long term. The Bank of England has good liquidity and is solid as a bank can be. The UK economy overall isn’t in that bad a shape. The European banks and EU, I’m not so sure. With their track record of ‘losing’ 6 Billion unspecified Euros in 2013, to cite but one example, and not getting their finances signed off by the European Court of Auditors up to 2007. Since then the accounts have been rubber stamped but with some ‘observations of wastage’. No matter what the Euro apologists say, I’m less than confident about the EU’s ability to remain fiscally stable. No matter the gripes and veiled threats of raised tariffs, the EU has way more to lose from a divorce than the UK, and all the globalist bedwetters certainly don’t have a clue.

Now before Brexit became a probability, I was going to pull my money out of Sterling, but have decided to leave it where it is so it can breed with all those other lovely UK connected currency units and raise far more babies. Which will turn into more readies for Mrs S and I, and probably pay off the college funds for the next generation when they arrive (Although, please God, not just yet). And if handled right will provide for another generation after that.

As for Europe and travel. Our next big trip for 2017 has just entered the planning stages and we will be taking in the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Atlantic France, South of France, Italy and maybe further East. On a motorcycle. Specifically a 2017 Triumph Trophy SE 1215. We’re going to ship it over via Air Canada’s new motorcycle service and ride around some haunts old and new. The general overview is a week or two at each location, maybe more depending on whether we’ll be hitting the vineyards in a big way or just pootling around sightseeing. Mrs S and I are both dual nationality, so can use either passport to cross borders and thus get around some of the visa restrictions that might be put in place.

Languages? Our French is adequate for day to day conversation, my German and Italian pretty basic, but enough to get by on. When I say ‘pretty basic’ I mean being able to count to a hundred, order a beer or three, say ‘please’, ‘Good day’, ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m Canadian / English’, book a hotel room and ask people to speak more slowly. I’ve even picked up the odd word in Swahili from Eldest who is currently working in Africa and heading off to the fabled land of Oz later this year. Our legal eagle (Youngest) is coming over for Christmas, even if we end up paying her air fare, so we’re looking forward, not back.

Blame everyone

Well, we’re off.  As you read this we’ll have already passed through customs and be well on our way across the water into the US of A.  This is a timed post, written on Wednesday night. and I’ll report any misadventures and observations later, after a very large drink.

What I’d like to say is this; having seen the UK news over the last few days I just want to say I truly feel sorry for the poor buggers trying to earn a crust at Port Talbot Steel Plant, only to find their livelihoods are being snatched away.  The trouble is, when somewhere as big as Port Talbot goes tits up, everywhere else in the area suffers.  In fact, every trader involved in the supply area finds their cashflow developing a nasty stutter.  For some it will mean the breakup of everything they gave their lives to building.  Homes.  Families.  Social networks.  Through no fault of their own.

However, even if you’re unaffected, just remember this; if you are a UK voter and supported the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, especially the Greens or any of the pro-EU political parties in any of the last four general elections, you voted for the very carbon taxes that just cost all those Welsh steelworkers and quite a few service employees their jobs.  As they say in the valleys; Proud of it are you?

Part of my genetic heritage comes from those parts, so I do feel a little sympathy for the people who will probably have to cancel their 2017 Christmases .  All because of a lie.  A veritable crime of the century.  The one perpetrated from the highest levels of the United Nations, whose name is carbon taxation and whose stated cause is ‘Wealth redistribution’.  That old fraudster ‘Man Made Global Warming’.  Whose wealth do these corrupt bastards want to redistribute?  Yours.  Mine.  Everyone’s.  Right into the pockets of the politicians and their financial sponsors.

Now repeat after me; “Carbon taxation is economic suicide.”  Got that?  Now don’t forget it.  Don’t vote for anyone who will support it.  Your job may depend upon it.

/rant

Comment of the day

“The more you help some people, the more they need to be helped.” These words drifted across the breakfast table, making me blink. Now there’s an intriguing thought was my unconscious response. Mrs S had been working online, talking about one of her clients. One of the needy ones. One of several she has to deal with in her day to day. Members of ‘the clueless’ who, no matter how many times they are shown, assisted, mailed the instructions and generally babied along, keep on asking the same questions about the same old subjects. It’s almost like their ability to remember has atrophied to the point of nothingness.

I remember thinking; ‘I must pass that one on to the Axiom testers down at the Bill Sticker Institute for word juggling and infinitive splitting.’ So I did.

One of our helpful customer service IgorsUpdate: The Axiom testers have come back with Proven. There are a lot of people in the world who fit this precise and pithy description. The lads down at the lab (See left) looked very pleased with themselves when they delivered this particular verdict. Well, I think they did. They’re mostly Igors, so it’s very hard to tell.

The good news is that these hapless members of the zombie apocalypse will probably be the first to starve to death if everything does go pear shaped. Not that it will of course. These are precisely the people that politicians buy the votes of with their endless promises of jam tomorrow and scare stories about the man-made (of course) heat death of the Universe. George Bernard Shaw called them ‘The undeserving poor‘. The rest of us, who can’t be bought or fooled so cheaply, will no doubt be the cash cows wrung out to dry so the pollies can keep their jobs.

Heavy sigh.

Reasons to like Uber

Taxis in the mating seasonThere’s a lot of fuss and palaver about the Uber SmartPhone Ap that lets people hail a private car with a willing driver in place of Taxi services. They have, like taxi companies, set rates, insurance, and even legal cover. What they don’t have are the local authority licences.

Over the past month or two I’ve sat in the back of enough taxis and listened to the Cab Driver’s grievances about the extra competition, lack of competence, risk factors and cost to get a feel for the nature of the dispute. I’ve also had enough grief from licensed Taxi drivers (Especially the Parisian ones) to make me think they are often no better than the Uber guys, and possibly much, much, worse.

So Parisian cab drivers are rioting and beating up anyone they suspect of being an Uber driver? Right. And this is going to aid their cause how? Will the Parisian authorities cave in and enforce their ban on Uber? My question is; how can that ban be enforced without huge investment in manpower and technology by the licensing authority? As for fines, Uber has been known to just pony up and pay their drivers fines and still they make money.

Local authorities don’t like Uber because there’s a nice little earner regulating and taxing the local cab companies and their drivers. Because Uber falls outside their licensing jurisdiction, all that easy money evaporates from their coffers. The cab drivers don’t like them because they cream off fares that the ‘normal’ cab companies think they should be doing. As for honesty; a mate of mine has been both a fully licensed Hansom Cab operator and Private Hire licensed driver in the UK, and we’ve had many interesting little chats about Taxis, and the tricks some drivers use to fleece the unwitting.

Anyway, here’s some of my personal reasons for favouring Uber over traditional taxi services;

First; Uber drivers can’t charge extortionate rates because you know up front what the price is going to be like. Not like at many places where some drivers wait inside the terminal at train stations and airports to fleece arriving tourists. One driver I came across at Gare Du Nord, Paris, was demanding 70 Euros for what turned out to be a twenty five Euro fare. Needless to say, I gave him the brush off. Uber drivers have a precalculated fare you get to see on your phone before they arrive at the pickup point, unlike some cab drivers, who set their meters running even before they even get to you.
Second; Uber cabs all take credit cards. In fact you can’t pay in cash. Which is useful if you have run out of notes late at night and don’t have to beg or search your pockets for loose change. I got stuck at the Hospital on the night Mrs S broke her arm, and had three licensed cabs on a taxi rank refuse my fare because taking a credit card for a thirty Euro fare “Wasn’t worth their while.” Fortunately the Paris Metro ticket machine accepted a battered two Euro coin I found in the gutter so I actually got back to my bed that night.
Third; You can pick what sort of service you get beforehand. A high end ‘Black cab’, affiliated Taxi service or even an SUV. Which you often can’t with ‘Normal’ cabs and private hire. You get what is sent and pay the meter rate.
Fourth; There’s no hanging around in the street trying to hail a cab. You know when your ride is coming, and when it’s due to arrive. Just be at the pickup point and it all seems to work fine.
Fifth; Getting a receipt is automatic because it goes straight onto your credit card and you can generate one to be printed out later. If you forget to ask for that receipt for expenses, it’s no big deal.

The downside? You need a data enabled SmartPhone where there’s a good signal. If you’re a dinosaur like me, who has a wi-fi enabled tablet but only an old ‘Dumb’ phone, you’ll need that phone with you to receive Ubers SMS messages. Which can be a bit of a fiddle. Then their prices can go up if the service is busy (Surge pricing), or it’s a holiday like Christmas or New Years Eve, but the standard Taxis will have gone to Tariff 2 (Evenings after 11pm in the UK) or 3 (Evening + Public Holiday) by that time anyway. As for trustworthiness, well, that varies from driver to driver. Some would say Ubers rating system (Which ‘traditional’ cab companies don’t have) keeps their drivers up to snuff anyway.

According to my friend it’s sometimes a tough life being a cab driver, what with the constant squeeze on rates, weather, erratic cashflow, regulations, late night drunks and some of the dodgier clientelle, but when the money is good, it’s not that bad. However, he said with an I’m-glad-I-don’t-do-it-any-more grin, maybe the old style taxi system is massively under competitive and needs kicking to the kerb.

Canada recognises Bitcoin

Bitcoin CanadaJust caught this off The Register. Bitcoin just got the endorsement of regulation in Canada. My, my. On the same footing as the Dollar no less. A little bit of a two edged sword this, as by putting Bitcoin on the official list of currencies, the various exchanges will have to register and comply with the financial regulations up north of the 49th parallel or get out of Canuckland. However, the upside is that by recognising Bitcoin, it gives the controversial crypto-currency a veneer of respectability, and encourage wider trading and convertibility. Which in a wider sense can be considered a good thing. Even if the main intent is to allow the taxman to get a piece of the action.

First the Enbridge pipeline gets approved, now this. Canada’s economic future is looking brighter all the time.

On politics and banking

The Politics of BankingI’m currently a very happy bunny and enjoying the relief that my new knee strap has brought. No crunching noises in my creaky old knee joint when I try to move quickly, or lift heavy objects. No detectable pain and I can now walk miles without a single twinge. Why aren’t these things compulsory for old knee injuries like mine? They’re worth all the painkillers and surgery in the world. None of the surgeries I’ve had have done anything to alleviate the discomfort since I first popped my knee playing Rugby. This fabric and gel pad thing has relieved all my symptoms inside forty eight hours. Although I’m taking it easy, just in case I screw up again.

Whilst enjoying this surcease, I visited Theo Sparks blog and saw the above. So I nicked it. Says a hell of a lot about the West’s current regime of casino banking. I think the world and his wife are aware that the current structure is unhealthily unbalanced, allowing those who control the flow of numbers to confiscate at will. Especially now the UK HMRC has the power to asset strip at will anyone it even suspects of not coughing up what the tax man says is a ‘fair’ share. Fair for whom? One might ask. In the US the tax man currently even ‘audits’ people for having the ‘wrong’ political views. Whoosh! Where did all those emails go and how many Server hard drives did they have to trash?

Both of which make me wonder about how open to abuse and corrupt the West’s financial system now is. The Russians are looking for a way out and the Chinese basically own all the USA’s markers. Even the fiscally cautious Mrs S has been asking me about Bitcoin and there’s even a Bitcoin ATM Downtown on Government Street. I’m tempted to try Bitcoin out on a small scale myself. Stick a few on a SDHC flash card (Not a USB stick DVD or CD – lifespan issues) in a shielded safe and Robert is one’s Father’s Brother n’est que-pas?. Unless someone crashes the entire Internet, in which case the West’s financial pooch is so screwed it’ll have had puppies.

Bitcoin as an alternative to the current mess of fiat currencies makes sense to a certain extent, but how vulnerable is it to external interventions? There was the market glitch back in December 2013. What happens if the US Government were to declare by presidential decree that Bitcoins were banned? Probably the same result. There was a big drop, a massive rebound, and Bitcoins that were trading around 4-580USD are now valued around 6-690USD (June 2014). Which left a lot of economic prophets of doom with serious egg on their faces.

That thought leads me to wonder about some of the recent political upheavals of the last fifty years. The Anti-Apartheid movement wasn’t making much headway until the Afrikaaners introduced the Krugerrand as legal tender. Then the politicians really got involved. At the time of the second Gulf War, it was rumoured that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was contemplating going back onto the gold standard, as was more recently Libya. Look what happened there. Iraq made large purchases of Gold in March this year, and lookee here, a bunch of foreign sponsored raiders are invading while the US drags its feet. At the risk of raiding the bacofoil, I’d say a certain pattern is emerging. Oil rich Country tries to go onto gold standard = Casus belli. Not so much blood for oil as blood for gold. Or in the Ukraine’s case, blood for gas.

Which further leads me to think that if the pattern of money and war, boom and bust is to be broken, maybe a more democratic currency (Out of the hands of politicians and bankers alone) is the way forward. Hmm.

That’s it for now. I’m off for a walk to test my recovering knee joint. The Galloping Goose trail calls.

Jail the parents!

So says a journalist in the Barclay Brothers Beano. Apparently two parents in East Anglia are to be hauled up before the beak for allowing their child to reach fifteen stone. It is worth noting that the original article in the Wail says that the boys father is twenty stone and out of work. Apple not falling very far from tree, methinks.

A more reasoned discussion has been carried out here on debatewise but the principle of state intervention to cut costs for the ‘wonderful’ NHS should be asking the greater question. Which National Health Service? Oh, you know, the ‘wonderful’ NHS where patients can be neglected by nursing staff whose focus is more on paperwork than actual care, and where the elderly can die a nice, lonely but tidy death in a hospital bed from dehydration and starvation in their own urine and faeces, that sort of thing. Don’t believe me? Start here.

The greater questions should be; how does the family benefit from being prosecuted and their child being put in ‘care’? How much money do these court and care processes take away from the UK’s ‘wonderful’ NHS? Let’s do some joined up thinking here. Police manpower, cost of lawyers and court time, costs of appeal, fines, jail time for being unable to pay fines. All on the public purse because the parents in question are not exactly high earners. Criminal records further damaging their prospects of employment, thus keeping parents out of the tax contributing workforce (If there were suitable work to be had). That’s even without factoring in the costs of God alone knows how many social workers. The cost of long term ‘care’ (Meals, facilities, security) with all the fees for a swath of behavioural interventionist consultants whose services are not exactly free.

What the screaming interventionists don’t seem to understand is that all of these things don’t come cheap. If your principal goal is to save the NHS money, even a fairly cursory analysis demonstrates that intervention of this kidney isn’t really the right way to go about it.

One is left with the thought that on balance it will probably prove more economic to treat the child for any conditions that crop up when they actually do, not trying to second guess what conditions will arise because it’s not unknown for the fat kid at fifteen to discover girls, or get so hacked off with being ill that he spends a couple of years getting into shape off his own bat, living to a ripe old age. Either that or the young man will die young, thus actually cutting the long term treatment bill. No prosecutions required.

Think of the savings to the ‘wonderful’ NHS.

Hi-ho. Lovely sunny day here in BC and the weekend beckons. Done with unpacking and am thoroughly enjoying being able to walk to the nearest pub. Now there’s a thought