Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Fact of USA Life Coming UK Way - The Middle Class Are Skint

A Fact of USA Life Coming UK Way - The Middle Class Are Skint

This sums the lot up of the median income middle class in the USA. Sound familiar?

With the thankful exception of healthcare you could transatlantocate much of this to the UK at least, probably Ireland and some other countries too where the middle class are not really making their middle ends meet.

A crushing statistic for the USA is that the former largest employer , GM, payed an inflation adjusted $50 USD per hour to their 1950s workforce. Today's largest single employer in the US is Wallmart who pay $8. Hardly middle class, but the economic principle behind this affects the middle class. For one wages have not kept up with the real inflationary pressures of life, and they have not therefore kept up with the expectationary spends and savings of people. For the other, the great working class are  no longer feeding the pyramids of insurance, the coffers of savings plans or the local hardware store on saturday mornings. They instead have split into pour subsiders and a new class, the skilled self employed blue collar workers who have a ballsy attitude to risk and loans and are the winners both sides of the Atlantic.

What has far outstripped wages growth for my generation both sides of the Pond is consumer debt ie non capital item debt. Also there is the new insidious perennial debt- student loans which get deferred to interest only payments and installment 'holidays' and worse, never ending house debt and no real capital and often negative equity or inflation neutralised equity. You have to down size a long way to catch the wave of house price rises, and in the US, that means threatening to loose your health care just at the time when you need to secure a long term plan most.

My generation in the UK and probably this is reflected across the EU/EFTA, was not huge on consumer debt and had a cautious attitude to debt when it concerned all things apart from bricks and mortar, where we went quite bonkers, pouring flames on the 1990s and 2000s market which should have actually been declining in line with slow wage growth. Industry colluded, with 5 times salary, interest only , 110% mortgages which were basically sub prime in all but the state meddeling them. In fact the very laisez faire approach meant that people could simply lie about their income when applying for a mortgage, and cross fingers hope to die that interest rates did not go up, while equity did so they could climb the ladder further.  Some like me spotted this big time, and avoided buying houses in the slightly shadey areas they could afford, which have indeed proven the worst for negative equity and maintaince costs, and slow resale over time.

Read the artiicles, all 8 pages, and I will be back!!! The big con and the white russian hoards will be blogged on again.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Politicians and UFO Hunters Have a Lot in Common

What do UFO-ologists and Politicians have in common?


I have been thinking a lot about belief this week, and the difference between religious and political belief and the belief that science is not a belief.

The truth is out there. More so in politics than in UFO and mysteriology. In the world we have various systems but generally two diametrically opposed beliefs today -democracy and oligarchy``````````. Either you get to decide somethings about your environment, family life and working conditions or someone else does. That applies equally to both views, the ultimate socialist view point and the ultimate capitalist vis a vis oligarchist view point.

In the UK and to some extent the USA, after the 2008 melt down of the international financial loans and invesment system(s) the left got the blame for the woes of the country. This was a conflation: juxtaposing two unrelated phenomena so as to build credibility for the arguement. They couldnt pull it off in the USA, because Obama was not on the scene long enough to be blamed, but they did try, by saying of course he was making things worse.

Leaping to a conclusion, attributing cause away from the real root, over looking contrary evidence. This is very much the connection which bonds politicians to UFO-ologists. Sound bites actually become little packets of belief carried and amplified by the media.

One of the best conflational stories was that of the UFO ology 'church', the seekers, who were lead to believe by their leader, that the world would soon meet its end in destruction by aliens. A date was chosen, in the 1960s sometime, when the event would happen and the group made ready to meet the aliens with prayers and chants. It was either midnight or sunrise or whatever time, but on a hill top in a circle with perhaps hands held in a chain, the seekers fell silent awaiting the second of the apocalypse. It passed. Some more time passed. The charismatic leader and founder of the "religion" took some time and then announced : " Ah, our faith was strong, the aliens heard our chant and we have spared the earth !!!"  Putting the con in conflation.

The same happens today all the time with on the one side politicians and on the other UFO ologists. The funniest example is probably the Dark Knight Alien Satellite . What is funny strange and ridiculous is the way the image of an unidentified orbital object, photographed by the US during a space mission, is juxtaposed immediately with the claim that this is a 13000 old object known to be omitting radio signals. There is then presented a whole chain of mysterious radio observations, merely loosely connectable and never substantiated or previously connected to the object and then just the presentation of fiction as fact or a belief system we should follow, because we are being mislead by the authorities. The fact that strange  claims and undocumented, uncorroborated observations go unchallenged by governance, and do not warrant official denial, means that of course via conflation a tautology is created which some people choose to follow.

What is lacking in our education systems which means that we do not as a huge majority of sane middel intelligent, rational beings just see through the false logic?  Well it is just rude for governments and institutions to go round dneying these things, and a waste of time. There is some serious research into phenomenii such as the Hessdal Energy Emission Lights (there I just made my own little conflation for my own purposes!!) However we as the public are left uninhindered to believe these things as long as they do not do us harm, or that our belief does others harm. You can see where I am going with this. Radical godless "islam", fundamentalist nazistic zionism, Christian fascist conservatism. See three more confaltions slipped into three massively damaging total systems of conflation.

Governments cannot go against the logic of conflations otherwise they threaten not only to incurr the wrath of religion, but also to avoid them losing the biggest party and political movement tool of basically juxtaposing some economic facts, or environmental facts with a cause or with an outcome which are only tentatively linked. But they sound good together. They sound chain of events, cause and effect.

Teaching greater use of logic and enabling individuals to think critically is the reserve of the university system and outside the command economies of the east, that is a tiny proportion of global society. School tends to avoid metaphysics and logic. Critical thought and expression is tallied to language and literature, and that just exacerbates the potential for conflations to be presented to others and promoted in the media as fact and likelihood.  Science of course touches on basically the concept of the 'rigourous scepticism' from Hume and Descartes. The binding theory of the Null Hypothesis and the need for observation and experiment as a series of small steps. It is boring, it changes the world slowly, the atom took 40 years to split. But it makes planes fly and iPads work.

Politicians it can be asserted, make an environment in which planes can be designed to fly, and iPads designed and built to work, and they believe that environment must be built on belief, because science does not build confidence. It answers most often with more questions. Economics, sociology and even accounting are most often taught at traditional universities in the colleges of arts. Belief builds investor and consumer confidence, and that does to some extent build economic growth.

In fact the belief in the need for economic growth, the top line industrial output, exports, price and volume harvest and so on is so paramount as to be suspiscious, like the birth of jesus on the 25th of December. It is a blunt weapon, growth is a simple cause and effect parallel to build investor confidence on.It is a big day one economic mega-digm which is based on a massive string of conflations and juxtapositions. Perhaps it is just belief which floats it as being so important and so 'effective' in creating well being. Inflation is the enemy, but also a consequence of growth. So in fuelling growth and value multiplication in the western world where we are still de industrialising, the sub prime vehicle emerges as the angel of terror, the unicorn in the mist whcih shows the folley of the whole system. Bang.

Teaching logic and the rigourous scepticism in state schools is dangerous in the west. Perhaps though in China you can see that the combination of a huge history of a hierarchical mega bureacracy and also the grand scale destruction of religion by the cultural revolution. Now they play at command capitalism, but in many other aspects of building a society, and industry and other structures of a new mega power, they are at a huge advantage. There is a rational chain of command and corresponding chain of events, cause and cascade of effects.Perhaps they are better poised not only to tackle the challenges of their own existence as a giga state, but also the challenges of the world.

A final conflation, With Freedom comes Responsibility. You could say that this idiom is just that, a nice bit of wishful thinking.

Facebook Becomes the Inevitable Spam Book!

Well it had to happen at some point. Judging by my own newsfeed, facebook has finally crossed into being a big source of spam, like your first hotmail account, it has gone over the level. Today i counted well over half the entries served up  in my newsfeed were commercial. Facebook has evolved into Spambook.

The odd thing is It is not Zuckerberg who is actually to blame!! The management of facebook get blamed by the flamers. In fact all they have done is make the environment for a profitable company whose stock value represents better now their ability to earn money and expand. The tweaks a couple of years ago and the opening of mobile devices to advertisements allowed for the worst exposure to commerciality from a body of capitalist minded people - we the users.

First of course we liked too many sources which soon started spamming through their posts. We unlike, hide, report but we keep on Liking new causes, comedy stores, personalities and sports clubs. Worse we keep on joining groups who spam us. Our likes have now become shared in a neat little banner section which does appear frequently but less frequently than the old system of Likes with algorythms that maybe presented you something you may too like. Hmm, I am on ignore by about 95% of my 'book I feel, mostly because of an excessive period of liking a couple of things a day, and being on long threads.

Now we get to the darker places of CGM - consumer generated media - where we actually torture each other. Some groups were started to actually sell stuff to each other. Community markets took off here about two years ago, no doubt they have always been a feature of the 'Book in the USA as much as Craig List and Ebay. Now there are endless beigey brown puffa jackets, cathode tube TVs, cracked iPads and the chip board detritus of divorces and upgrading in useless furniture.

Yet do we clear out this spam? The Like Banner of what freinds are liking is the best thing on FB for ages. Manages spam for us. Gives us something to look at while we wait for a plane. Why then do we not just put everything on ignore? Well the consumer generated community markets we have a kind of fondness for, and the eternal hope of a bargain within easy driving distance, or perhaps helping someone out we know are on hard times, or saving the enviornment by recycling. The Spam rolls on, people still want an iPhone 5 half price, there are all the duller colours of last years utility clothes on sale in the sizes that our kids have just grown out of.

Neither do we bother to vote with our feet when out favourite sports personality starts spamming with over 50% posts being commercial ?  We plug on, it is only the odd ad'. Sites you may like are wildly innaccurate, I have never had anything more than the usual insurance, dating, holidays mass marketing trawl. Never once anything to do with my hobbies. Instead that type of marketing has now gone word-of-keyboard by what my freinds liking likely to be likey by me. Never more true, we flock together, we like consumer referral, it makes us feel empowered. Advertising is seen as a lie all too often..

"Truth Well Told" was McCann Eriksons motto,, and we shyed away from the traditional media and creative, interesting adverts.  Now we expose our selves to the absolute most dangerous types of scam and phishing via that good old consumer generated Face Book. Unfeasably cheap Oakleys and Raybans are just that, it is a scam. Yet we see our friends Likes for these, and these seem to be paid to appear in their own Liked box.  We link out to god knows what with a demand to access our facebook and suddenly we have some dodgey folk trying to freind us or our accounts Fraped.

I find that my pals of my oldie generation are now posting far less often, yet often on more important news. Facebook has become an obsessive compulsive disorder for us as we seek some distraction in our recreational time, and that time therefore gets spread thinner as we waste time in the offiice on social media nano holidays, thus needing to work later at night, thus having social media up in the back ground, complaining about needing to work late, replying to answers, thanking for Likes....... we have a self induced Facebook Fatigue and we seem powerless to do anything about it, finding the pinging sound of alerts more attention grabbing than a child's subtle or obtuse reach for comfort. Little candies of social media, falling from the stars, we feel important and connected. We disconnect and become inconsequent to steadily more people on our facebook list who put us on ignore.

What consumer generated media most of all teaches us is that in fact we generate a lot of crap and the quality content comes from people who are still payed and have a degree of talent and professionalism in their content and channel.   If you have read this far, in what I hope was a high quality amateur blog, then you are in a tiny minority of people who came from the web here, and in a minority of those who read further.

Social Media sites and mechanisms like Twitter, are  now fragmenting again as with the whole thing about the Model T ford, we all want on to begin with and then we all realise we are individuals and one size does not fit all. The current move is off facebook for the younger generation, and although they arent shouting about it, FB are probably struggeling acquire and maintain up time from under 22 year olds. This generation are growing up with mobile internet and wifi 90% uptime, with the SMS fast becoming a thing of the past for social interaction. We like twitter because we have a degree of interaction with our searches and Twitter have taken up on the best of the TweetDecks and evolved a decent GUI. Facebook has become channel 1, it is on because we think the news will maybe have something for us, but its interactivity is reduced to an extent where as I say, we have more commercial spam in our news feed than stories from friends. Just as with terrestrial, analogue TV we grew bored with and migrated away from, a trickle of lead consumers at first, then a torrent of the masses will leave the chewing-gum-for-the-eyes internet 'channels'. 

Facebook was for a very long time too good to be true. Tiny little side banner ads we never ever clicked on, opt outs for all forms of potential spamming, rich content when we all bothered to put good stories up and we then gave a damn about catching up with each other, which I found very cool, but maybe the people I found did not share that side of the experience of linking up with me and my spamming.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Conservative Party Shops for Growth With Consumer Spending Yet Again

I listened with interest, as I often do, to radio 4's business round up today. It contained two or three very contrasting views on the economy and the concept of responsible citizens.

Firstly, not content with the concept of small , weak government, now the Tories are gambling with all people's futures on making pensions effectively a mid term ISA. You will not only be able to manage you own anuity upon a pensions plan's maturement, you will also be able to take out money earlier to not only sensible alternative investments, but also to CASH.

This reeks of anarchy, and irresponsibility. What have we learned from Black Monday 1987 and Darker September 2008? That consumer credit and a liberal attitude to liquidity personal and institutional is irresponsible. For liberal you can often read just anarchic, or to my mind "trickle up".

The problem with this scheme is caused by same class myopia as the conservatives have always had in the UK, which is shown most prominently in Scotland where they are almost a political irrelevancy, so out of touch with the classes.  Their own 'people' are conservatives with a small "C" and those others are just folk who see that lower taxes or higher defence and police spend will suit them just fine. The problem is in the second group, in that the masses are really not responsible enough nor will they ever become responsible enough to manage their own pensions. They will all too often take-to-cash and have a live now, sod being old approach to that big pot of cash at the end of life's long monochrome rainbow that is working life for most of us.

This actually affects mostly the richer top half of society anyway, because the lower third have rather poor pension provision so far., often like me having had several employers and disjointed pensions which would have been better served by state PAYE. This also plays into the more dynamic sectors of the finance industry and the stock market, where of course the biggest losses were made after 2008 collapse.

In essence these policies are very anti pension company, which are by nature small c conservatives and have made historically boring investments. Freed partly from "with profits" pensions it means that they can now cut off more of the pie from those boring investments for their profits instead of actually taking responsibility for furbishing inflation busting pension funds.  They claimed that it would enable higher returns from more balanced risk taking, rather than the need to "bank" high growth into pensions, but from my analysis this does not benefit the small guy like me.

Nigel Wilson of legal and general. one of the UK's largest domestic investors,  no doubt will have some comments on this. However here is the next conflict in that more lumps of money in the economy will benefit London first, and not the regions. More people seeking get-rich-quick with lumps of cash taken out their pension pots into high risk city invesments is not good for his company, and not good for the regions.

Nigel sees that devolution to the regions brealks the hunger of London for power and its mypoia on spending. This is of course epitomised by HS2, which so far is planned to be built SOUTH -NORTH. I would propose a North-south, starting in fact in York such that the NE-NW can get a benefit. His company stand on a strategic cross roads where the divergence of commercial property prices between the great metropolis and the regional cities could be stark and in fact there is a risk for negative equity if the regions continue to be dominated by post industrialisation, and low wage, low tax return jobs.

London Myopia, City Self Importance, South East Over Heat. London forgets very quickly that it is in all likelhood a wealth and tax vacuum from the rest of the country. It demonstrates that there is no such thing as trickle down, rather it is all about trickle-up. The privatised utilities and railways got a City centric, soft cushion which limited competition and subsidised the edges of areas the private sector did not want to take responsibility for. Now these deliver profits to the city based on above base line cost growth and Retail price inflation. Then there is of course the property market, where growth in house prices and commercial property sites across the UK has fuelled London while in fact since 2008 and before that too, the market has been failing the new generration of adults born in the late 70s through to the 90s.

If you take London then and all its institutions and departments, its public transport and its civil service, and then add the South East, from Cambridge and Oxford down and towards Dover, then it probably is a net importer of income taxes, and in terms of operating companies which create value, the most taxes are generated outside London but reported on the LSE or Companies' House.

Pensions and the future of the country are much more sensibly managed in Norway where I live now, from many perspectives. We have the same employer contribution private pension and a revised yet still generous PAYE state pension. But of course Norway has as a country put money aside from its large oil economy into inward and international investments. Also Norway has a common agreement that its people will all share in the oil boom by having high salaries, that there will be relatively high taxation on those salaries and that people will get good public services. Further common sense with the cut backs in some public budgets being called in relation to running the multi billion dollarr 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Democracy killed that idea, cocktails with the King and Queen for the IOC Aside.

Now we come back to my little nippy pet animal in the cage, Scottish Independence.  The BBC and the rest of the partisan, traditional media had decided for themselves that this would be the decisive vote for the whole generation, that it will take 30 years for the next one. Well what has happened is that the runway is opened up more by there being more transparency on wealth creation in Scotland, in that more powers are coming to Holyrood regardless, and that Labour may be marginalised from UK power even more by the West Lothian Question being answered as is discussed in parliament today. Labours only chance in the UK is then to go the Proportional Representation route in a first coalition government, and then sit in an eternity of PR coalitions as we have in Scandinavia, for better and for worse.  With UKIP now in full nationalistic sabre rattling flight, with their latest  MP trying to sound like Socrates or King George the sixth, they cover a lot of flag waving, xenophobic bases, while the Scots have never voted against the EU in any numbers rather supporting by around 70% and more parties and policies which are pro EU.

Where do UKIP want to go? Renegotiating with an EU who will be pleased to be rid of their constant need for special exemptions and some amount of fillibustring of policy. The EU will want to keep the UK in an uncertain place such as to attract the major investment banks over the waters to EU countries. That is a once in a lifetime, perhaps once in a century possibility to gain more share of inward investment for the continent and weaken the LSE and the City.
Do they want to try and stand against America, where the billionaires can decide what is in their interests in dealing with the UK on what will be a very minor, assymetric trade deal, especially with the Continental stock exchanges becoming more interesting for investors. Or do they want to turn to BRICS, with all the wierdness of dealing with Brasil and China thinking of the UK as a tiny, silly little island who lost their empire and ability to be a power long ago?   Or of course then the EU through the cosey back door of EFTA?  Well Norway and Iceland would not want a right wing, London City Centric partner. Whereas Scotland with her common maritime and sub sea interests would be a happy bed fellow in EFTA, the UK as a whole would be an elephant on the matress, demanding a huge amount of room by simply the act of getting into bed.

In all this there is the basic common sense of putting by for tommorrow, spending within your limits of income and mortgage, and building a stronger house and mind for the future. The march towards this is for me, the Scandinavian model and Scottish Independence, the march away from this is the isolationist, London Centric tax haven UKIP and back bench conservative view. Wealth creation is vital, and not just the funny-money, but also wealth retention is vital to the regions, which means private investment, private wage levels in what is taken out from the region, and of course government mediated wealth distribution via education, infrastructure and good public services.