Archive for the 'Politics & Random Musings' Category

The Bank of England vs the banks of England – Negative Interest Rates

What’s wrong with negative interest rates?

The problem with low and negative rates is that banks don’t like them. Which may sound like good news. Especially in a newsletter about taking on the financial establishment.

And perhaps it really is good news for those of us trying to get or refinance a mortgage. At least it would be good news in the short run.

But here’s the thing. When bankers aren’t busy wreaking havoc with your money or ripping you off (or both), they do perform some useful functions. They lend money.

And if they can’t do so at a decent profit, well, they won’t do so.

Sure, borrowing at 0% sounds good to you and me. But would you lend someone money at that rate?

Negative interest rates mean bankers are agreeing to lose money on their lending. Does that sound like something they would do?

And if they did do it, what do you think would happen to the bank over time? It would start to struggle.

In other words, negative interest rates do so much damage to banks that they undermine the banks’ lending activities. And even their financial soundness.

Banks then pass this lack of revenue on to their depositors. In the form of fees on accounts, negative rates on large deposits, or other fees. Either way, we end up paying somehow.

The point is, when rates go negative, banks lend less and make money in other ways.

Either way, it’s not great news for an economy addicted to debt. And not good news for anyone who needs a bank account. Which is all of us. Especially lately.

Why the Western media keeps getting North Korea wrong

Western media’s repeated blunders in reporting on North Korea show its continuing lack of understanding and expertise.

After 20 days of absence, proof of life for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un finally came on May 2. North Korean state media released images of the leader touring a fertiliser factory. Contrary to mounting speculation by much of the international media and many so-called North Korea watchers, Kim was clearly not on his deathbed.

Western journalists are not always adept at covering this reclusive country, but the latest fiasco surrounding Kim’s supposedly imminent demise proved just how eager they are to accept unconfirmed rumours as objective news and how poorly they judge information about North Korea.

It all started on April 20, when the North Korean-defector-run news site Daily NK published a story that Kim had undergone heart surgery. Initially citing multiple sources, the site claimed that the North Korean leader “suffered from inflammation of blood vessels involving the heart … but his condition worsened”.

Daily NK often relies on anonymous informers in the North to run critical articles about the regime, and its track record on accuracy is spotty at best. In this instance, the English version of the article was later edited to say “a cardiovascular procedure” instead of “a heart surgery”, and the editor ran a correction that there were no multiple sources, but only one.

Within hours, CNN put forward its own single-source piece, with the sensationalist headline, “US source: North Korean leader in grave danger after surgery.” MSNBC anchor Katy Tur tweeted to her more than 700,000 followers: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is brain dead, according to two US officials.” She called it a “CNN scoop” confirmed by NBC News.

CNN later revised its headline to “US monitoring intelligence that North Korean leader is in grave danger after surgery” and Tur apparently deleted her tweet, both conveying that the intel was less than credible. But the cat was already out of the bag. For the next 11 days all manner of news outlets and sites worldwide would join the game of guessing “Is Kim Jong Un really dead?” and “Who will be the next ruler of North Korea?”

So great was the noise generated by Western media that even the normally more reserved South Koreans became rattled, wondering if they had missed out on something, even though the country’s National Security Council maintained that “there are at present no unusual developments within North Korea”. At times “Kim Jong Un death” trumped even coronavirus in search rankings on major portal websites.

Coronavirus Covid 19: Don’t speak in code on race. Truth saves lives

Ethnic differences are a big factor in the virus risk. Let’s be open about it

We may disagree about the government’s Covid strategy and the quality of the communication. We may even disagree about the timing of the decision late on Thursday to restrict much of the north of England, although I found it rather hypocritical that many who were blaming the government for acting too slowly at the start of the crisis are now angered they acted too fast.

But we can surely all agree that the announcement itself was a farce, a pantomime of Orwellian proportions. Here was a government imposing restrictions on a region where transmission is rising faster within some Asian communities, and on the eve of the most important festival in Islam, yet Matt Hancock said nothing of this, talking instead of transmission “between families” and “multigenerational households”. This was ministerial statement by code.

Over the next 48 hours, information came out in dribs and drabs — but not from ministers. The director of public health for Blackburn with Darwen said that 79% of recent cases in the predominantly white city had been among people from a south Asian background. Statistics from Public Health England for the week ending July 26 showed that 1,369 of those testing positive in England (37%) were Asian or Asian-British — a group that made up 7.5% of the population in the last census. Shouldn’t ministers have helped us interpret these statistics, rather than pretend they didn’t exist?

Coronavirus: facemasks ‘as crucial as handwashing and distancing’

This article first appeared in the Times.  Not wearing one should be seen as antisocial, says top scientist No one should leave home without a facemask and wearing one should be considered as crucial as handwashing and social distancing, according to the president of Britain’s leading scientific body. Venki Ramakrishnan, who heads the Royal Society […]

Corbyn’s scorn for working-class patriots gets its deserts

There was a certain pleasure to be had in flicking from channel to channel as Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit done” election campaign destroyed, in the twinkling of an exit poll, the hopes of those who had spent three-and-a-half years attempting to subvert the result of the 2016 referendum. Well, that was how I spent the early hours of Friday. It was hard to know who looked more gratifyingly furious: the proponents of the suddenly annihilated second vote on Brexit, or the broadcasters (I am thinking especially of Channel 4, whose news operation is just The Guardian with shorter words).

It was George Orwell who best captured this cast of mind, in his 1941 essay England Your England. Though a socialist himself, Orwell expressed his contempt for much of the well-to-do British left: “In the general patriotism of the country, they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution from horse-racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true, that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God Save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box.”

Russian Ukrainian Adventures Forum Newsletter – Autumn/Winter 2019

Our forum is now twelve years old, and we have just passed our half millionth post milestone. That’s a lot of people doing a lot of talking the last decade or so!

The forum was started back in the tail end of the Russian and Ukrainian so-called ‘mail order bride’ phenomenon, and our subject matter was a one-trick pony in that regard back then. Times have changed in a decade. Russian and Ukrainian women are not relocating like they once were. Indeed, since Crimea reunified with Russia and the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk broke away to become independent, the Ukrainian bride industry [as it mostly was] has withered on the vine.

Betcha we don’t leave the EU — on October 31 or ever

And as the prime minister struggled through her witless negotiations with the EU, so this fervour for a people’s vote grew — because the thickos hadn’t understood how complex it all was, had they? And look — see how complex it is now, how labyrinthine? You hadn’t bargained for this, had you? And yet all the way along it was not Brexit that was the problem but the government’s handling of Brexit. But this stereotype, of the decrepit moron leave voter, was crucial to the cause of not delivering Brexit. They knew not what they had done, these poor deluded *snip*s. So another vote was needed, or maybe no vote — just stop the process in its tracks.

Labour MPs could convince themselves that in opposing Brexit they were doing the best for their constituencies, despite what their constituencies actually had to say about the business. Tory MPs did the same. And so parliament began to follow the narrative of the soft Brexit, the nice Brexit, the Brexit that wasn’t Brexit at all, something that might be offered as a sop to the idiots but that actually kept us in the EU in all but name.

Oh, and the elderly. It was elderly people who voted leave. Destroying the future of the younger generation. And their votes shouldn’t really count because they’ll all be dead soon — a familiar theme among that extremist tranche of absolutist remainers.

Never have so many blameless people in this country been held in such contempt, or been subject to such vilification, by an elite. A transgressed elite. Another narrative. The vote was invalid. It was not “binding” — despite the promise of the then prime minister, David Cameron, that it would indeed be binding and the absence on the polling cards anywhere of the word “advisory”. Sheer chicanery. Only 52% voted leave — a proper vote would have insisted upon a 60–40 majority. Would it? Why would it?

Those were the rules — a simple majority sufficed. Everybody knew that when they went to the polls, remainers and leavers alike. A football match won one-nil has still been won — the opposition does not declare that it’s not a win at all because the score wasn’t five-nil. The majority of people in the UK didn’t vote leave — another wholly asinine objection from that rump of infuriated remainers. No, indeed, they didn’t. But we have a habit, in this country, and in most democracies, of counting up the votes of people who have voted — not the ones who didn’t. An odd arrangement, but there we are.

Or the vote was invalid because the leave campaign — always the leave campaign, never the remainers — told fibs. Well, heaven forfend. If we nullified elections every time a politician told a porkie, we wouldn’t have a democracy at all. But all this epic, disingenuous, non-sequitur shit, this flailing around in pursuit of a bunch of Aunt Sally arguments, helped to grease the wheels of the remain lobby and assuaged the MPs in their confected anguish over not, actually, respecting the vote at all.

The Edwina Currie Interview: Edwina Discusses Brexit, Russia, Putin, the EU with Cheshire Olga

My guest today is Edwina Currie. An Oxford University alumna, she was an MP from 1983 until 1997, and was a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government in the Department for Health. She is the author of eleven books, a well-known radio presenter and TV personality. She even runs a business club and is the president of a male voice choir!

———————

Olga: What inspires you?

Edwina: I’ve been inspired by looking at the work of great people. Particularly Margaret Thatcher, who I knew and worked for. I had noticed her when she was a young, married woman MP, a scientist and a mother of small children. Her children were only 6 years old when she went into parliament. I went into parliament when my children were 6 and 8 years old. I knew it could be done because Margaret had done it.

You cannot aspire to be that person, but you can aspire to their way of life, ideas and attitudes. And try to continue the pathway they showed.

I was in elected office for 22 years. Each time I had the opportunity to administer some power I tried to do good things that would be durable. We introduced free breast cancer screening for everybody. We brought in cervical cancer screening for women. We were the first country in the world to have both.

Интервью с британским министром Эдвина Карри о России и о Брексит

Сегодня у меня в гостях Эдвина Карри.

Эдвина Карри выпускница Оксфордского университета, была членом парламента и министром здравоохранения в правительстве Маргарет Тэтчер.

Эдвина медийная персона, автор одиннадцати книг, руководитель бизнес-клуба и президент мужского хора. Мы говорим о России, Брексит и Маргарет Тэтчер.

Видео на русском и английском. Стенограмма ниже. Нажмите кнопку ниже, чтобы посмотреть на Youtube.

The 5:2 inventor on ‘mini fasts’ and his new secret to rapid weight loss

Dr Michael Mosley is in the business of making people healthier, not upsetting them. Whether he is talking about people struggling with eating habits, or the food industry pushing unhealthy snacks, he always chooses his words carefully. But the man who revolutionised eating with the 5:2 diet is frustrated by the speed at which things change.

NHS nutritional advice tells us first about the importance of eating your five-a-day, and then it says that your meals should be mainly based on starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta. So the NHS is telling us to keep up bodies constantly charged with carbohydrates, as if we have learnt nothing about the benefits of the intermittent fasting that was popularised by Dr Mosley.


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