Archive for the 'Politics & Random Musings' Category

I backed the lockdown (and quite enjoyed it). But was I just a mug?

It is difficult to credit the sheer surreal nature of that first lockdown — which, nonetheless, I rather enjoyed. In theory, we were allowed out shopping once every two weeks, and could take a constitutional once a day for one hour, provided we didn’t sit on a bench or talk to anyone else. I had reckoned it all to be a little Ballardian — not least in the stockpiling of lavatory paper and spaghetti. And yet, shockingly, it wasn’t Ballardian, because there was no real breakdown in society: we all did as we were told in an extraordinarily compliant manner. Meanwhile, somewhere in government, they were getting pissed at a party and vomiting, and two civil servants or wonks were trying to kick each other’s heads in.

Dedollarisation and Reducing Dollar Hegemony Following the Russian Military Operation in Ukraine

We’ve been writing about dedollarisation here for some time.

Russia and much of the world have been seeking to dedollarise for a while. In the wake of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, one of the outcomes of countersanctions by Russia against the US and the rest of the west is them being forced to use the Russian Rouble to buy oil and gas.

This does something Russia has wanted to do for a while: reduce US dollar hegemony.

When it comes to what we often call dollar hegemony one can get all technical (and often wrong) or we can make things much more simple.

I prefer simple.

So, here’s what dollar hegemony means in simple (and accurate within limits) terms.

Some necessary assumptions:

1) Inflation is a general increase in prices within an economy. Economists differ in the following, but my training is that inflation is a decrease in the value of a currency.

2) If there is no increase in the amount of currency in circulation within an economy and there is no increase in productivity then there can be no inflation. Inflation is based on the supply of money within an economy.

3) If productivity increases (output of the economy per unit labour) at the same rate as the supply of money then there will be no inflation.

As we know, the money supply in the United States has been growing, and the rate of growth has been accelerating hugely in recent years, but even 20 years ago we could see that the money supply was growing faster than productivity was rising. (Increase money supply by 10%  per year and productivity by 7% per year and the result will be 3% inflation.)

The US in various forms recognised the issue. It was why the US came off the gold standard and closed the gold window.

He cured type 1 diabetes. It only took 30 years

Melton’s vision was to use stem cells to recreate the beta cells, deep within the pancreas, which have been destroyed by the malfunctioning immune system. He explains: “A continuous glucose monitor reads blood sugars about every five to 15 minutes. The pancreatic beta cells that we put in the patients read blood sugar every millisecond. They also squirt out just a tiny amount of insulin, just the right amount, rather than the large dose that is given out by a pump. My own view is that the biological solution, nature’s solution, is better long-term.”

Even if the trials are successful, however, there is a key challenge to overcome. The immune system is likely to attack the new beta cells, in the same way that they attacked the originals. To this end Shelton — and the other patients given the stem-cell treatment — will have to take immunosuppressant drugs. Melton admits this is hardly ideal during a pandemic.

Он вылечил диабет 1 типа. Это заняло всего 30 лет

Видение Мелтона состояло в том, чтобы использовать стволовые клетки для воссоздания бета-клеток глубоко в поджелудочной железе, которые были разрушены неисправной иммунной системой. Он объясняет: «Глюкометр непрерывного действия считывает уровень сахара в крови примерно каждые 5-15 минут. Бета-клетки поджелудочной железы, которые мы вводим пациентам, считывают уровень сахара в крови каждую миллисекунду. Они также выбрасывают лишь крошечное количество инсулина, как раз нужное количество, а не большую дозу, которую выдает помпа. Я считаю, что биологическое решение, решение природы, лучше в долгосрочной перспективе ».

Clarkson: Today’s lily-livered cops can’t nick crooks, let alone crack skulls. Quick, dial the 1970s

What the police need to remember is that they exist not to keep a few thousand lefties happy on social media but to make millions of normal people feel safe. And we don’t care whether they call themselves a force or a service. We don’t care about semantics at all.

And, if we’re honest, most of us don’t care about stabbings either. The victim’s mother may go on the news to say he was a happy-go-lucky boy who wanted to be a doctor when he grew up, but most of us sort of suspect that he was a machete-wielding drug-dealer who got into a late-night fight, in a kebab shop, with a rival gang. So we are not that bothered about seeing his killers being brought to justice. Not really.

What we do care about is catching burglars. We want to think, when our telly’s been nicked, that Morse will lob some fingerprint powder into his bag and fire up the gunship. Obviously, Plod must maintain an elite division to deal with exotic crimes such as terrorism and murder, but the rank and file? They should be sitting in their squad cars, like Second World War fighter pilots, with their Tasers charged, waiting for the order to scramble.

And I don’t want to see footage of the crim being given a silver blanket and helped into the squad car so he doesn’t bang his head. I actually want him to bang his head, so often and so hard that for years afterwards he’ll be able to use the extremities of his ruined nose as ear plugs.

Let’s not forget that when we dial 999, it’s because there’s an emergency. And we need to think that the police will respond as firemen do — immediately, and with vigour — rather than waiting two days and then asking us to pop into the station for a pamphlet on “victim support” and a crime number for the insurer.

North Wales man caught carrying ‘medieval weapon’ designed to cause ‘maximum fright’

North Wales man caught carrying ‘medieval weapon’ designed to cause ‘maximum fright’

Taran Norman was jailed after being captured on CCTV carrying the vicious-looking implement.

A 24-year-old man was jailed for carrying what a judge called “a medieval weapon” in the street.

Breastfeeding is now chestfeeding: Why are the language police trying to wipe out women?

These fashionable but fatuous lingual atrocities are unlikely to stick, sliding in the long run from hypermodern to passé. We’ve seen the avant-garde urge to radicalise through renaming before. The firebrands of the French Revolution contrived their own version, replacing the Gregorian calendar with the French Republican Calendar. Twelve newly christened months and 10 newly christened days of the week were cleansed of any reference to religion or royalty. But this bold exercise in equality and secularism lasted only a dozen years; it’s once more a chilly février, not Pluviôse, in Paris.

In time, we’ll probably look back on “chestfeeding” with perplexity and amusement, citing such semantic abominations as evidence of an era when certain brands of zealotry ran amok. I hope I live long enough to see the day.

Fair enough, let’s keep making an effort to bring into the fold groups who’ve been shafted or ignored in the past. But making room for minorities needn’t and shouldn’t crowd out the majority. While majorities can abuse their inherent power, they can also suffer abuse. It’s an odd argument to have to make, but majorities have rights too. When those rights are violated, the injury is to a multitude. The overwhelming preponderance of Britons wants the NHS to treat “men” and “women”. In our eagerness to include, let’s not leave most of the country out in the cold.

They’re IT guys, and we let them silence a president

Big Tech censorship is nothing new. In recent years, social media firms have tightened the bounds of acceptable thought and speech under the guise of tackling hate speech and misinformation. This purge has swept up not just the Tommy Robinsons and David Ickes of this world, but also broadcasters that question lockdown and feminists concerned about the excesses of trans politics. But with the Trump ban, the Rubicon has well and truly been crossed.

For years, Twitter and Facebook have resisted demands to delete Trump’s tweets or suspend his account, given that he is the leader of the US and people probably should know what he’s getting up to. In the past year, Trump has had his posts about Covid, voter fraud and Black Lives Matter protests slapped with warning labels and fact-checks. But until now Twitter and Facebook were hesitant to suspend him.

That Big Tech has decided to move before Trump is even out of office sets a terrifying precedent. Silicon Valley believes it has the right to stand between a president and his people. And if the American president can be censored, it really can happen to anyone.

Those saying this isn’t censorship because Twitter and Facebook are private companies are unconvincing, not least because many of those levelling this staunch defence of billionaires’ rights are on the left. The tech oligarchs essentially own the digital public square.

Worse, they are now trying to bring to heel companies that have tried to launch alternatives. Parler — a free-speech alternative to Twitter — has just been suspended from Google’s app store. And Apple has said it will do the same unless Parler introduces content-moderation policies.

This will not end with Trump. In the name of felling one right-wing authoritarian, liberals have ushered in a genuine tyranny.

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.


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