Serfin’ USUK

That not-so-charming Mr O’leary of RyanAir is really fed up with all his annoying customers. They seem to think that when they fly to a different country, they should be able to take a suitcase with them!

But don’t worry, O’Leary is working hard to stop them – so far, by a variety of ruses, he has managed to get the number who check bags on his planes down from 80% to 19%. Quite an achievement and no doubt personally very rewarding for him (and his shareholders). The idea that his corporation might just exist to provide a service to people travelling abroad seems to have passed him by.

This theme of transforming human beings into mere corporate resources is now widespread in the USUK (interestingly that acronym could be pronounced ‘you suck’). Zero-hour contracts are becoming the norm for part-time workers. From Buckingham Palace to The Tate to Sports Direct.

That paragon of corporate social responsibility, Betty Windsor, requires that her part-time staff are available to work whenever she wishes and must promise not to work for anyone else. But in return they receive no guaranteed hours. They must simply be at the royal beck and call. Betty must feel that after all this silly democracy stuff, things are getting back to normal.

The major trend in the present depression is towards part-time work – it accounts for 8 million people in the UK, 37% of the work force. This growth in zero-hour contracts is only in the interest of the employers. It removes the voice of the employee as well as any rights. People have no recourse against unfair or abusive practices. They are simply like any other office resource – to  be disposed of at a moments notice.

Given that major employers have so much power, it is worth reflecting on their track record with respect to the law. JP Morgan is one of the biggest and most influential banks in the world. In the last two years alone they have been fined over $7 billion (that’s $7,000,000,000.00). And remember, because such corporations are “Too Big To Prosecute“, these are civil fines for what was criminal, fraudulent activity. In other words, if it was you or me, we would have gone to jail.

Then we have the on-going saga of phone and computer hacking. It now appears that for over a decade the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency has known about a list of 102 major UK entities which have used criminal methods against the public to their own benefit.

The list includes 22 law firms, 10 insurance companies, 8 financial service organisations and an assortment of consultancies and major celebrities. But no action has been taken. Why not?

Ordinary, working people have few rights left and must do as they are told by a criminal, dominant minority. Welcome to serfin’ USUK.

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Deafened by gossip

Edward Snowden is gradually slipping from the top of the front page, to further back in the news. Now the talk is about what kind of software is reading your Facebook entries. The Pew Research Center reports that most Americans don’t mind being spied upon. They shrug and move on.

This should not be a surprise. When millions of people happily share the details of their lives with all and sundry, through social media, why would they get upset? Making your private life public is the whole point! The Cyber Self cares little for privacy.

But wait. Perhaps there is another story here. Below the surface.

After all, this is not news. Many of us have known about GCHQ and the NSA exchanging data for over twenty years. It was clear back then, how they got round their own national restrictions on spying upon their citizens. The NSA spied upon the UK and gave the data to GCHQ and GCHQ spied upon the US and gave the data to the NSA.

Indeed, it was public knowledge during the Bush Administration that the US engaged in warrantless wiretapping.

What might be more significant is that this comes on top of a whole slew of accusations against the Obama Administration. The President is personally attacked about the continued existence of Guantanamo, drone wars, IRS scandals and even his Attorney General, Eric Holder, is under investigation for possible perjury!

WashingtonsBlog makes a strong argument here, that there are other, deeper reasons for the spying. Such activities are integral to the shadow administration set up as part of the Continuity of Government protocol initiated by the 911 declaration of a State of Emergency (which continues to this day).

Webster Tarpley, a well informed expert on International Terrorism, has a parallel perspective. He sees powerful forces manoeuvring against each other in the Western world.

On the one side are the Neo-Cons, committed to world domination, starting with instant war in Syria and Iran. On the other you will find the Neo-Liberals backing Obama. They want a softer approach, colour revolutions and gradual whittling away at enemies like Russia by more subtle methods, like sanctions.

Under this scenario the Neo-Liberals are holding back from a Syrian attack while seeking to undermine the Iranian economy. But the current spate of attacks on Obama are orchestrated by the Bilderberg Neo-Cons, seeking to oust Obama, install ex-General Petraeus and further destabilise the democratic process in America.

The current State of Emergency would ensure that Continuity of Government is maintained during such difficult times by the temporary imposition of Martial Law and suspension of The Constitution.

Those who don’t care about being spied upon might want to know about this scenario. Where is a free, informed and, above all, investigative press when you need it?

It looks like those ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ have been right all along – now, about 911 …….

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RBS: doing Fine, not Time

Today RBS report losses of over £5.2 billion and bonuses of £600 million plus.

2011 RBS fined for ‘Mis-Selling Insurance’ – fraud.

2012 RBS fined for ‘Mis-Selling PPI’ – fraud.

2013 RBS fined for ‘Mis-Selling Rate Swaps’ – fraud

2013 RBS fined for ‘LIBOR Misconduct’ – fraud.

The last one of these was part of a global banking conspiracy to manipulate borrowing rates (within a trillion pound market) to the advantage of the bankers involved. The net effect was to move massive sums of money from the ordinary citizen to the criminal bankers – for years. Anyone who had any kind of a loan has paid for this.

This blog has been pointing out how bankers contrast deals and their bonuses for five years now: “… but I couldn’t give a monkey’s – my bonus is sorted!”

Time and again we see euphemistic phrases like ‘Mis-Selling’ used to describe criminal, intentional fraud by the banking community.

It is clear that, at the top level, bankers and mafia drug dealers are the same people, with the same interests and motivations: greed, money, power.

In 2009 it was drug money that supplied the liquidity (cash) which saved the banking system from collapse (and the bankers their jobs). Now bankers blatantly admit to returning the favour by funding drug dealers and international terrorists.

Unlike the rest of us who might be caught doing something illegal – again and again, all the banks have to do is pay a civil fine. Then they put their hand in your pocket and take back what they just paid out.

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Troublesome models

An old friend recently sent me a link to an article he had written about Megalithics in Ogbourne Saint George, Wiltshire. He points out that some local sites, referred to as ‘Castles’ were more likely to be simply meeting points on ancient trade routes.

We tend to look back through a modern war-like lens and jump to false conclusions, using the conflict model to explain the data. If you ignore the aggressive, mafia (royal) families around whom we have built historical perspectives, our real story is one of mutual aid and peaceful co-operation.

Similarly many neuroscientists use the wrong model to describe how the brain works, and their language informs public debate. For instance, there is talk about how the brain stores data, interprets information or sees images – when in fact the brain does none of these things.

The brain does not record, interpret or see, the whole person does these things. There are no filing cabinets or picture galleries to be found in neurones. It is a mereological fallacy to ascribe capacities of the whole to individual parts that make up that whole. One consequence is that we can always blame someone else – ‘it was my brain that made me do it!’.

This lack of cognitive clarity, manifesting through poorly thought out and inappropriate mental models is strongly evident in the domain of economics, wherein it adversely affects each of us every day of our lives. We feel the effects of fiscal and monetary policies (austerity), suffer from hidden inflation (fraudulent substitution of horse-meat for beef) work longer and longer hours in an effort to boost GDP (read bailing out the bankers).

The economic mental model which drives our day is an illusion which does not stand up to investigation. GDP is a nonsense – a factory which pollutes it’s environment adds to GDP, as does the cost of cleaning up that pollution. GDP is measured in terms of pounds or dollars or renminbi or whatever – each of which is simply conjured out of thin air, they bear no relation to real human value or activity.

The act of signing a mortgage loan brings the loaned money into existence (please check it out if you do not believe me). You have to repay that money plus interest. Why interest? You work to make money to pay off your loan. At the end of the term the lender gets the loan money (which they did not have before) plus the interest. But why do we need to pay interest? The lender did not have the money to start with, but by the end of the contract has all the money. Plus the interest – they take the icing and the cake. That interest could be the financial straw that breaks your back, but to the lender it is just a bonus, they have already done very well out of you.

Last year this blog proposed a  thought experiment: imagine that there is no such thing as money, but everyone carries on with their normal daily activity – still producing electricity, making things, shopping etc.. Now think about adding value – which activities would not be needed (banking, accountancy, insurance come to mind) and which would be important (growing things, carpentry, plumbing).

Given that financial services represent 30% of the activity in the UK, that would release an awful lot of people to turn their minds how they might contribute. How would things be valued – perhaps in terms of quality or durability rather than money – how would we measure that? What would be our priorities. Would we find that everyone could work many less hours in order to maintain the same standard of living? That would be a shocker.

The benefit of mental models is that they provide infrastructure – foundations, walls, ceilings – to our thinking, thus enabling prejudices and habits that seem to make life easier, allowing us to run on auto-pilot.

But those very same prejudices and habits can be more than just mental labour saving devices, if we are not careful they can become prison cells wherein we are trapped. Every day peddling harder and harder on the treadmill in an effort to maintain the walls to our prison.

Perhaps it is time to pull down the pillars of our familiar mental cells and create newer, more beautiful, intentional homes in which to live.

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Royal Celebrity Promo

While living in France, I was struck by how often the same item of news would appear, on the same day, in both British and French media. And not just international headlines but local news. For instance on one occasion I saw a report about the difficulty of renting apartments in Paris on both British and local French television.

Yesterday the UK news media were in a feeding frenzy about a young man named Harold Windsor (aka Saxe-Coberg or Wettin), who has just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan – to a mixed press. Then, there he was on our local CBS Channel 19 six o’clock news, here in Texas. Can’t get away from him.

This blog has commented before on the behaviour of various members of the Windsor family (see here and here). What this current episode brings to mind is that all the interviews, pictures and videos are part of a global marketing campaign.

This news is about promoting a positive, robust, youthful image of the UK Royal Family. Pictures of Harry running to a helicopter, Harry with a gun, asking if Harry had killed anyone (apparently ‘yes’) – essential elements of an international sales campaign for a Royal Prince.

Of course, Harry was not there ‘just like the other lads’. Having served ten years in the Royal Marines, I can assure you that the ‘other lads’ are treated very differently from even the youngest officers, never mind the grand-son of the boss.

Which does raise the subject of whether Harry killed for personal gain. Unlike other members of the armed forces, it is ultimately his family that have declared war on Afghanistan. His family that is heavily invested in the arms industry and thus his family that will benefit financially from a successful war. Is killing under such circumstance legal?

At least we do not have to worry about Harry suffering from remorse or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wettins are bred to feel remote from even their own kind, never mind brown-skinned foreigners a long way away.

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Boiling the Lance

William Banzai gives another slant on the Lance Armstrong saga by putting the peddle pushers crimes in context, when he writes the following:

Let’s put the lying and rule braking (pun) aside for a moment shall we.

What great sin is it that Lance Armstrong has committed?

Performance enhancement?

What sin is that in a society that pumps its children full of ADHD medications to enhance educational performance and pumps its financial institutions full of moral hazard, worships teams of steroid gladiators on any given Sunday, pumps it’s economy full of QE and fiat stimulus like there is no tomorrow, consumes food modified by all manner of genetic, hormonal and chemical agents, is addicted to $8 cups of coffee,  idolizes silicon breast implantation for the perfect female form and consumes Viagra voraciously.

A society that can no longer function without the mass consumption of psychotropic drugs.

One can only wonder…

Wonder indeed at the loss of context, as we see the assault rifle mote in another’s eye, while ignoring the national arm’s sales (of tanks, mines, WMDs …) beam in our own eye.

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Boson Brains Rules

You are probably aware that most computers use binary digits (bits) to do their thing. Each binary digit is either a 1 or a 0 – a bit like a light bulb, which is either on or off. The picture on the screen in front of you is an illusion, created by a programme which is nothing more than a string of ones and zeroes – a big number.

Of course binary computers are getting to be old hat now with the emergence of quantum computers (introduced by Richard Feynman) and variations such as ‘boson-sampling computers‘. The quantum world seems to be very strange. The sub-atomic particles involved (Bosons) have an advantage over bits, in that they demonstrate ‘superpostion‘. They can be both on and off at the same moment, in two places at once and spin in opposite directions at the same time!

These ideas are strangely related to an email which is supposedly going viral at the moment. The email was sent by the British Managing Partner (Andrew McGinty) based in Shanghai, of a large, global law firm to all the highly paid lawyers in his office.

Mr McGinty has ruled that his lawyers must be at their desks by 09:15 each day, regardless of whether they have had to work late the night before. His rationale is that their high remuneration is designed to reward them for working long hours, and that if their support staff can make it in, so should they.

The lawyers in question feel outraged by the email, seeing it as old-fashioned and out of date. Not just because they have to be available for conference calls with colleagues in London or New York in the middle of the night. But also because in the age of tablets and smart phones, they argue that they can work wherever they are.

After reading this article I found myself in a boson-like state of superpostion! As an advocate of Liberatory Technology I agree with the lawyers that their technology should free them from an office regime. As someone who has employed consultants and built successful teams, I know the value of getting people together and setting examples, thus I have sympathy for Mr McGinty.

On reflection, it is not uncommon for us to see both sides of an argument; of both agreeing and disagreeing at the same time. If we let them, our minds naturally step up to an executive level, where we can take multiple perspectives on the problem domain. Such a capacity is integral to our natural genius.

The challenge is that our societies are built on digital computing rules – right or wrong, left or right, good or bad – a world of opposites and extremes. However we humans occupy worlds with many shades of colour, not just black and white. We are more like quantum computers, both right and wrong at the same time – we need laws to be interpreted, not obeyed.

Both gravity and love use the quantum world to their advantage, and get their way by attractive means; perhaps there is a lesson there for Mr McGinty.

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