Windows 7…

March 31, 2009

Oh look, it’s Vista 2.  I mean Windows 7.  Oh whatever, who cares?

You know why hardly anyone bothered to voluntarily upgrade to Vista? It’s because nobody needed it. The only people who upgraded voluntarily, and PAID money for the `privelege` were stupid/easily led people who thought it looked nice, and got excited by the transparent menus and thought it looked a bit like a Mac OS.  And bought the hype MS spend millions whipping up.  

Early operating systems in the 80’s were pretty unfriendly for your average Joe. But then, and partly consequently, your average Joe didn’t use computers, unless they really had to. They were geeky and uncool, and very much tools you used if you had to (unless you were a geek/hacker). So, there was a NEED for improvement, for the interface to improve, functionality to be expanded and so on. There were a steady stream of genuine, tangible improvements in the UIs of OSs right up until, oh, say, Windows XP in the Microsoft world, and others historically less well funded/marketed are now are catching up in terms of stability and useability.   

Windows XP, Service Pack 2, is/was, arguably, the pinacle of home/end user OS’s. It VERY VERY rarely hangs up/crashes, it is fairly efficient and modest  in terms of hardware requirements, and, well, it just works. It works well for gaming, video, business. Its performance/hardware ratio is great. Then we have Vista which lacks any purpose whatsoever, other than making money for MS. It has stupendous, retarded hardware requirements so that it can do loads of shit that noone but the most challenged of people cares for.  This is why most sensible thinking people completely ignored it, and MS had to resort to coercion to shift it (getting it on all prebuilt PCs) and so on.   

When I am presented with a piece of hardware unfortunate enough to have Vista preinstalled, the first thing I do is cleanse it, and get XPSP2 on there. You guarantee a faster, more stable system, period.

Inevitably there will come a time when MS has strongarmed W7 sufficiently that all developers and so on will be building apps which will no longer run on XP, and so gradually everyone will inevitably be forced to upgrade, but that could take some time. I for one will be using XP for many years to come, along with Linux variants and DOS based systems.

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Jacqui Smiths husband…

March 30, 2009

…knocking one out over some porn flicks payed for by us, the taxpayers,  whilst beautifully ironic and delicious, is not important at all – but see how much excitement, chatter and indignation it generates amongst the flock. I assure you she couldn’t give a  toss (pardon the pun) about what us little people think about this story, if it’s even true. There are MANY other things she would much rather we weren’t discussing.

This will make no difference to her career whatsoever.

Just take the time to actually look somewhere other than the BBC/mainstream news puddle, and you will find far far worse – things with which we should be really concerned and outspoken about.

As Noam Chomsky said ; “When the press focuses on the sex lives of politicians, reach for your pocket, and see who’s pulling out your wallet.”

But no, it’s Brand / Ross moral bandwagon retardation all over again.

detailing offshore tax scam, 16 Mar 2009.

March 17, 2009

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Summary

On Monday 16th March 2009, The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom published a series of leaked memos from the banking giant Barclays, together with the article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/mar/16/revenue-investigates-barclays-tax-mole-claims

The next day, these documents were removed from The Guardian web archive, as a result of a court injunction obtained in the middle of the night:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/mar/17/barclays-guardian-injunction-tax
Barclays’ lawyers, Freshfields, worked into the early hours to force the Guardian to remove the documents from the website. They argued that the documents were the property of Barclays and could only have been leaked by someone who acquired them wrongfully and in breach of confidentiality agreements.
The Guardian’s solicitor, Geraldine Proudler, was woken by the judge at 2am and asked to argue the Guardian’s case by telephone. Around 2.31am, Mr Justice Ouseley issued an order for the documents to be removed from the Guardian’s website.

The documents are copies of alleged internal memos from within Barclays Bank. They were sent by an anonymous whistleblower to Vince Cable, Liberal-Democrat shadow chancellor. The documents reveal a number of elaborate international tax avoidance schemes by the SCM (Structured Capital Markets) division of Barclays.

According to these documents, Barclays has been systematically assisting clients to avoid huge amounts of tax they should be liable for across multiple jurisdictions.

A commentator to the Financial Times stated:

I was lucky enough to read through the first of the Barclays documents…
I will say it was absolutely breathtaking, extraordinary. The depth of deceit, connivance and deliberate, artificial avoidance stunned me. The intricacy and artificiality of the scheme deeply was absolutely evident, as was the fact that the knew exactly what they were doing and why: to get money from one point in London to another without paying tax, via about 10 offshore companies. Simple, deliberate outcome, clearly stated, with the exact names of who was doing this, and no other purpose.
Until now I have been a supporter of the finance industry – I work with people there regularly and respect many of them, and greatly enjoy the Financial Times and other financial papers. However this has shone a light on something for me, and made me certain that these people belong in jail, and companies like Barclays deserve to be bankrupt. They have robbed everyone of us, every single person who pays tax or who will ever pay tax in this country (and other countries!), through both the bailouts and schemes such as this.

Contents

Context
United Kingdom
Company
Barclays Bank

File size in bytes

2993296

File type information

Zip archive data, at least v1.0 to extract

Cryptographic identity

SHA256 f6de87150004877cf50e1d2665d7de7834332aa42a4842f2ec0db4aaaab61b99

Two excellent comments, one from Gerard Mulholland posted on the BBC website:

For 30 years we -under both Labour and Tory governments- combated serious, organised US-financed Irish terrorism.

We lost 3000 civilians and 2000 soldiers.

We had car bombs.

We had truck bombs.

We had pub bombs.

We had shopping-centre bombs.

We had letter-box bombs.

We had shoot-outs.

We had sieges.

We were mortared.

We didn’t panic.

Nu-Labour are panic-stricken wimps, stampeded into unbelievable panic. They stir up fear and dread.

Stupid Al Qa’ida nutters aren’t the enemy. Nu-Labour is.

One from Anticant on this (http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/)  website;

I’m old enough to remember the Blitz in WW2, when 40,000 people were killed in a single year. They [my parents’ generation] just got on with their lives and said “sod it” when a bomb fell. They didn’t scare themselves witless with phantom plots and plotters like this daft lot, who resemble kids at hallowe’en giving themselves cheap thrills with pumpkin bogies. Yes, there IS a threat – but this government doesn’t seem to have the least clue as to what it actually is. They can’t see that they are a large part of the problem, not the answer. That is what really scares me.

Appears to have been compromised since the arrest of Theodor Reppe.

https://morphium.info

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126975.800-how-to-spot-a-hidden-religious-agenda.html

Here is the original censored article:

Amanda Gefter
New Scientist
Sat, 28 Feb 2009 22:35 UTC

As a book reviews editor at New Scientist, I often come across so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives. I have learned to recognise clues that the author is pushing a religious agenda. As creationists in the US continue to lose court battles over attempts to have intelligent design taught as science in federally funded schools, their strategy has been forced to… well, evolve. That means ensuring that references to pseudoscientific concepts like ID are more heavily veiled. So I thought I’d share a few tips for spotting what may be religion in science’s clothing.

Red flag number one: the term “scientific materialism”. “Materialism” is most often used in contrast to something else – something non-material, or supernatural. Proponents of ID frequently lament the scientific claim that humans are the product of purely material forces. At the same time, they never define how non-material forces might work. I have yet to find a definition that characterises non-materialism by what it is, rather than by what it is not.

The invocation of Cartesian dualism – where the brain and mind are viewed as two distinct entities, one material and the other immaterial – is also a red flag. And if an author describes the mind, or any biological system for that matter, as “irreducibly complex”, let the alarm bells ring.

Misguided interpretations of quantum physics are a classic hallmark of pseudoscience, usually of the New Age variety, but some religious groups are now appealing to aspects of quantum weirdness to account for free will. Beware: this is nonsense.

When you come across the terms “Darwinism” or “Darwinists”, take heed. True scientists rarely use these terms, and instead opt for “evolution” and “biologists”, respectively. When evolution is described as a “blind, random, undirected process”, be warned. While genetic mutations may be random, natural selection is not. When cells are described as “astonishingly complex molecular machines”, it is generally by breathless supporters of ID who take the metaphor literally and assume that such a “machine” requires an “engineer”. If an author wishes for “academic freedom”, it is usually ID code for “the acceptance of creationism”.

Some general sentiments are also red flags. Authors with religious motives make shameless appeals to common sense, from the staid – “There is nothing we can be more certain of than the reality of our sense of self” (James Le Fanu in Why Us?) – to the silly – “Yer granny was an ape!” (creationist blogger Denyse O’Leary). If common sense were a reliable guide, we wouldn’t need science in the first place.

Religiously motivated authors also have a bad habit of linking the cultural implications of a theory to the truth-value of that theory. The ID crowd, for instance, loves to draw a line from Darwin to the Holocaust, as they did in the “documentary” film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Even if such an absurd link were justified, it would have zero relevance to the question of whether or not the theory of evolution is correct. Similarly, when Le Fanu writes that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species “articulated the desire of many scientists for an exclusively materialist explanation of natural history that would liberate it from the sticky fingers of the theological inference that the beauty and wonder of the natural world was direct evidence for ‘A Designer'”, his statement has no bearing on the scientific merits of evolution.

It is crucial to the public’s intellectual health to know when science really is science. Those with a religious agenda will continue to disguise their true views in their effort to win supporters, so please read between the lines.

From Wikileaks, republished from the Financial Mail.

The competition commission has allowed banks to spin the report of its inquiry into charges

Secrecy hardly ever works, said former US politician Newt Gingrich, and it absolutely never works when it’s used “in defence of dumbness”.

This seems to apply to the imbroglio that has resulted in the competition commission spitting fire at website Wikileaks for publishing the uncensored version of a 590-page report of the commission’s banking inquiry.

Little wonder, given that the uncensored version reflects poorly on the commission itself and contradicts the theory that the banks are “open and transparent” with the public.

The report from the inquiry, headed by Thabani Jali, was the final outcome of two years of hearings into how banks set fees. Its sweeping proposals, which could save consumers R1bn/year, include capping penalty fees at R5 and overhauling the way banks charge ATM fees.

The report emerged just before Christmas, but there were big blacked-out chunks that were excised at the request of the banks. Thanks to Swedish website Wikileaks, the public now know that most of the excised portions were blacked out to protect the banks from public anger, rather than for true reasons of “confidentiality”.

Take this excerpt, blacked out at Absa’s request: “All the major banks assert that penalty fees, including fees for rejected debit orders, are readily avoidable by the customer by… keeping enough money in their accounts to meet any debit orders they choose to sign.”

WHAT IT MEANS:

  • Banks censored report for PR reasons
  • Wikileaks will lay charges if the source is hunted

 

But what could be the justification for censoring that statement, other than to prevent consumers finding out what the banks really believe, public relations aside?

As Jali’s panel said: “This fails to take account of social reality, a little like Marie Antoinette saying, ‘Let them eat cake!'”

Absa also claimed “confidentiality” over this statement: “It is evident that Absa failed to pass on… cost savings to any significant extent to its customers by way of price reductions, choosing instead to retain most of these savings as profits.”

Absa asked for no less than 69 excisions. FNB asked for 74, Nedbank 46 and Standard Bank 29.

So the real question is, how could the commission have agreed to censor the report in a way that now makes them look complicit in massaging the facts to suit the banks?

Competition commissioner Shan Ramburuth concedes that the leaked report now reflects poorly on his organisation and the banks.

“Why did the competition commission accept some of the requests to make it confidential? We did it for the sake of progress, to get this thing out there without further delays,” he says.

Ramburuth says that when faced with the requests to black out information from the banks’ lawyers, it became difficult to determine what was genuinely confidential.

First National Bank CEO Michael Jordaan admits the bank’s lawyers were perhaps overcautious.

“We never saw the report, only our lawyers did. Lawyers do what they think is in the client’s best interest, and you know what they’re like: if they see anything they vaguely don’t like, they’ll just take it all out,” he says.

For much of the inquiry, FNB was seen as the shining light of transparency, willing to assist the inquiry at every turn. The leaked report seriously tarnishes this image.

For example, FNB asked this statement to be excised: “Standard Bank and FNB have also enjoyed an increased number of transactions, unit cost savings and increased profits, without using these as an opportunity to mount a vigorous challenge to their rivals by way of price competition.”

This appears to be the inquiry’s conclusion. So why should it be excised under the guise of being “confidential”?

“Because it is factually inaccurate,” says Jordaan. “As liberal as we were, there’s always the risk that this information can be used legally. So we can’t afford to let these kinds of incorrect assumptions through.”

Though it is clear that Absa asked for a large amount of excisions, Absa GM for pricing Keith McIvor disputes that this was out of line with the other banks.

“Our lawyers said that in the initial parts of the report we did make more requests than others but, on balance, our legal team says all the banks claimed confidentiality equally,” he says.

McIvor said the leak was “disappointing”, especially as the bank voluntarily co-operated fully and went through a lengthy confidentiality process.

Peter Schlebusch, Standard Bank CEO for personal and business banking, says the bank’s claims of confidentiality had nothing to do with “trying to position ourselves from a public relations perspective”.

But in some instances it seems farcical.

For example, at the hearings Standard Bank openly discussed the findings of research from Genesis which showed the cost for customers of switching accounts between banks.

This showed that for Mzansi customers, the cost of switching accounts was R8,63 – 8% of their average annual R111 bank fees. For E Plan customers, this cost was R21,92 – 6% of their R374 annual bank charges.

Yet in the final report, it requested that this information, which it had already publicly disclosed, be blacked out, as it was “confidential”.

Schlebusch admits this was an “error”.

“In the complex process of sorting out the confidential information, we claimed confidentiality in respect of information that was already in the public arena,” he says.

Interestingly, the competition commission didn’t agree with Genesis’s analysis, saying it excluded certain key costs, so it did its own. This put the switching costs at 35% for an Mzansi customer (R39,18), 29% (R108,45) for an E Plan customer and 29% (R543) for a Prestige account.

Yet Standard Bank requested this be kept confidential, too. This seems iniquitous. Surely the public should know the real costs of switching accounts.

Absa, Nedbank and FirstRand have prohibited their staff from looking at the uncensored report. Curiously, Standard Bank hasn’t issued any such ban.

Nedbank CEO Tom Boardman says it would be wrong to allow the reading of the report. “I’d love to know what it costs the other banks to process a transaction, for example. But our position is that it’s not appropriate to read confidential details like that in a leaked report.”

But Jordaan says the commission could face legal claims over this leak.

“If a bank were to suffer losses because their confidential information was compromised, they might have a damages claim against the commission,” he says.

Ramburuth responds: “Look, we took every reasonable precaution, but something went wrong, and when the uncensored version was revealed, we did everything to limit the damage.”

The commission requested Wikileaks to remove the uncensored report, but Wikileaks told it to take a hike.

Wikileaks said if SA investigators tried to expose the source of the leak, they could face “criminal sanctions for spying on journalist-source communications [under Sweden’s Press Freedom Act]”.

Unfortunately, the uproar over what was censored threatens to cloud the incisive conclusions of Jali’s panel, which reached findings that were anything but complimentary to the banks.

Besides making 28 recommendations, the panel said “competition has not been effective in constraining the banks from keeping prices above competitive levels over a significant period of time”.

The ill-conceived effort by the banks to spin the message, and the willingness of the commission to let them, is an unfitting postscript for Jali and his panel.

First appeared in Financial Mail Thanks to Rob Rose and FM for covering these documents. Copyright remains with FM.