Once upon a time there was a country called Blandoland. The people of Blandoland were very peaceful and tolerant, and they were a happy lot. At some point newcomers started to arrive in the land …
Read the full story here:
Once upon a time there was a country called Blandoland. The people of Blandoland were very peaceful and tolerant, and they were a happy lot. At some point newcomers started to arrive in the land …
Read the full story here:
The present mainstream media may be ignoring her campaign, but the future mainstream media is paying very close attention. See my post at the Participator:
I support Anne Marie Waters For the UKIP leadership, please read my detailed explanation at the above link.
A group of bloggers (including myself) have recently launched a political opinion website. The aim is to host differing opinions on a wide range of topics, our sole uniting concerns are explained in the About page:
This site is bringing together writers on politics and social issues who are united in concerns about creeping authoritarianism and encroachments on the freedom of speech, and the erosion of equality before the law. Beyond those uniting concerns, many differing opinions are represented here on other issues.
We are welcoming articles from readers. We are using Disqus as the comment platform.
Recent focus was on the French election including these articles:
(John L. Work shares his thoughts about the predicament of France’s riot policemen.)
(Jillian Becker describes how civilization itself is at risk.)
But we are also asking bigger questions about government policy throughout the West, for example:
(I call out the hypocrisy of European governments who claim to be showing compassion in the migrant crisis).
(Dr Tim Morgan criticizes neo-liberalism.)
(I ask some difficult questions about the welfare state.)
(Political blogger Samuel Hooper criticizes the trend towards increasing illiberalism on university campuses, and asks whether under 21s should lose the vote).
(Tom (British Awakening) celebrates the glorious event of the triggering of article 50.)
We have also re-published a number of articles previously featured at:
You may wish to comment on those if you missed them first time around e.g.:
by British Awakening
by Seymour Clare
Hope you can find some time to visit. This is the link to the front page:
An excellent blog post calling out the hypocrisy of pro-mass immigration “environmentalists”.
I know probably everybody reading this has heard of Eva Bartlett by now, and you’ve probably seen the clip. However I couldn’t put this out of my mind somehow, I started to look at it all more closely. I fear that a lot of people have become a bit too partisan deciding that “she’s one of us”, “yes that’s right” and so forth. Sometimes you need to be partisan in things, very probably we do now on the Syria situation, but I just felt inclined to try and have a closer look. One big question, was Assad really using chemical weapons against civilians, and if so do you really want to be joining either side of a conflict where things like that are happening (possibly on both sides, more on that in a second)?
She made some very serious allegations about Western mainstream media coverage of the war in Syria. She also made some very serious allegations about a group called the Syria Civil Defense, who are also known as the White Helmets. The group’s stated mission is to save lives by rescuing as many people from the war zone as possible.
Here is Eva Bartlett in action at the UN conference just in case you haven’t seen it yet:
2 key points:
At 5:13 she talks about the (alleged) attack on the al Quds hospital.
At 9:45 she talks about the opposition making chemical weapons.
Channel 4 did a “fact check” on EB’s claims. Near the start there was a claim that started alarm bells ringing in my head:
She writes a blog for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today and is candid about her support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Syrian rebels with Russian and Iranian help.
Eva Bartlett’s blog is not “for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today”, Eva Bartlett’s blog is Eva Bartlett’s blog, says Eva Bartlett.
She has appeared on RT, but then as she points out, so have quite a lot of other people. Merely appearing on the programme does not make her an RT employee, as this seems to be implying, any more than Tommy Robinson’s appearance on the Daily Politics makes him a BBC employee. Of course she must be financially supported somehow, but for channel 4 to make this claim without presenting any evidence to us, well its really quite irritating, isn’t it.
Here is the link if you want to check the “fact check”, it was already looking not very credible in my mind:
Further down is an absolutely stupid statement:
It’s not clear whether critics of the White Helmets believe that all the videos the group posts of people being rescued from bombed-out houses are fake.
Critics of the White Helmets are not all going to think exactly the same way about this, this is just stupid. I only mention this because it seems to me this is a sort of slur against ALL critics of the White Helmets – lumping them all together, presumably with the intention of hinting that this is all a big conspiracy theory. It also asks:
Why use fake victims when there were other real people to film and photograph?
another really stupid question. To film real people in a war zone must be difficult to do, not to mention EXTREMELY dangerous. It also says:
And we have a Reuters photographer on the ground at one of the incidents, who was satisfied that the events he was recording were genuine.
Now this *sounds* quite impressive doesn’t it, but we only have their word for this, we’ve no way of verifying this from the “fact check” at least.
I wasn’t really sure about what channel 4 were saying here about the girl, it seemed to me they had selected particular photos where the girl’s face was contorted/or different angles. It seemed they were focusing just on one claim and I couldn’t really (frankly) be bothered to go into it too deeply. So I scrolled down to read the comments below the “fact-check” article. In the comments a couple of people had posted links to a Youtube video featuring some of the White Helmets in a “mannequin challenge”.
What is a mannequin challenge (call me square but I’d never heard of this before)? This is a funny internet craze where people create videos showing groups of people who appear to be frozen in time while the camera pans around viewing them from different angles. It seems that some bright sparks in the White Helmets organization decided that it would be a good idea to make a mannequin challenge video of one of their “rescues”, in this case of a man from a bomb site. Unfortunately they didn’t really think this thing through, because by creating such an obviously fake video they have seriously damaged the credibility of the whole organization in one fell stroke. Any video they now produce of one of their “rescues” is going to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, however realistic or even actually real it may be. You can view the video in this article:
Quote from the article:
“The video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge,” the statement read.
“This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved.
I can’t however help wondering in watching this mannequin challenge video if the people involved have done this sort of thing before (acting), there is something practiced about it, it does not look particularly amateurish to me. However of course I could be totally wrong, that’s pure speculation. You can watch it in the link and tell me what do you think.
Another quote from the article:
But critics, often pro-Assad or pro-Russia accounts on social media, allege links to jihadist groups and have long claimed that the organisation fabricates reports and rescues.
I can’t help feeling this is another attempt to discredit the people questioning the white helmets – the phrase “often pro-Assad or pro-Russia” seems loaded to me. So what if they are “pro-Assad” or “pro-Russia”, what difference does that make? What matters is whether the claims are true or false. This very article is surely doing exactly that – claiming that the white helmets have fabricated a rescue! Are the BBC “pro-Assad” or “pro-Russia”? I’ve never been under THAT impression. At least the BBC reported this, although I don’t know how prominently (this is a thing, sometimes the BBC will publish something important but not put it on the front page, squirrel it away in a section).
At the end of the article it says this:
A spokesman for the RFS told the BBC that the activist group occasionally used this kind of campaign to help shine a spotlight on the suffering of millions of ordinary Syrians.
He pointed out that in the past it had attempted to raise awareness of the conflict by leveraging the popularity of computer game Pokemon Go and comic-book heroes The Avengers.
Terrible though all this is I almost laughed when I read that somehow. Note it says “this kind of campaign”. What, faked rescue videos shine a spotlight on what exactly? Pokemon Go in a war-zone? That seems particularly alarming, don’t try this in your own war-zones kids.
This is a very important point to make I think – if we are to be no longer allowed to view a fake news item like this mannequin challenge video by the “White Helmets”, then we lose a vital bit of information that helps us decide whether to take the “White Helmets” seriously or whether to question every single video they produce. Of course this one video alone does not prove that they are a completely fake organization, not by any means. It is just one small piece of evidence that can help us to build a picture. If European governments ever go ahead with their plan to censor fake news, this vital information may end up being suppressed.
There are other serious allegations about the White Helmets mentioned at Wikipedia:
Snopes also “fact-checked” some of Eva’s claims including the Al Quds hospital claims and one about the little girl called “Aya”
Despite Bartlett’s claims, the existence of multiple children named “Aya” does not indicate the “recycling” of victims or prove that accounts of violence against Syrian civilians by their government are falsified. It attests only to the popularity of the given name Aya among Syrian families.
I didn’t look into this “fact-check” in detail, any feedback on it would be much appreciated – I think the stuff about the al-Quds hospital is much more interesting than this business about “Aya”, but if they believe in White Helmets videos after all the above then we have to wonder a bit at least. We know that the White Helmets have faked at least one video, after all.
Judging from some interviews I listened to, it would seem she is now spending a lot of time batting away these claims of “fake news” rather than actually reporting on things. It seems a shame really, doesn’t it. Why not do some reporting of your own MSM, instead of playing these childish games and slandering people without showing us anything to back your claims up with.
I’ve been confused since this whole thing started about whose side the West is on in the civil war in Syria, maybe we’re not sure. However apparently (according to the BBC) we have special forces fighting against the Islamic State:
The pictures, which date from June, follow an attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS) on the moderate rebel New Syrian Army base of Al Tanaf on the Syria-Iraq border.
Now, I’m sorry but I’ve really reached the point where I take the word “moderate” with a pinch of salt in all this. I suppose if we’re fighting the Islamic State then its a good thing, but if we’re helping to destablize Assad’s regime, well you see I just don’t know..
Back in 2013, we were trying to start a war against Assad:
Fair enough in that this was about trying to deter the use of chemical weapons, but now we have these claims that the “rebels” also may have used chemical weapons. Are we going to bomb both sides in the conflict? I suppose that might make sense if we had really precise weapons but in another claim, the RAF were accused of hitting some Syrian forces. We had Obama giving Assad “red line” warnings and things on that and then he didn’t do anything, if I remember right.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Assad DID use chemical weapons on civilians and its been proved by the UN:
The US and other council members have repeatedly blamed the Syrian government for the chlorine gas attacks, saying no other party in the four-year civil war has helicopters to deliver the toxic chemicals.
However in other claims surface to surface rockets were used to deliver chemical weapons.
I came across this website/blog which I’ve been following for a while to try and pick up anything useful but I’ve not commented on this site. Some of it may be fake news, or it may reflect what’s going on, I just don’t know (there I go again). It seems though that they genuinely are trying to make sense of what’s going on there, but it definitely is pro-Assad. There does seem to be another side of the story – that there are people in Syria who are Sunnis but they are also pro-Assad, who knows maybe even the majority of them are in this category. One of EB’s claims is that the Western media exaggerates the Sunni-Shia split. Some of the people who comment there are Muslims I think but the website is pro-Trump, so its a bit of an interesting mix of viewpoints to my mind:
I’ve looked at some of her blog but not in great depth. If anyone wants to dig in a bit and tell us all what they think I would be interested in what they have to say.
One link I noticed in her (EB’s) blogroll was the Corbett Report. I followed this guy for a little while ages (a few years) ago but I rather quickly came to the conclusion that he was a bit too into “conspiracy theories”, I didn’t think his claims really stood up to scrutiny after a while. He jumps to a lot of conclusions in my opinion, and the conclusions don’t seem to necessarily follow on from the claims he makes. He has some conspiracy about 9/11. I have never come across a 9/11 conspiracy theory that I found convincing, although I haven’t really taken a deep interest in the subject anyway. This is not to say I didn’t think questions needed to be asked about a lot of aspects of what happened, I’m just saying that I don’t believe the whole thing was orchestrated by people in the US, as Corbett seems to think. Linking to this site is not a plus point for Eva Bartlett in my view, unfortunately it kind of feeds into the narrative that she is a “conspiracy theorist” herself, and I don’t really get the impression that she is.
9/11 Conspiracy Theory:
In general I’m inclined to come to the conclusion that I don’t feel any of the sources are totally reliable, the phrase “fog of war” springs to mind. The war seems like a choice between the lesser (Assad) of two great evils.
If our governments are going to go meddling in these places and help enable the dismantling of law and order (leading to these terrible atrocities – see some of the links below), then I feel complicit in what they are doing, more and more these days. I am not anti-war as a principle thing at all, but I think we need to be a lot more questioning of what our government is doing. I have lost almost all confidence in our governments on almost every front. What do you think? Any fact-checking of my above article will be appreciated, I don’t want to make a mistake on this stuff.
If you think I got anything wrong, please let me know.
ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB
(I’VE NO IDEA HOW ACCURATE ANY OF THIS IS, I JUST PICKED UP THESE LINKS AS I WAS GOING – WARNING SOME OF THIS STUFF IS REALLY HORRIFIC):
Syria conflict: Rebels ‘filmed beheading boy’ in Aleppo (quite why the BBC put that in quotes I don’t know, there is a video of it happening I believe (though I didn’t watch it)):
A legal adviser for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army was also cited by Enab Baladi as saying it would hold to account those responsible for such a violation.
In the feedback we received for this post at Not the Daily Telegraph, commenter DJ Mystery Twister posted a link to a Youtube video of a presentation by one Robert Stuart.
This contains claims that a BBC Panorama program featured fake footage of victims of chemical attacks in Syria. The claim is also made that the BBC program was intended to encourage support for a UK military intervention in Syria against Assad that the then UK Prime Minister called for. The UK government were defeated in parliament on this occasion however.
[@26.00] At the Frontline club the journalist does seem evasive – trying to suppress questions:
“It kind of makes me sick to my stomach that people would even believe that that did not happen.”
“I don’t want to even talk about that.”
[This post was originally posted on the Disqus channel “Not The Daily Telegraph“]
There used to be a phrase you heard a lot, “you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers”. Well nowadays of course we need to update the phrase to say “you can’t believe everything you read on the internet“. Journalism used to be something that only professional journalists could do, because printing newspapers was an expensive business. Now of course anybody can publish words/images/video on the internet, at no cost (once you own a computer and you have an internet connection). Since there are literally a few billion people who are all able to publish on the internet then obviously it makes sense to look at the “information” there, especially from untrustworthy/unknown sources, from a highly skeptical point of view. It may seem to some readers that I am wasting my time stating the obvious here, but it seems we are being expected to believe that this is not obvious.
As I was researching (i.e. reading stuff on the internet) for this blog post, I began to feel a little bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of “news” and opinion articles that are now being published that are concerned with the subject of “fake news”, at well known news and opinion sites. What the heck is going on, I wondered? Is there really suddenly an epidemic of “fake news” taking place? Have these writers suddenly realized that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet? Neither of these explanations really had the ring of truth to them to my mind, but rather a third explanation seemed to me the most plausible, that this story of an epidemic of “fake news” was in fact itself fake. Furthermore that there was a deliberate purpose behind the pushing of this story that “fake news” was taking over the planet, namely it was a rather transparent and feeble attempt by the established mainstream media (MSM) to discredit the rise of alternative media sites that were challenging and undermining their narrative. In this post I am going to take a closer look at some of the claims being made to see if my theory holds water.
Breitbart picked up a story from a German local news site Ruhr Nachrichten about an (alleged?) riot in Dortmund on New Years Eve:
A number of MSM sites then started making claims that Breitbart had “greatly exaggerated” the story. Politico.eu opened their article with a claim that the Dortmund police had described the night as ‘average to quiet.’
Quote 7 Jan 17:
German politicians, press and police officials say news report from the U.S. right-wing news website Breitbart that suggested a “mob” had “chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’” and set fire to a church in Dortmund have been greatly exaggerated.
Local newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten, which published reports on events that happened on New Year’s Eve, said its online reporting had been distorted to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda.”
The Independent also reported that the German police had “shaken their heads in disbelief” at Breitbart’s reporting (tut, tut):
Quote 7 Jan 17:
However, according to local journalists, there was no mob and the St Reinold Church – which is not Germany’s oldest – did not catch fire.
Breitbart have since admitted the church was not Germany’s oldest, they got that wrong, as for the fire well the Independent describes it:
The brief fire on scaffold netting near the church was reportedly caused accidently by a wayward firework.
This does pretty much match what the Ruhr Nachrichten had reported. Hm, so there was a fire started by a firework then, it was just possibly a little bit exaggerated?
Here is a video of some of the celebrations from Ruhr Nachrichten:
You can see fireworks being set off in a reckless (and illegal) manner near buildings, and riot police and the fire brigade are present. Well, perhaps riot police are present on most “average to quiet” nights in German city centres nowadays, its quite normal these days. Some members of the crowd were waving a flag which looks like a Free Syrian Army flag.
Breitbart hit back and stood by the rest of the story:
A bizarre feature of this story is the reaction of Ruhr Nachrichten to the Breitbart coverage, yet in their own coverage Ruhr Nachrichten had this to say:
Erste Anzeichen für eine unruhige Nacht erhielt die Bundespolizei am Silvesterabend bereits um 18.35 Uhr, als eine Silvesterrakete in eine Gruppe von Obdachlosen geschossen wurde und einen 32-Jährigen schwer verletzte (siehe Eintrag 11.23 Uhr). Um 19 Uhr feuerte eine Gruppe von Männern von der Katharinenstraße aus mehrere Leuchtkörper auf den Hauptbahnhof. Die Männer wurden überprüft, Pyrotechnik sichergestellt. 25 Minuten später bewarfen mehrere Tatverdächtige zur Sicherheit abgestellte Bundespolizisten und beleidigten sie mit den Worten “fuck you” und “scheiß Polizei”. Ähnliche Vorfälle wiederholten sich immer wieder.
I pasted this into Google translate, which turned it into this:
First signs of a restless night the federal police on New Year’s Eve already at 18.35 clock, when a New Year’s Eve rocket was shot in a group of homeless people and a 32-year-old seriously injured (see entry 11.23 clock). At 7 pm, a group of men fired a number of lanterns from the Katharinenstrasse to the main station. The men were checked, pyrotechnics ensured. 25 minutes later, several suspects protested against federal police officers and offended them with the words “fuck you” and “shit police”. Similar incidents were repeated over and over again.
My impression from all this is that Breitbart did exaggerate the story slightly in at least one respect, particularly the phrase “set fire to a historic church” suggested the actual church was on fire, when only some netting on the scaffold caught alight. However in general I don’t think they greatly miss-represented what Ruhr Nachrichten had reported. That footage looks pretty riotous to me, I would not have wanted to hang about in the square with fireworks going off in all directions like that. If the fire brigade had not responded as quickly as they did, then the blaze could possibly have spread to the roof and burnt the whole church down I would guess!! Hats off to the fire brigade then..
Quite a lot of evidence that illegal firework displays are now quite normal in Germany can be found on Youtube, for example:
Nothing to see here, its quite normal, move along, move along…. Just an average, quiet little riot then on the whole….
You may also recall there was a similar firework display during the NYE celebrations in Cologne 2015/16, that the MSM chose not to report on at all until the news was already well and truly going viral on alternative and social media. Once again, these stories are the kind of stories that the MSM doesn’t want to publicize, for fear of seeming “politically incorrect”. Could it be that by attacking Breitbart in this way the MSM are trying to cover up the fact that they didn’t report the story AT ALL? This is an example of what I think we should call “lying by omission” (aka propaganda by omission), a subject I will be returning to look at in detail in a coming post. This omission should be seen as a far more significant case of misleading the public, than the slight exaggeration that Breitbart appear to be guilty of. Of course the significance of this “celebration” and others like it is that the German people have welcomed these migrants believing them to be needing help. Now these migrants are ignoring Germany’s laws and creating an intimidating atmosphere in German cities, and insulting their police, its scarcely a show of gratitude.
Probably the most serious allegation about the “fake news” “epidemic” is that it is influencing the results of political elections in the US and in Europe. Consider this article in the Forbes site:
Here the claim is made that fake news had influenced several recent election results including the US presidential election and Brexit:
In critical elections in 2016, fake news played a critical role in the stunning and unexpected outcomes.
This is obviously not verifiable one way or the other since we don’t state our reasons for voting on the ballot paper. Forbes must have truly spooky and stupendous mind-reading abilities to reach this conclusion. This is at best an attempt to present mere conjecture as fact.
The article goes on to paint a picture of a dumb US electorate having its strings pulled by teenage pranksters and Russia, the latter impression seemingly backed up by a report published jointly by the CIA, FBI, NSA:
The article also refers to the by now famous group of teenagers in a town called Veles in Macedonia who propagated fake news during the US presidential election. Also quoted is a by now famous fake headline:
Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement
If you read my earlier post on the “post-truth” phenomenon, you will remember that the BBC also made a big thing about this very same silly prank fake news headline. This is yet another case of “saturation” in use (a technique also used to propagate politically correct ideas). If you repeat the same daft thing over and over again eventually people start to take it more seriously. In this case they are promoting the daft notion that this prank headline about Pope Francis might have somehow influenced the US election.
Some of the fake news was published by “newspapers” that you’ve never heard of before, such as the “Denver Guardian”. According to the “Denver Post”, there is no such thing as the “Denver Guardian”:
A spokesperson for the Denver Guardian was unavailable for comment (and their website link doesn’t appear to be working either). Something fishy going on there. On a more serious note, readers will probably be wondering why a supposedly reputable site like Forbes is making a big thing about these teenage internet pranksters in Macedonia. I’ll tell you why, its because they don’t like Donald Trump and they think the EU is really great, and they are clutching at straws to make their point.
Here is some “statistical analysis” of the fake news impact on the US presidential election from Buzzfeed:
During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
They then contrast this with what they imply is comparable data about Facebook content about real news stories:
Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
Now if taken at face value these numbers might seem a little disturbing. FAKE NEWS STORIES ARE BEING READ MORE THAN REAL NEWS, we might be inclined to think!
However I see a number of problems with concluding very much at all from this data:
1. We don’t know if the people reading these fake stories actually believed them, or whether they just thought “ha, some funny fake news LOL!”.
2. We don’t know if the people reading these fake stories were in any way influenced by them, let alone if they would have voted differently if they had been duped by them. If people are going to believe any silly story they see on the internet, then there’s probably not much hope that they are going to vote sensibly anyway.
3. We don’t know how many of the reactions/comments were skeptical.
4. The number of people eligible to vote in the US is 231,556,622 apparently. The same people might have reacted/shared/commented on the stories multiple times so 8+ million shares/reactions/comments might equate to significantly fewer people, maybe even less than 1% of the electorate.
The originator of the “Pope backs Trump” story is alleged to be this website (its also been alleged the originator was another website):
They are now reporting: “Seafront is on lockdown after Somali pirates take over Southend Pier”:
A spokesperson for Southend Pier has denied the presence of Somali pirates on the pier but confirm they have posted lookouts to reassure the public.
Returning to the same Forbes article, we read of a truly alarming proposal by Italy’s “antitrust authority Chairman”:
In an interview late last week with the Financial Times, Giovanni Pitruzzella proposed that European Union member countries create an institutional framework modeled on their current antitrust agencies and centrally coordinated out of E.U. Brussels headquarters, to identify fake news stories, pull them offline and fine their creators and propagators.
Note the phrase “pull them offline” – meaning no doubt to censor first and ask questions later. Do we have even the tiniest hope that this “agency” that would be “centrally coordinated out of E.U. Brussels headquarters” could be relied on to act impartially? I think not, please note that apparently Signor Pitruzzella also had this to say:
“Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies,” Pitruzzella argued.
,further confirming that Signor Pitruzzella has a heavy bias against what he calls “populism”. Once again we hear the ominous Orwellian phrase “post-truth”. Of course we can be sure such an agency will be missing a sense of humour, so anybody foolish enough to publish satirical content will run a risk of legal actions from the EU. Much business for lawyers will be generated and hilarious scenes will unfold in courtrooms all across the EU, if this agency gets the go-ahead.
Germany of course is leading the charge to censor “fake news”:
However the UK parliament seems to be thinking seriously about jumping on the bandwagon as well:
Some academics are adding their voices to the growing chorus of voices claiming there is an epidemic of “fake news”.
Fortune reports that a Professor Jonathan Albright has produced an astonishingly scientifically accurate map of the “Fake-News Ecosystem”:
In the diagram you can see Breitbart and the Daily Mail represented as big red circles, whereas the proper news sites (e.g. the BBC, the Independent) are shown as grey-green circles. Seriously though the old phrase “garbage in – garbage out” does spring to my mind as I look at this map. I identified at least one case of the Independent publishing fake news and some probable fake news from the BBC in a previous post:
Could it be this diagram really just shows us which right-leaning websites have been classified as biased by left-leaning websites which are themselves biased?
Apparently a list of fake and misleading websites has “gone viral”:
Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, published the list Monday that’s currently being shared across social media by students, non-students and journalists alike.
She accuses the websites of preying on people’s “confirmation bias”. Readers will be relieved to know that newsbiscuit and theonion are correctly listed as “satire”.
A seismic shift is taking place. Thanks in very large part I believe to the emergence of alternative media and social media on the internet, ordinary people are beginning to wake up to the fact that they have been misled by the MSM since the very dawn of time. Ever since the printing press was first invented and mass media became a feature of life, those who controlled the publication of news and opinions have been shaping our view of the wider world. Far from presenting an unbiased view of what is going on in the world, the MSM have been presenting to us a distorted version of events, and telling us what we should think about it. Now we can all “fact check” news stories, and share our information and opinions with each other and with the whole world. In a desperate attempt to retain control of the “narrative”, the MSM are trying to falsely smear news outlets that challenge that narrative. With each such attempt they further undermine their own credibility.
The really alarming thing about this battle is that governments seem increasingly willing to act on these slanderous accusations, and consider enacting legislation against so-called “fake news”. Of course the current elected politicians are almost exclusively members of political parties that were elected with the support of one or more existing news outlets. Consequently the established political parties have much to lose when the narrative of those news outlets is challenged and successfully undermined. I don’t think its particularly fanciful to even suggest that some of the policies of those political parties were to some degree shaped by the bias of those news outlets.
So, the next time you read a story about “fake news”, remember – you can’t believe everything you read on the internet!
ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB (SEE IF YOU CAN SPOT THE FAKE NEWS):
Dr. Bill Warner destroys the idea that Islam can be understood solely through the Koran:
Some of the “reformers” are claiming the Hadith and Sira can be ignored. (This is in fact nothing new, there has been a movement called the Quranist movement for a long time). They want to ignore them because the brutality is a lot more transparent and explicit, for example here is explicit justification for the killing of apostates in the Hadith:
Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”
Dr Bill blows up this idea, that you can ignore the Hadith and the Sira, as follows – the Koran says Mohammed’s life is a beautiful pattern of conduct for Muslims to follow (Koran 33:21), but there is no way of really discovering Mohammed’s life unless you read the Hadith and the Sira. There is very little information about Mohammed’s life in the Koran, he is mentioned by name only 4 (or 5) times in the Koran.
[Second in a 2 part series about economics (the subject no-one knows much about) by a non-expert]
The idea of quantitative easing (QE) supposedly arose because inflation was falling in the wake of the banking crisis and people at the top started worrying about a “deflationary spiral” (you know for example where the house prices start to go down to sensible levels instead of going up all the time). The idea of QE is SUPPOSED to be that you depress interest rates and this stimulates lending, which in turn stimulates the economy. A side effect (or is it the main effect) of QE is that it depresses the yield on bonds (relative to how much the bonds cost), and therefore makes it cheaper for govt.s to borrow more money (I think that’s how it works). With our governments struggling with a seemingly ever growing debt burden, you can see the attraction of THAT to the govt. QE is not supposed to be like printing extra banknotes (you know like they did in Weimar Germany), but I think it is like that, except that its not banknotes that get made up out of thin air, its 1s and 0s on a computer somewhere, and there are also different immediate effects, which I will try to identify presently.
In this article the BBC attempts to explain quantitative easing to dummies:
Between 2008 and 2015, the US Federal Reserve in total bought bonds worth more than $3.7 trillion.
The UK created £375bn ($550bn) of new money in its QE programme between 2009 and 2012.
Hearing of all this extra money being printed at the time got me thinking, maybe I can get my hands on some of it! I therefore decided to ask for a raise. I went to see my boss at the office in which I worked and, a bit like Oliver Twist begging for his extra bowl of gruel, I meekly asked for a raise. “What, can’t you see I’ve got IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW TINKER!!!” shouted my boss and he thumped his fist on his desk, causing the steel balls of his desktop toy to crash into each other in a menacing manner. I imagined I could hear my colleagues sniggering in the office behind me as I retreated to his office door, stammering as I went “I’m sorry Mr. Shankly I did not realize you were so busy”. As I shuffled back to my desk I could see my colleagues smirking all around me and I thought to myself – I wish I was a banker, what am I doing here? It was true that that noble profession had taken a bit of a hit in the popularity stakes in recent years, following the recent banking crisis (like interest rates, popularity can go below zero). However it still seemed to be the only occupation where people still made anything like a decent income. It seemed pretty clear unfortunately that I was not going to see any of this money, after all. Anyway, enough about my own tragicomic existence.
At the end of the above BBC article there is a section titled:
Are there any losers from QE?
in which the BBC identifies who it thinks are the losers:
investors have to pay more to get the same income.
However I have this nagging feeling that these investors are not necessarily losers at all if they decide to sell their bonds back to the govt. (more on that in a moment). I have this nagging feeling that we, the little people, are the real losers, somehow. Remember that in matters of finance, there are always a lot of speculators swimming around with their dorsal fins sticking out of the water, waiting for an easy meal. I know that pensioners own bonds in their pension funds, so pensioners could be winners or losers in this I suspect, depending on who is managing their funds. There are a lot of younger people to think about however as well, who are struggling and striving away while the debt that will be their children’s legacy is growing.
Now I began to start wondering what on earth was going on in the wake of all this “quantitative easing”. In the first place, I rather expected high inflation to result (that’s normally what happens when govt.s print loads of money). There was a bit of inflation going on in the supermarket, I seemed to notice, but not really a huge amount. There did seem to be a slight improvement in the economy, if the newspapers were anything to go by, but you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers. My own economic circumstances did not seem to have improved at all, what with slight inflation and stagnant wages and house prices going up again.
Then they reduced and then stopped quantitative easing for a bit, and again, nothing much seemed to happen. Where was this deflationary spiral we had been warned about by the experts? Surely now that QE had slowed down, there would be deflation! What the heck was going on?? Some media “economics” pundits were actually suggesting that the problem was we weren’t doing ENOUGH “quantitative easing”! It was such a great idea that we needed to print MORE money. In this article there is a graph showing how QE was in fact reduced in the UK from 2011 to 2012:
An anonymous young man showed up at a talk by Lionel Shriver (I don’t know who she is either), and explained to Ms. Shriver why the huge quantitative easing had not caused high inflation:
‘Only 8 per cent of QE has been re-lent into the productive economy’. The rest has gone to hedge funds and investment banks, which have stuck the dosh into ‘property and luxury assets of all kinds — which is why we see massive inflation in these particular asset classes, but not for the rest of us’.
I have a funny feeling that young man was right. This seems an entirely plausible account to me. I had been scratching my head about this for some time, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. So, the owners of these particular asset classes had got very rich, THAT was what had happened, and that was more or less ALL that had happened (apart from very low interest rates for govt. debt). This seemed to me rather believable, and a bit sickening, to put it mildly. But, if you just sell something (in this case bonds) for the same price you bought it, then you are no richer. The question is, are the bonds bought back at the same price the bonds were originally sold for? I think probably not.
Now I am dimly aware of a thing called the bond market. If there is a market for bonds, then bond prices surely go up and down, because that’s what things normally do in financial markets. I don’t know if this is really how it works (so please jump in and comment below if you know better than me), but it seems to me if people hear the govt. is about to buy back a load of its own bonds, then the price is going to go UP beforehand, meaning that some people who own bonds are going to get rich out of quantitative easing, because they will be selling for more than the price they bought at. Apparently I’m not the first person to think of this, but its “apparently” more complicated according to an expert at investopedia (when is finance not):
If anybody can read that and translate it into short plain English for me I will be grateful. So far, my suspicions remain. Why would people sell things at the same price they bought them at? Possibly they had decided the govt. was a dodgy institution and they just wanted to get rid of them? No, I don’t think things have got anywhere near that bad yet. Confidence in govt. lending may one day collapse, but we’re nowhere near that point yet, IMHO.
In a similar way (although in reverse), when Gordon Brown announced to the world that he was going to sell half of the UK’s gold reserves, the price of gold fell in anticipation, causing the UK to lose a lot of money in the sale:
The advance notice of the substantial sales drove the price of gold down by 10% by the time of the first auction on 6 July 1999
No doubt, not only did the UK get poorer, but some speculators circling around saw their opportunity and made a killing. If we blindly trust our politicians to look after the nation’s finances, then well you see what I’m driving at, that’s not been going very well in the recent past.
Here is the view from the Bank of England (beware, the BofE may be somewhat BIASED in this matter):
If you follow a link to a pdf at the end of this, you see it says:
The Bank of England creates new money electronically to buy financial assets like government bonds. This cash injection lowers the cost of borrowing and boosts asset prices to support spending and get inflation back to target.
Right, see that? That seems to be an admission of the assumption I made at the beginning, that a motivation is to lower the cost of govt. borrowing, its not all just about controlling inflation/deflation. So, it IS like Weimar Germany money printing, its just that the IMMEDIATE effects are different. That worries me, because I wonder what the LONGER term effects will be like as well.
Yes it is in the UK (I’m not sure about the US). Now that the bandwagon is rolling, its difficult to get it to stop. QE seems to have spread like a virus, the Japanese, the EU. I thought the UK had stopped but it appears they started again in 2016:
Note this article seems to think QE is good but it also seems to confirm that telling people in advance you’re going to buy large quantities of something affects the price, although it does so in economist-speak:
Bank officials suspect that the holders of long-term bonds underestimated the price that would prevail at the auction on August 9th. As a result they held back from selling. Now, however, the expectation is that at the next auction of long-term gilts, expected to be on August 16th, the final price will be higher. Investors are unlikely to make the same mistake.
What is Corbynomics exactly? When I first heard about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “QE for the people” idea, I had visions of red helicopters (emblazoned with the hammer and sickle), flying over council estates and dropping wads of cash on the delighted inhabitants. I posted my council housing application that same day, hoping to position myself directly under the helicopters’ flight path.
It seems I got it wrong though, that’s not quite what “QE for the people” is all about. The Daily Mail explains it in their financial section:
His biggest headline-grabber has been the suggestion of People’s QE to fund his infrastructure plans, which we explain below.
Meanwhile, Corbyn says he would end the public sector pay freeze, and he is a staunch opponent of welfare cuts. He argues that austerity is about political choices not economic necessities – and that there is money available.
new, large-scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects
Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-3211449/What-Corbynomics-Labour-frontrunner-s-economic-plan-explained.html#ixzz4VYcDTdVk
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Well you know, there is always money available, over in socialism opposite-land. It seems Corbyn is actually planning to print money and use it to build council houses for one thing, and then rent them out (no doubt at low rents well below the rental market) to poor people, including to those who don’t work no doubt. Having now spent a considerable part of my adult life working and saving to buy a little house which forever grew in “value”, always staying tantalizingly just beyond reach, I have to tell you readers that I am not very happy about Corbyn’s plans, not very happy at all. Being a wage slave for a company is one thing, but being a wage slave for a company AND a loony lefty govt., well that’s too much. I quit.
Governments in the UK in the last century built a lot of council houses (and tower blocks), and many of them have since been demolished. A lot of the houses that were demolished to make way for the new council houses were perfectly useful houses, that were labelled as “slums” by the govt. often for really silly reasons such as the fact that they didn’t have bathrooms. A lot of the tower blocks that replaced these perfectly good houses have since become slums themselves, “sink estates” where drug taking and gang culture goes on. Quite a lot of these tower blocks have been blown up in controlled demolitions since. I don’t want to sound patronizing, I know this is very basic economics, but if you build some houses and then knock them down and then build some more and then knock them down and so on, this all costs money.
It seems a slum is more defined by the behaviour of its inhabitants than the buildings. Many of the tower blocks were truly hideous as well, and many of the little terrace houses that escaped demolition have since had bathrooms and fancy kitchens installed (not to mention damp proofing) and the areas have become gentrified and seen astronomical house price rises despite the modest investment in refurbishment. If you think drug taking and gang culture doesn’t go on in nicer low-rise estates as well btw, think again, it does. This is probably a subject for a separate discussion though, council housing is a big subject in its own right, and I do appreciate there were problems with overcrowding in those days.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is not same-old, same-old socialism; it is new, radical thinking.
It sounds very same-old, same-old to me. Is this the same-old, same-old BBC, grasping at a straw – leftyism may have failed in every “form” its taken, its just not been done the right way yet (bit like what many Muslims in the West say about Islam)? Robert Peston, the smug BBC (now ITV) economist superstar, does however conclude his article by expressing doubts about Corbynomics (I can never quite work out if Peston is a proper lefty or not, he seems to hedge his bets in both directions here):
Because there would be widespread concerns that the Bank of England would be indirectly financing white elephants via this investment bank – and would, as I mentioned earlier, be throwing good money after bad.
Ambrose Evans Pritchard (that well known member of the Communist party (that’s fake news by the way, he isnt really)) at the DT is egging Corbyn on:
Much of the money has leaked into asset booms, greatly enriching the “haves”, with a painfully slow trickle-down to the rest of society. A pervasive sense that the financial elites pulled a blinder – while austerity is for little people – explains in part why Mr Corbyn has suddenly stormed into the limelight, and why the US socialist Bernie Sanders has so upset the Democratic primaries.
AEP seems to confirm my above suspicions here about QE causing an asset boom at least. Note what he is saying here, note it well – Corbyn should not be underestimated. Note particularly that Corbyn is promising to crack down on tax avoidance and tax evasion, which will also be a vote winner, even though every party always says that. Then AEP made me wonder if he might be a member of the Communist party after all, when he says this:
[Milton] Friedman did not, of course, mean that banknotes should be dropped from the sky, though they could be in extremis, but rather that central banks have the means to create money to fund tax cuts, or to cover state spending, until the economy comes back to life.
See that “though they could be in extremis”, so AEP would actually support the fictional/joke helicopter drop that I described at the beginning of this section. Fortunately one of our correspondents was on hand to witness the first helicopter money drop:
PILOT: Welcome on board Mr Evans-Pritchard, did you bring those suitcases full of banknotes that we told you to bring, of your own money, that we’re going to throw out of the helicopter?
AEP: Yes, I brought them as requested, I think this scheme is an excellent investment opportunity! Power to the people!
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Corbyn air traffic control here, you are clear for takeoff! Good luck with the money drop!
That’s fake news by the way, I just made that up.
AEP also says this:
Some invoke the spectre of Weimar, but Germany’s hyperinflation of 1923 followed the breakdown of the Wilhelmine state after the First World War. The German people saw it as their patriotic duty not to pay taxes that would be siphoned off for Versailles reparations.
Weimar tells us absolutely nothing about the merits or demerits of monetary financing in stable democratic societies with fully-functioning institutions that face a deflation crisis.
I would be interested to know what readers make of THAT.
Corbyn also wants to introduce a MAXIMUM wage, just by the by:
How would Tinkernomics work? Tinker is of the view that when governments meddle, they make a mess. Tinker favours a more hands off approach that involves governments not printing money, and not doing a lot of other things as well, such as knocking perfectly good houses down to make way for new houses that have to be knocked down after a few decades.
There is no easy way out of a big national debt (IMHO), except to reduce govt. spending or increase taxes, or to sell off assets. I suspect that some people are getting rich out of QE right now, not for doing anything useful. It may be that the national debt (that’s OUR debt) is not going up as rapidly as it might otherwise be if bond yields were higher, but we can’t keep doing this QE, we are living in la la land if we think so.
If the real aim of QE is to get the national debt down (or stop it getting any bigger) by printing money, and the fear about a deflationary spiral is unfounded (as it seems to be to me), then I think the consequence will be some type of inflation. There will be inflation in SOMETHING corresponding to the amount of the QE, and growing wealth inequality if the QE mainly benefits people who are already rich.
If we keep doing the type of QE we have been doing then the wealth gap will grow so big that eventually Corbyn will be able to storm the capital with his comrades and the red flag will be flying over Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament (not literally of course).
What do you think? Please add your comments below.
The Guardian jumps on the Corbynomics bandwagon:
[Readers please note I will come back to the post-truth part 2 after this series, I got distracted onto the subject of the banking crisis and related stuff this week.]
[First in a 2 part series on a subject no-one knows much about – economics]
There was a time when I kept my head down, shuffling along with the other commuters, then jammed in like a dead sardine on a tube train as I made my way to my 9-5 office job. I did sometimes wonder what went on inside those giant soulless steel and glass office blocks towering all around me, that seemed to grow ever taller. I did sometimes wonder why the UK seemed to be so obsessed with finance in London while the rest of the country dwindled. The former industrial powerhouse of the Midlands and North was now a depressed area where state welfare seemed to be the main source of a great many people’s incomes. Mrs. Thatcher seemed to have transformed the country for the better overall, there were no longer 3 day weeks, endless strikes and power cuts at least. Somehow however unless you were a banker, or a stockbroker, or a property magnate, or a lawyer perhaps, you had this painful feeling that you were being screwed. What did all these now-venerated occupations have in common? Well they were essentially non-productive in the sense that they did not produce anything useful or even tangible.
I had begun to notice that the more money I earned, that more of those extra earnings seemed to disappear in deductions that mysteriously occurred on my pay cheque. The little terraced house I thought I was going to be able to afford next year, when I got that pay increase I was promised for my hard work, had mysteriously acquired another £20,000 in “value” and was as far beyond my reach as ever. I was striving it seemed, to little avail. I began to take an interest in economics, hoping to solve this riddle of my futile existence. I read the newspaper columns and talked to my friends and colleagues. Some people were confident that there would soon be a house price crash. “House prices can’t just keep on rising forever” they said, “it doesn’t make sense!”. We (the little people) were all hoping for this – the thing that the “economists” were most afraid of, a house price crash – so that we could finally afford to buy a house.
Pundits in the media debated what was being called Gordon Brown’s “miracle economy”, and Prime Minister Tony Blair (of the Labour party) lauded his sidekick at no.11 “the best chancellor for 100 years.”:
Stephanie finds, as she travels the country, that it is spending and borrowing that has filled the gap – thanks to cheap money and cheap Asian imports.
How can you run an economy on “spending and borrowing” I wondered, is this really the best we’ve done for 100 years? Where on earth was all this “cheap money” coming from? Was this a miracle or a mirage? My experience of money was that it was very expensive, the concept of “cheap” money was quite alien to me.
That eminent banker Fred Goodwin, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, became Sir Fred Goodwin, his knighthood awarded for “services to banking”. Us mere mortals could only gaze up in awe at the towering giants of the banking world, who loomed above us like demi-gods, flying to and fro between the financial capitals of the world in their private jets, dealing in billions.
Then came the banking crisis of 2008/9 and finally my nagging doubts about what was really going on, had turned to downright alarm. Was that basket that the UK had been putting all its eggs into, the financial sector, in fact just a giant house of cards that was about to tumble down? Fortunately Gordon Brown (of the Labour party), now the Prime Minister, was on hand to sort out the mess, he stepped up to the dispatch box in the House of Commons and casually revealed that he had saved the world. British politics had produced a real saviour to rival any of those fictitious Marvel comic-book super-heroes.
However before long my nagging doubts began to return. Had Gordon Brown really saved the world or merely “kicked the can down the road”? We were being told that the banks were too big to be allowed to fail, and so the PM had bailed the banks out, adding a large lump of extra debt to our national debt. The national debt had shot up from 35.5% of GDP in April 2008 to 65.5% of GDP by the time Labour were voted out in May 2010, and during the so-called “austerity” period that followed, where the Coalition and Conservatives were in power, the debt has continued to grow (it now stands at 83.9% (depending on who you ask)), although it is has stopped rising so quickly now (figures from the ONS):
By the way the UK national debt total is now apparently:
In case you got lost among all those digits – that’s quite a lot. To put it in context its very roughly £75,000 per taxpayer by my calculations. That’s what it was a couple of days ago anyway, according to:
although the Daily Telegraph seems to think its a bit lower than that:
At last house prices had indeed crashed somewhat but it wasn’t long before they started to rise again, albeit in a more shaky manner, as demonstrated by this graph:
Sir Fred (aka “Fred the Shred”), the man who more than anybody in the UK had come to be associated with the banking crisis, was reduced back to merely plain old Fred again, losing his knighthood in 2012. It seems he was also not a banker, if this is accurate:
The Labour front benches were in some confusion about how Fred had ever come to be knighted in the first place (it was something about charity was it Harriet, not “services to banking”?), to the amusement of the other parties:
So, Fred the Shred was taken down a peg or two (maybe that wasn’t enough pegs), but what had caused the crash? As the 2008 crisis unfolded we had learned about all the hair-raising goings on that had led to the crisis, such as these convoluted things called “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs) which we were told (if I remember right) were “parcels” containing lots of little bits of debt, including dodgy “sub-prime” mortgage debts.
Other complicated sounding thingies like “credit default swaps” also were mentioned, you can find out what they are all about here (good luck with that):
We were told banks were lending to each other in a bizarre spider’s web of interconnections. Why?? Why were banks lending to each other? The point of banks is to lend to individual people and businesses, not to EACH OTHER, surely?? This system is also known as Fictional Reserve Banking – where banks lend to each other to somehow (I don’t know how) create the impression that they have reserves. I am of course making this all up, or am I? Judge for yourself:
Low transaction volume in this market was a major contributing factor to the financial crisis of 2007.
Am I alone here or does this sound patently absurd? Low levels of inter-bank lending was a major cause of the financial crisis?
Enough of reminiscing about all this, let us turn our minds to where we are at now, and where we are heading. What has changed at the banks exactly? Perhaps some of the worst excesses have receded, but I wonder – is inter bank lending still going on, it appears that it is:
Who on earth is lending to our government now that interest rates are set at the ridiculously low rate of 0.25% (I fear the answer is the banks)? Is lending to the government really a safe thing to do with your hard earned savings? Would you lend money to Gordon Brown for example, if he was just a person?
According to this article, some sub-prime lending is back (although at a high interest rate):
In this article the BBC asks why anyone would lend money at a negative interest rate (negative interest rates are now a thing apparently). Generosity perhaps? Philanthropy? I don’t know, here is the BBC’s view:
I can’t help looking at all this stuff without thinking its just not possible for a real human being to know what’s going on in the financial sector any more. It wasn’t back in the run up to the financial crisis, and I really believe that it still isn’t. That worries me. To give us some idea of how complicated its got – apparently whizz kids in the financial “industry” have created mind-boggling computer programs that automatically make speculative transactions, this led to a new type of thingy called a “flash crash” in 2010:
Wow, that’s flashy!! Did those whizz kids get their Ferraris repo’d I wonder?
I don’t want to start a panic, a run on the banks, but I am continuing to wonder – are the banks still too big to fail? Has anything really changed in the banking sector? As I walk down the high street in my little town, I see the same big names that were there before – HSBC, Natwest, RBS etc., and the big building societies as well.
The government has guaranteed deposits of up to £75,000 but does this just make us lazy and not bother to look for alternatives to the high street banks, and not question THEIR credit worthiness? The very fact that big banks are “too big to fail” i.e. will be bailed out by the govt., surely makes us more inclined to bank with those very banks, giving them an unfair competitive advantage and making them lazy? This is always the problem with govt. interventions of course, the unintended consequences.
If the banks are still “too big to fail”, and we have another crisis, what will happen? Will the govt. bail the banks out again and add even more to the national debt? Is a bailout actually a sort of reward for failure, where does all the bailout money actually go, is there any oversight? Of course the heads of the failed organizations are usually at least replaced, but many of the employees and the organization itself are often not, so the organization still survives – RBS is still with us for example.
The Guardian takes a look at Steve Eisman’s view on the likelihood of another crash (Steve Eisman got rich quick by predicting the last crisis and shorting stocks):
Although he is focused on Italian banks in particular, I can’t help wondering if a crisis in the Eurozone could easily cause major problems for our financial sector, what with all this inter-bank lending going on, not to mention the basic economic impact such a crisis would have on the UK. Also, do our banks and pension funds own government bonds issued by other countries I wonder? Perhaps we should be reassured by Eisman’s view of our banks today:
I’m not really worried about England’s banks,” says Eisman. “They are in better shape than most in Europe.
This article talks knowingly about “stress tests” but I have to wonder if anyone just tried blowing really hard at the house of cards to see if it would fall down. After every crisis these people emerge who were unknown before the crisis, and shot to fame for predicting the crisis. I think we need to be careful not to assume they didn’t just get lucky. There still seem to be quite a few dubious things going on as far as I can see, from my limited knowledge.
The “Austrian” school think we should return to the gold standard, might not be a bad idea:
A guy called George Selgin thinks that we could avoid future banking crises, he has published some of his ideas here:
New forms of currency have emerged – we have recently seen the emergence of Bitcoin and the Totnes pound:
I’m not sure if these will help the situation or not.
I wonder if the very phrase “too big to fail” is a misleading one. Could we make our big banks smaller without damaging their competitiveness in the global economy? Is the question the wrong one to be asking in any case, should we instead be asking if our govt. has grown too big to function sensibly? We have come to rely on our govt. to sort out any problems that come up, but does the govt. just make even bigger problems more likely in the longer run when it does “sort” our problems out in the present?
No-one wants to lose all their savings so its comforting to know the govt. has guaranteed our savings, but without such a guarantee we would be more cautious – we would spread the risk probably by splitting our savings across different banks for example. We might also be more likely to try other forms of investment to spread the risk still further. There are interesting new alternatives out there such as peer-to-peer lending sites for both personal loans and business loans now. We put all our money in the big banks but I have heard from businesses that these same banks are reluctant to lend (no doubt partly because the interest rates are so low). Is this state regulated and state supported (on a crutch) banking sector more of a hindrance to economic prosperity now? Is the relationship between governments and banks something like a marriage gone wrong where both partners are too afraid of what might happen if they split up? I am increasingly inclined to think so myself. The more I think about politics the more I think we need a smaller, less interventionist state. Maybe its not so much more regulation that we need, but rather a lot less regulation and interference.
I don’t know the answers to all these huge questions, but I have a nagging feeling that the questions probably need to be asked in order to forestall another worse crisis in the future. There is also the question of course – could we get our money back at some point for the last bailout or will our grandchildren still be paying for the mistakes of the bankers and politicians? What do you think about it all? Please add your by comments below (please try to make your explanations intelligible to the non-banker especially if you are an industry insider).
In the next episode I will take a highly in-expert look into the phenomenon of “Quantitative Easing”.
The phrase “post-truth” seems to have rather entered the lexicon of news-speak lately. Let’s have a look at what the usual suspects are saying about the “post-truth” “phenomenon”.
Late in 2016 I was listening to a BBC TV News (World Service) program where a presenter (Allan Little) was doing one of those end of year reflections on what is going on in the world. He was bemoaning the victories of Brexit in the UK and Trump in the US, and trying to draw parallels between the two, and trying to figure out what on earth could have led to this twin disaster. He didn’t call it a twin disaster of course in so many words but his doom-laden tone of voice spoke a thousand words.
The preamble to the program (aired Tue 27 Dec 2016):
This was the year of ‘post-truth’ politics, fake news and when some of the foundations of how global politics and trade are determined have been questioned. In many ways this has been a year when the silent majority has become vocal, and when old certainties have been questioned. This has also been a year when the internet has proved to be about something much more than about educating and connecting – and as a result has it made us not just less informed, but dangerously ill-informed and disconnected?
The internet is making us “dangerously ill-informed and disconnected” is it? I was under the impression that the exact opposite was happening. Is this a real concern or is the mainstream media (MSM) just worried that they are losing their grip over the distribution of “information”? I will be coming back to this question in more detail in future posts, but in general I think the explosion of information sharing and debate on the internet is something to be welcomed very enthusiastically, even if quite a lot of misinformation is flying around. There are also a lot of facts and great arguments flying around as well, and consequently lazy MSM journalism is being challenged as never before, and that can only be a good thing for the rest of us.
The program reflects on the fact that areas in the UK and the US are still struggling with the after effects of the closure of large scale industries in the “rust belt” in the US and in the north of the UK. The conclusion here is that the rising economic tide has failed to “lift all boats”. Its true, there are still areas plagued by high unemployment both in the UK and the US, and these areas do correspond pretty much with former industrial areas. The sub-text to all this is that policy from the 1980s onward has failed these areas, and this has caused the people in these areas to vote for (what the BBC wants to portray as the twin disasters of) Brexit and Trump. A lot of areas in the UK which have not benefited so much from a rising economic tide have also suffered from high levels of immigration, a point made by some of the UKIP supporters that Mr. Little interviews.
Mr. Little then interviews an American pro-Democrat writer called Naomi Wolf who apparently (according to Wikipedia) is a “third wave feminist” (whatever the heck that is). She bemoans some of Obama’s policies, suggesting that Democrats have become complacent and turned a blind eye to things they shouldn’t have:
6:45 …if our democracy was still strong it wouldn’t matter that we have a crazy man in the White House ….
if you spend 12 years dismantling checks and balances enacting secret law suspending aspects of the constitution …
You’re left with rubble when the demagogue is elected ….
Mr. Little then turns his attention to the Brexit campaign, describing how:
9:30 Boris Johnson and Michael Gove toured the country in a bus emblazoned with the now notorious slogan “we send £350m a week to Brussels lets spend it on the NHS instead” …. Many said it was a sign that British politics had entered a new era, known as “post-truth“.
He then makes an astonishing claim, about this “notorious slogan”:
10:10 … it seems to have disappeared from the national debate about Brexit
Mr. Little is indulging in a little “post-truthiness” himself here, it has not “disappeared from the national debate” at all, in fact the MSM have been talking about this one gaffe by the Leave campaign almost non-stop ever since the referendum result was in. They have been using this single point relentlessly to try to undermine the result, as will become clear as we examine articles from the other usual suspects. Let’s pause a moment here and think carefully about this point, as we’re going to be hearing about it over and over again.
First of all, the £350m claim was refuted (in this article dated 27 May 2016):
The Institute for Fiscal Studies earlier this week labelled the £350m figure “clearly absurd” and said that an accurate figure of the net UK contribution taking into account the rebate and spending in Britain was £175m a week – half the Leave figure.
Further, the House of Commons Treasury Committee today branded the £350m claim “highly misleading” in a new report on the costs and benefits of the EU. Andrew Tyrie, the committee’s chair, said the Leave campaign’s battle bus should be “repainted” as soon as possible.
Granted, it was misleading, but how much significance did it really have in persuading people to vote for Brexit? Very little I suspect, almost no effect at all probably. I have yet to hear a single Leave voter say they have changed their mind about Brexit as a result of this slogan being refuted.
Everyone I know who voted Leave voted Leave for a whole mountain of other reasons including –
…and lots and lots and lots of other reasons. I simply don’t believe that this claim about the exact amount the UK gives to the EU each week seriously came into it – and in any case £175m a week is still a lot of money.
The relentless repeating of this one criticism of the Leave campaign in the MSM is a good example of the technique of “saturation”. The MSM know really that this slogan wasn’t that big a deal in the result, but by relentlessly reminding us of it they create doubt in the public’s minds and raise the hopes of those who still want to remain in the EU. Just how big an impact it had is impossible to prove with absolute certainty, so it can’t be said that they are simply lying about it. Of course the motive behind this particular use of saturation is to try to increase the chances of a second referendum being held that they hope would overturn the Brexit result.
Returning to the program now, Mr. Little seems to think that the US has really gone over the edge into the “post-truth” era, he thinks the UK is still just managing to keep a better perspective (no doubt thanks to the existence of the UK’s Ministry of Truth (aka the BBC)):
10:47 There is still a public square in British politics where you will meet views you do not like… its gone in America and it could go here too. The dangers to democracy are obvious.
Blimey, the end is nigh then, you will see what I mean now about the doom-laden tone of this program. The “public square” is gone from US politics is it? I had to listen to this a second time to make sure he really said that. I wonder if any readers from the US would like to express their opinion about that statement – add comments below this post?
Seemingly in an attempt to back this claim up with some hard evidence, Mr. Little then interviews an old school news editor who refers to a satirical “fake news” website that emerged during the Trump campaign.
13:29 “Pope Francis shocks world endorses Donald Trump releases statement” …. This was shared a million times on social media, the debunking of that was shared 30,000 times.
This old school guy is trying to imply that most people who saw the statement must have believed it because they didn’t look for a debunking of the statement! LOOK, YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE THAT STATEMENT DEBUNKED IT IS OBVIOUSLY A JOKE!!!! I’m pretty sure (reasonably sure) that most people who saw this statement just thought hey that’s a funny bit of fake news (LOL) and soon forgot about it. Anybody that did believe it is too dumb to vote sensibly anyway, and most of those people normally vote for the Democrats, as revealed by Mark Dice’s petition to gain approval for Karl Marx’s appointment as Hillary Clinton’s economic adviser.
At this point, only half way through this BBC program about the “post-truth” era we are supposed to be entering, I have had enough of hearing the BBC view, I’m done. Let’s move on to the next of the usual suspects.
Here, the Guardian announce the fact that the Oxford dictionary has declared the phrase as the “word of the year” for 2016:
‘Post-truth’ named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries
In the era of Donald Trump and Brexit, Oxford Dictionaries has declared “post-truth” to be its international word of the year.
The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”.
Why has there been a spike in usage?? BECAUSE THE MSM HAVE BEEN USING THE WORD A LOT!!! The MSM have generated their own news here. By not mentioning the fact that its the MSM who have pushed the phrase in the first place, they are subtly distancing themselves from the “news” that the Oxford dictionary found a spike in usage of the term during the campaigns of Brexit and Trump. This helps to subliminally create an impression that this “post-truth” phenomenon is something that’s really happening in the real world.
Looking back to May 2016 however (when the spike began) we see this article in the Guardian:
Post-truth politicians such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are no joke
This article begins with a major attack on Donald Trump, for example:
To adapt Mary McCarthy’s critique of the novelist Lillian Hellman, every word Trump says is a lie, including “and” and “the”.
Well I somehow doubt if even most people who actually voted for Trump take every word he says at face value, but to suggest EVERYTHING Trump says is a lie, well that is itself a big lie, obviously. They are joking, we know that, except they aren’t really, they mean it.
The writer then proceeds to attack Boris Johnson (BoJo). First they point to the claim on the Leave campaign battle bus that the UK was sending £350m a week to the EU:
Emblazoned on the side was the slogan: “We send the EU £350 million a week.” Except it’s not true
It seems that almost every time the phrase “post-truth” appears in the UK media, there is a mention of this single error by the Leave campaign.
The writer then attacks BoJo’s mocking dig at what was called “project fear” by the Leave campaign:
…his critique of David Cameron’s speech on Monday, which had focused on the national security implications of a Brexit. Johnson hit back:
“I think all this talk of world war three and bubonic plague is demented, frankly.”
Now, its clear to anyone with a half a brain that BoJo is making a joke here to make a point, as BoJo often does. He is not suggesting that Cameron ACTUALLY SAID that Brexit would lead to World War Three and bubonic plague. But wait, did I say this is clear to anyone with half a brain? To the Guardian writer it seems, its NOT clear:
Who but a cretin would suggest that the black death would be the result of a British break from the EU? And yet a scan of the text of Cameron’s speech yields no results for either “bubonic” or “world war three”.
The Guardian writer actually went back and checked Cameron’s speech to see if the words were there, I’m a bit speechless! I can’t go any further with this article, time to move on to the next…
In this article the Independent does at least recognize that lying in the world of politics is not exactly a new phenomenon:
That’s a good point, lets pause and remember just a tiny number of episodes from the days prior to this new “post-truth” era:
More predictably there is yet another reference in this Independent article to the £350m claim on the battle bus.
The article points to coverage of the war in Syria:
I suspect that “post-truth” has more to do with social media than mendacious elections. The use of social media in reporting the battle of eastern Aleppo has been extraordinary, weird, dangerous, even murderous, when not a single Western journalist could report the eastern Aleppo war at first hand. Much damage has been done to the very credibility of journalism – and to politicians…
This is another dig at social media of course from the MSM, but at least the Independent acknowledges that journalists and politicians haven’t exactly been covering themselves with glory in their coverage of this war. I’ll come back to the subject of Syria in the next post.
The economist took a hilarious dig at Donald Trump’s claim that “Obama is the founder of ISIS and Hillary Clinton is the co-founder”:
No says the economist, he wasn’t joking, he really meant that literally – Obama is the commander in chief of the Islamic State, apparently! No doubt Obama personally ordered those be-headings (I jest here of course he didn’t).
Then, just as all the above articles did, the economist repeats the point about the EU £350m slogan, and sneers at the (actually worrying if you have a brain and know anything about Islam) prospect of Turkey joining the EU:
And he is not the only prominent practitioner of post-truth politics. Britons voted to leave the European Union in June on the basis of a campaign of blatant misinformation, including the “fact” that EU membership costs their country £350m ($470m) a week, which could be spent instead on the National Health Service, and that Turkey is likely to join the EU by 2020.
We don’t know if Turkey will join the EU by 2020 (or any time in the future), we don’t know at all. The arguments against this happening were all based on the fact that the EU has requirements about new members joining that Turkey would supposedly not meet. What we do know is that the EU is supposed to have rules, and when Greece joined the EURO, the rules were ignored. So, people no longer TRUST the EU, and with good reason. Its not perhaps so much a case of post-truth here, as post-trust. What’s more, the EU has a very friendly attitude towards Islam in general, as revealed in a speech by Federica Mogherini , the “High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy”, when she said that:
Islam belongs in Europe. It holds a place in Europe’s history, in our culture, in our food and – what matters most – in Europe’s present and future
That’s another reason for wanting to get out of the EU by the way, at least in my book. I don’t want Islam in my culture or in my food thanks very much.
Of course we are not at all entering a “post-truth” era and the mainstream media know this well enough. The media’s repetitive use of the phrase “post-truth” is a deliberate ploy to try to slander both Brexit and Trump’s election as being based PRIMARILY on misinformation. This is another case of “saturation” – an idea being relentlessly repeated across the mainstream media.
What is happening is that people of the West are finally beginning to rise up against the elites who have (among other anti-democratic things) been rubbing the public’s nose in diversity by allowing and encouraging huge, unprecedented levels of mass immigration that have changed whole communities beyond recognition in a very short space of time. The establishment viewpoint characterized by the phrase “political correctness” is being undermined very significantly as seen in the Brexit result and the election of Donald Trump.
We would rather elect a less “experienced” politician (experienced at politics that is) who we believe to have our best interests at heart (even if they say daft things from time to time) than a career politician who is well-practiced at the art of deceit and does not have the people’s best interests at heart.