Monday, July 16, 2018

Are Australia’s Big Four banks effectively bankrupt (and will they pursue you to the grave)?


The Australian government claims the banks are “unquestionably strong”. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) is given credit for this strength, through its supervision of the banks through the 2008 global financial cri sis, and its subsequent lifting of the banks’ capital from 9.5 to 14.5 per cent of their assets.

If anything, APRA is sometimes criticised for making the Big Four banks too strong and profitable, because it has come at the expense of competition in the banking sector, and the banks’ duty of care for their customers, hence the misconduct and abuses being exposed by the royal commission. APRA ignores such complaints, pointing to its mandated responsibility for “financial stability”—strong, profitable banks, even though an oligopoly, make for a stable financial system.

At least, that’s the story.

Hiding in plain sight is a glaring contradiction to this claim of financial stability, which is Australia’s world-record housing bubble. Australia’s Big Four banks are more exposed to the housing market than were their counterparts in the USA, UK, Spain and Ireland when they suffered banking crashes following the collapse of the real estate bubbles in those nations in 2008. Around 63 per cent of Australian bank lending goes to mortgages—compared with 30 per cent in the USA; between 20 and 30 per cent in the UK and Canada; and 15 per cent in Hong Kong. The borrowing that has fuelled this bubble has driven up Australian household debt to around 200 per cent of annual household income and 120 per cent of GDP.

Not everyone accepts the housing market is a bubble, and that determines their view of the health of the banks. For instance, the government, regulators and banks, which hold that the banks are “unquestionably strong”, all deny the bubble. Those who acknowledge the bubble recognise that the financial system is in fact extremely unstable, and teetering on the edge of a crash that will bankrupt the banks.

Eerie precedent

There are striking similarities between Australia today, and Ireland before its banks crashed in 2008. In the lead-up to the September 2008 global financial crisis, virtually the entire nation of Ireland was euphoric about its economic boom, centred on real estate development. Sound familiar? And 28 per cent of bank lending went to property developers, slightly less to mortgages—combined still less than the 63 per cent of Australian banks’ lending to housing.

One economist, Morgan Kelly, had warned for a year that Irish real estate was a bubble, but his warnings were met with universal denial. Also sound familiar? The denial was so ingrained that when the September 2008 crisis impacted the liquidity in Ireland’s banks, the Irish government announced it was guaranteeing the banks, confident that they were well capitalised and that the guarantee would be enough to see them through the liquidity crunch.

Within weeks the Irish property bubble burst and the banks collapsed. As the government was on the hook for the banks’ losses, the government bailed out the banks, and then itself required a bailout from the EU, which dictated crushing austerity on the people of Ireland.

Early warnings

Among a limited number of organisations and individuals, the Citizens Electoral Council has long warned that Australia’s housing market is a bubble and heading for a crash. As early as 2007, CEC press releases questioned whether one or more Australian banks were in danger of collapse due to the brewing mortgage crisis and their derivatives. Unbeknownst to the CEC at the time, bank regulator APRA had in early 2007 suppressed an internal report which revealed that due to the lowered lending standards APRA had approved, the banks had extended 3.4 times more credit into mortgages than they would have, had they stuck to their previous, higher standards.

The report effectively identified a bubble. It also foreshadowed a sharp rise in mortgage delinquencies, a possible mortgage crash, and a recession. Given that this report coincided with the early alarms in the United States about rising defaults on sub-prime mortgages, it should have spurred Australian authorities to act; instead APRA kept the report secret, and it only came to light in an April 2016 report on ABC 7.30. As it happened, 7.30 observed, the eruption of the global financial crisis in 2008 drove Australian authorities to slash interest rates and pump money into the housing market, which averted the property crash and recession that the report had warned of: “But some say that has merely allowed the problem to get far worse, with mortgage debt doubling since APRA’s alarming research was carried out.” (Emphasis added.)

So where do the banks stand today?


Bubble of lies

The mortgage portfolios of the Big Four banks account for 80 per cent of Australia’s $1.7 trillion mortgage market. At least $500 billion worth of these mortgages are identified as so-called “liar loans”, meaning they were based on false income and expense information.

image

The volume of credit that has gone into housing has soared, creating a
world record housing bubble. Source: John Adams

However, as Denise Brailey of the Banking and Finance Consumers Support Association (BFCSA) insists, and as the royal commission has confirmed, the liars were the banks, not the borrowers—the banks doctored loan applications to record household expenses at the equivalent of the poverty line. An even bigger chunk of these mortgages are interest-only, reflecting the inability of borrowers to repay interest and principal at current house prices.

Interest-only loans reached a peak of 40 per cent of all mortgages in early 2017, following a spike in the rate of interest-only lending that got to almost 50 per cent of mortgages issued in 2016 (compare this with the US rate of interest-only lending before the 2008 crash, which peaked at 25 per cent of mortgages in 2006).

These are official figures, but Denise Brailey reports that the mortgage brokers she surveys reveal that the actual rate of interest-only loans they write is more like 80 per cent. This wave of interest-only loans in recent years is starting to reset to interest and principal, which is almost doubling monthly payments, and that’s before any rise in interest rates. In October 2017 UBS reported its survey that found a third of borrowers with interest-only loans were unaware that their loans were interest-only and they weren’t repaying principal, which sets them up for an even greater shock when their mortgages reset.

Threat of rising interest rates

This mountain of mortgage debt is therefore extremely vulnerable to rising interest rates. According to the latest survey by Finder.com, an extra $100 per month in mortgage payments would push 54 per cent of borrowers over the edge. Martin North of Digital Finance Analytics warned ABC on 11 July that even a 15 basis point (0.15 per cent) rise in interest rates could push a million households into delinquency by September.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate is at the record low level of 1.5 per cent, unchanged for the longest period in RBA history. But the best efforts of the RBA cannot shield Australia from rising rates overseas. The banks rely on overseas borrowing for 40 per cent of their funding, and bank liabilities make up the majority of the $465 billion in Australia’s foreign debt that has a maturity of 90 days or less. Therefore when this debt is rolled over every three months, they have to take the interest rate on offer. As foreign observers have been shocked to discover, 80 per cent of Australian mortgages are variable-interest-rate loans, so the higher borrowing costs that the banks incur will be passed on immediately to already overstretched households ‘Unquestionably weak’ capital The truth is that the banks are also dangerously overstretched.

The claim that bank capital is at the “unquestionably strong” level of 14.5 per cent is based on the ruse of “risk-weighting”. This scam allows the banks to claim that only a quarter of their mortgages carry risk, and only hold capital against those mortgages, not all of them. The actual capital of the Big Four banks is razor thin, less than 6 per cent, meaning their leverage of loans to capital is 19 times.

Given that the collateral for 63 per cent of this lending is overpriced housing, an across-the-board real estate market slide of just 10 per cent would wipe out collateral equal to the banks’ capital. Australian house prices have already fallen 4.6 per cent in the last year, and informed observers are anticipating falls of 30 per cent and more. Without collateral backing their loans, the banks would be entirely at the mercy of households making repayments on the liar loans that the banks knew they couldn’t afford in the first place.          

Australians are far less likely to default on their mortgages than Americans, due to Australian mortgages being full recourse, meaning the banks can pursue borrowers to the grave; however, there is a limit to what any household can take, and Australian households are reaching that limit. Not only are they already overstretched, but falling prices will trap increasing numbers in negative equity, meaning they owe more than their house is worth.

Such a demoralising plight will trigger outright defaults, especially by the large percentage of “investors” in the market. On top of that, the thousands of job losses in high-paid automotive industries in recent years, and 8,000 high-paid Telstra jobs to go in the next few years, could also trigger a wave of defaults, to be followed by even more as falling house prices flatten the construction industry, which grew into Australia’s second-biggest economic sector on the back of the bubble.

Derivatives

The banks’ bogus capital claims also do not properly reflect their exposure to derivatives, the “notional principal” of which has soared from $14 trillion in 2008, to $40.56 trillion according to the RBA’s latest figures. Most of these derivatives are in one way or another bets on their mortgage lending. Banks always understate their derivatives risk, because they ignore the possibility of extreme events like the 2008 GFC—or a collapse of Australia’s housing bubble.

As unbelievable as it may be, Australia’s financial authorities are not paying attention to this looming danger. A well- placed sourced informed this author that a very senior political-economic expert in Australia in early June asked the RBA if it assesses and manages systemic economic risk, but was informed that was APRA’s job, not the RBA’s. Experts familiar with APRA, however, including former APRA principal researcher Dr Wilson Sy, know that APRA is not assessing and managing risk; in fact, APRA doesn’t even have a research department anymore.

image

The ruse of risk weighting allows banks to claim they have increased their capital to
the “unquestionably strong” level of 14.5 per cent (top line), whereas actual capital
has barely changed, remaining around 6 per cent (bottom line). Source: Investment Analytics

Conclusion

Banks hold capital as a buffer against possible defaults. APRA has allowed, actually encouraged Australia’s banks to run up a massive exposure to mortgages and mortgage-related derivatives, against razor-thin capital. With borrowers at the extremes of their limits and interest rates rising, there’s no way the housing bubble won’t burst at some point in the near future, and there’s no way that wouldn’t crash the banks. Right now, Australia’s banks are dead men walking, effectively bankrupt.

-------------------  ATTRIBUTION  -------------------

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
Postal Address: PO Box 376, Coburg Vic 3058
Phone: 1800 636 432 Fax: 03 9354 0166
Home Page:
www.cecaust.com.au   Email: cec@cecaust.com.au
Authorised by R. Barwick, 595 Sydney Road, Coburg, Victoria 3058.
Printed by Citizens Media Group Pty Ltd., 595 Sydney Road, Coburg, Victoria 3058. Independent Political Party
11 July 2018

Friday, July 06, 2018

WinExt Pro–a very nice utility for trimming, tracking and synchronizing drives on Windows systems

I’ve just installed and tested WinExt Pro and fond it to be a a well-designed, nice looking and functional software product. There’s a free version as well as the WinExt Pro paid version.

My first run was against one of the 250 GB SSD drives on my main desktop system, as shown in the first screenshot:

image

A fairly quick scan was followed by a somewhat slower analysis phase, and then the following nice-looking report was displayed:

image

As you can see, in the top section of the report only the potentially deletable files are checked, so you can regain wasted storage space by simply clicking on the trashcan icon, it’s as easy as that.

There are other useful functions available, such as monitoring activities against files like creating, deleting or modifying them, which are described on the WinExt Pro product page so why not go take a look?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Blonde jokes – sexism goes awry

A blonde man is in the bathroom and his wife shouts: "Did you find the shampoo?"

He answers, "Yes, but I'm not sure what to do… it's for dry hair, and I've just wet mine."
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A blonde man spies a letter lying on his doormat.

It says on the envelope "DO NOT BEND ."

He spends the next 2 hours trying to figure out how to pick it up.
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A blonde man shouts frantically into the phone, "My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!"

"Is this her first child?" asks the Doctor.

"No!" he shouts, "this is her husband!"
------------------------------

Image result for dumb blonde man cartoon

A blonde man is in jail, the guard looks in his cell and sees him hanging by his feet.

"Just WHAT are you doing?" he asks.

"Hanging myself," the blond replies.

"The rope should be around your neck" says the guard.

"I tried that," he replies, "but then I couldn't breathe."
------------------------------


An Italian tourist asks a blonde man: "Why do scuba divers always fall backwards off their boats?"

To which the blond man replies: "If they fell forward, they'd still be in the boat."
------------------------------


A friend told the blonde man: "Christmas is on a Friday this year."

The blond man then said, "Let's hope it's not the 13th."
------------------------------


Two blonde men find three grenades, and they decide to take them to a police station.

One asked: "What if one explodes before we get there?"

The other says: "We'll lie and say we only found two."
------------------------------

A woman phoned her blonde neighbor man and said: "Close your curtains the next time you nd your wife are having sex. The whole street was watching and laughing at you yesterday."

To which the blonde man replied: "Well the joke's on all of you because I wasn't even at home yesterday!
------------------------------

Friday, June 08, 2018

Allavsoft’s excellent Video Downloader and Converter for Windows (and Mac)

I’ve gained some experience in downloading vide files over that last decade or so, and thought that I knew a fair bit about what’s tools are available.

But, much to my surprise, there was one very nice product called Allavsoft Video Downloader and Converter for Windows which somehow I didn’t come across until just a month or two ago.

Note that there’s also a Mac version too.

My first impressions were very positive, so I purchased a licence. After having used its video download functions quite a bit I really like its core capabilities, and already am very happy with the purchase.

I’ll outline some of Allavsoft;s download features below.below, together with a few enhancement suggestions that I reckon will make turn it from a very good product into an outstanding one *especially of you’re somebody who downloads lots of videos, from YouTube or an of the many video sites that it supports).

After downloading a video file Allavsoft optionally can convert from the original file format to another (such as  MP4, AVI, WMV, MOV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, VOB, ASF, RMVB, DV, TS, Apple ProRes, WebM, FLV, OGV).

Please keep in mind that most of the videos I download are in MP3 format, and I don’t carry out many video conversions so I won’t be covering this at all. If this is important to you I strongly recommend that you take it for a test run to check out the conversion capabilities.

Allavsoft is very straightforward to install and operate, so I’ll only be giving a few main impressions and certainly not a full A to Z run-down on the product. I’ll only be discussing some things that I find to be important for a seasoned downloader, leaving out details in order to reduce the length of this blog post.

SNAGHTML30e1d31

Referring to screenshot (A): the default is to process a single video URL but (where the solid red arrow is) I wanted to process multiple videos from a miniseries, so have pasted their multiple URLs into a list box (dashed red arrow at top).

If your list contains more that three URLs, a vertical scroll bar appears, but if you like (see bottom dashed red arrows) you can drag down the bottom margin of the window to increase the depth of the list box.

To initiate downloads, you press the big blue button at bottom right (pointed to by the green arrow).

And here’s my first recommendation to the Allavsoft developer team -- that this big blue download button can be made smaller and it should shifted up adjacent to the “Convert” section. This will allow the entire window to be made smaller by removing all that wasted space in the bottom left quadrant of the window. It would be better if the list box was made deeper, so that you can paste more URLs and view them without scrolling up and down.

When downloads are occurring, you click on the “Activity” tab and see something like the following

image

Screenshot B shows a nice, easy to understand user interface, nothing to complain about here. Except, as my second request to the Allavsoft developer team, that I found (after doing a bunch of multiple downloads) that in practice each individual download takes up too much screen space.

So I would very much appreciate being able to switch to a terse display mode where each download was on a single line (without a thumbnail image, or maybe with a tiny one), enabling 3 or 4 times as many downloads to be viewed without vertical scrolling. I tend to do my video downloading in bursts, and a terse mode would be very efficient for me.

There’s a handy context menu (right mouse click) that makes it simple to select various options, as follows”

image

If you do multiple concurrent downloads, the (as shown in screenshot D) you can control how many are allowed to run simultaneously:

image 

The maximum is seven simultaneous downloads. I would like to see this limit raised to at least 10 simultaneous downloads, or even 20, because my system is quite powerful and could handle this. (It’s an AMD Ryzen 7 processor with 16 CPU threads) and I have a quite fast broadband connection (HFC cable running usually at 90-95 Mbps during off-peak times.)

Here I will mention that this Allavsoft downloader is something of a speed demon, handling concurrent downloads with aplomb. I was even very pleasantly surprised when downloads from one source were running flat chat, right up to the stated 95 Mbps HFC cable speed. Upon investigation, I discovered that each large video file was being downloaded as small segments rather than as a single thread, with the segments getting quickly assembled into a single MP4 file right at the end.

For example, with Allavsoft downloader a 1 GB movie might take 4 or 5 minutes to download, whereas in the past -- using another downloader that couldn’t do this -- the same movie might take 30 or 40 minutes to download. Kudos to the Allavsoft developer team for all this!

Screenshot E just below shows some of the other settings that enable you to fine tune your downloading:

image

Screenshot F shows that some browser extensions are available, though I haven’t gotten around to testing these:

image

When your downloads finish, there are the usual things you can do (shown in screenshot G), such as opening the video in Windows Explorer (F8) or playing it (Shift+F8);

image

ADDENDUM: In the first version of this blog post I forgot to mention that forgot to mention that there’s a very large number of supported video sites including sites that other downloaders don’t support. For example, Australian sites such as ABC iView and SBS On Demand to name just two. Take a look at this comprehensive list yourself.

SUMMARY: As I mentioned at the outset, this isn’t a comprehensive review of Allavsoft Video Downloader and Converter, but I hope that I’ve given you a taste for it and I certainly do recommend it for purchase. At the moment (8th June 2018) and for the next few days there’s a 50% discount on both Windows and Mac versions.

I’ve made a few enhancements requests, and invite the Allavsoft team to contact me directly to discuss these (and others) in depth.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Staying happy as you age

See How Happiness Changes With Age - Becoming okay with being boring


And here's a smart way of getting happy as you age (recently sent to me):

10cbf09b

Perhaps when you get old enough you can retire and no longer have to work pointlessly, see:
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs   (with
this comment at Bloomberg)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The sort of people who read various Australian newspapers

I just received this in via e-mail, and think it’s worth sharing.

Some Australian papers are missing from the list, such as The Guardian (Australia edition), as are most smaller/regional papers. Here’s a fairly complete list of Australian papers.

It set me wondering what could be said, in a similar vein, about readers of newspapers published in other countries. Feel free to add your comments!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. The Australian Financial Review is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Canberra Times is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The Australian is read by people who think they should run the country, and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4 The Sydney Morning Herald is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The Australian.

5. The Courier Mail is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they didn't have to leave Queensland to do it

6. The Age is read by people whose parents used to run the country.

7. The Melbourne Herald Sun is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train and read Hagar and Snake

8. The Sydney Daily Telegraph is read by people who don't care who is running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The West Australian is read by people who are in prison, who used to run the state, and would like to do so again, as would their constituents who are currently free on bail.

10. The Hobart Mercury is (slowly) read by people who are running another country, but need the Aussie Rules scores.

11. Crikey is read by people who aren't sure if there is a country or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are gay, handicapped, minority, feminist, atheists, and those who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not conservatives.

12. The Adelaide Advertiser is read by people trapped in a line at the supermarket waiting for the electricity to come back on.

13. The Northern Territory Times is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something to wrap it in.

Monday, April 23, 2018

nOracle - a strange, questionable website

nOracle
QuestiOns nO answers

nOracle is nO Oracle

nOracle has nO answers

Only QuestiOns

nOracle thinks, it's rarely black Or white

� what dO yOu think ?

image

---------------------------------------------------------


Stumbled upon this website yesterday.
https://www.noracle.net/

Here are the questions:
https://www.noracle.net/questions/

Here are the answers:
https://www.noracle.net/answers

I have my own questions:
Why would anybody create such a site?
What was their thinking behind it?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hiroshima - August 1946 New Yorker article by John Hersey

John Hersey's famous article in The New Yorker on  31 August 1946.

Download your preferred document format at http://asiapac.com.au/misc/nuclear/

What it was really like, and sadly the threat is still there for all of us.

During the 1960s, I remember waking up with a start one morning when a very bright light shone upon me, and I thought that a nuclear weapon had been exploded over Melbourne. It turned out only to be the morning sunlight streaming through a small gap in the curtains, but that experience has been with me ever since.

image

Monday, March 12, 2018

Best way to land on the Sun

Kim Jong-In announced at a news conference that North Korea would be sending a man to the sun within ten years!

A reporter said - "But the sun is too hot. How can your man land on the sun?”

There was a stunned silence. Nobody knew how to react.

Kim Jong-In quietly answered  "We will land at night”.

The gathering and everyone in North Korea watching on television broke into thunderous applause.

Back in Washington, Donald Trump and his entourage were watching the news conference

When Trump heard what Kim said, he sneered - "What an idiot. Everybody knows there’s no sun at night.”

His cabinet and everyone working in the White House broke into thunderous applause.


-------------------------------------------
I'm smarter than both of them!
My solution would be to land on the sun during a solar eclipse ...

Total solar eclipse
Solar Eclipse

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Jobs lost, jobs gained - Don’t’ worry, it’s ok. Well, it’s not ok


See the post on LinkedIn by John Sheridan (28 February 2018):

Jobs lost, jobs gained - Don’t’ worry, it’s ok. Well, it’s not ok

What does it all mean
(a) in the shorter term, for current workers; and
(b) in the longer term, for the younger ones still studying?

I’m an old (and now retired) geezer who spent decades in the technology arena, where jobs seen still to be relatively safe, and am glad now to be past being active in the workforce!

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Mother and father explain sex to young daughter

image

Father gives typical faux-evolutionist explanation.

Mother more accurate!

Click the above image to watch the 45-second video.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Australia plays double game, driving China containment in Washington and London

I’m a simple technologist with not much experience in matters political, nevertheless I do find articles like the following quite interesting, especially since they offer information that doesn’t have much sway in the mainstream media.

Remember, these comments and references are from an Australian perspective.
-------------

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia

Media Release Friday, 2 March 2018

Craig Isherwood‚ National Secretary
PO Box 376‚ COBURG‚ VIC 3058
Phone: 1800 636 432 ….  +61 3 9354 0544
Email:
cec@cecaust.com.au
Website: http://www.cecaust.com.au

Australia plays double game, driving China containment in Washington, London

If Australia wants a mutually beneficial relationship with China, it is time to stop the doublespeak. On one hand we praise the opportunities provided by China’s rise, upon which our economy has come to depend; on the other we cast China as a “threat” to the world. This is a two-faced approach to international relations that is not in Australia’s national interest, but in service of the Anglo-American world order mired in economic collapse and permanent war.

With the “special relationship” between the UK and USA under strain due to Britain’s blatant interference in the US election to stop Donald Trump from improving relations with Russia, Australia has taken on the role of Anglo-American go-between. While Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in London gushing over the UK’s “Global Britain” strategy of deploying its navy worldwide to recapture its colonial glory as the enforcer of global free trade, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in Washington, trying to convince Trump of the importance of the rule of (Anglo-American) law in the Asia-Pacific region.

Australia twists itself in knots to play this game. After the US National Defence Strategy in December named China and Russia as greater threats than terrorism, Turnbull and Bishop expressed public disagreement. Their government’s 2016 Defence White Paper and 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper tell a different story, however. The former portrays China as the single greatest threat to the “rules-based global order”; the latter makes strengthening that order Australia’s top priority. One US analyst described Australia’s new foreign policy as merely “a more polite version” of America’s new National Security Strategy. The establishment media calls this two-facedness “balanced rhetoric”.

Turnbull went even further before he left for the USA, telling Sky News that “we do not describe China as a threat”, because a threat combines both capability and intent, and whilst China certainly has capability, “we do not see any hostile intent from China”. Yet at the June 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Turnbull lectured China against unilateral actions, coercion and breaching the sovereignty of other nations, suggesting China uses its economic largesse to dominate the region. In January, Australia’s spy agency ASIO reportedly listed China as an “extreme” threat to Australia, and Turnbull is ramming draconian foreign influence laws through Parliament targeted primarily at counteracting fabricated claims of Chinese interference.

Furthermore, since the election of Trump, Turnbull has urged the USA to return to the Bush-Obama policy of containing China. His Foreign Policy White Paper demands America’s role in Asia be strengthened as “an essential underpinning of the rules-based order” and a counterweight to China. Turnbull is now the biggest promoter of the revived US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue as a military and economic alliance, and the anti-China Trans-Pacific Partnership, reborn as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—all to undermine China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In Washington, Turnbull met with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who on 13 February issued a new US intelligence assessment which warned that China’s actions are undermining Asia—read Anglo-American power in Asia: “Countries in the region will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy in the face of Chinese economic and diplomatic coercion”, it stated. Australia has stoked this fear, most recently in relation to Pacific Island nations, which have told Australia in no uncertain terms to butt out.

Australia is playing this double game in tandem with the masters of two-faced diplomacy, the UK. On 13 February during his visit to Australia, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told the ABC that “Australia [and] Britain see China as a country of great opportunities, but we shouldn’t be blind to the ambition that China has and we’ve got to defend our national security interests.” (Emphasis added.) Bizarrely, Williamson announced that in March Britain would conduct a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea to challenge China. Most shocking is nobody asked what on earth the South China Sea has to do with Britain’s national security. American neoconservatives and liberal interventionists have pushed for Australia to do the same, the new US ambassador to Australia, four-star Admiral Harry Harris, among them. This is where the game gets dangerous—military provocations can quickly spiral out of control.

The TPP—more than trade

The TPP has become a not-so-secret Trojan Horse for defending the “rules-based order”—better called the “our” rules-based order—against Chinese efforts to supersede it with a new “win-win” economic architecture based upon cooperation on mutually-beneficial economic development. In his 25 February speech to leaders of the National Governors Association (NGA) conference in Washington, DC, which promoted Australia’s failed privatisation model for infrastructure over China’s successful state-directed approach, Turnbull made clear that the TPP was far from just an economic and trade policy agreement; rather it is a political and strategic intervention. Bishop delivered the same line to the UK Chamber of Commerce on 19 February.

Turnbull linked the TPP to the proposal for the USA and Australia to lead an infrastructure initiative of the Quad countries in the “Indo-Pacific” region. In order for the initiative to work in Southeast Asia or the Pacific Islands, Turnbull said, “we need to get on with the post-war project of shaping an environment in which the most competitive and rule abiding companies can succeed”—namely multinational corporations. Mapping out a vision for “a single inclusive free trade zone of the Indo-Pacific” (minus China!), Turnbull explained the role of the TPP: “And that’s why, as I said, we backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership so strongly not just because of the market access it delivers—which is very beneficial, creates jobs and investment, but because it creates the rules of the road we need to match the economic journey we’re embarking on.” (Emphasis added.)

While Turnbull said Australia looked forward to working with all countries, including China, he stipulated it would only be “on those infrastructure projects that meet the criteria of transparency, fairness, accountability and market need”—in other words, Australia’s definition of infrastructure, namely the Public-Private Partnership model which has proven to be a blatant public rip-off to profit investment banks. Turnbull did not say why Australia refuses to join China’s Belt and Road project, which we would do were we genuine about wanting collaboration.

For his part, Donald Trump didn’t seem persuaded by Turnbull. He indicated he had not changed his mind on the TPP, and praised the US-China relationship as “probably closer than we’ve ever had”.

“China is not interested in the so-called ‘competition of systems’,” Chinese congresswoman and senior diplomat Fu Ying wrote in the German Times following the 16- 18 February Munich Security Conference. Fu said China would not be repeating the mistakes of the Western world by attempting to impose its own values and model on other nations. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked for his reaction to the alternative infrastructure plans of the Quad countries, responded that China’s plans are “open and inclusive” and all are welcome. “All countries should strengthen such kind of international cooperation so as to promote regional and global economic development for the benefit of all.” (Emphasis added.)

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Authorised: Robert Barwick‚ 595 Sydney Rd‚ Coburg‚ Vic 3058

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Los ordenadores son inútiles - How useless can things get?

"Los ordenadores son inútiles. Sólo pueden darte respuestas."

 ... Translation: "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

This is one of the many perceptive sayings of Pablo Picasso.

Uselessness abounds:



Do you have any equally insightful references (about computers, or anything else for that matter)?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

No, No, Nanette–A typical example of low-level ransomware


The mail message below was sent to a fictitious address at my mail domain, there's no Nanette here.


And if you're too young to get my subject line,
see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No,_No,_Nanette
No no nanette.jpg

Anyway, I always keep my webcam pointed towards the ceiling, just in case!  ;-)

-----------------------  A PLEASANT MESSAGE TO RECEIVE -----------------------

Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 4:54:50 +0000
From: "Bowen Leicht" <jnalnko@ile-olujiekunijamalandandpeople.com>
Reply-To: "Bowen Leicht" <multirbl@gmail.com>
To: nanette.kellyqz@my-maildomin-was-here


Subject: HOP: [nanette.kellyqz@my-maildomin-was-here] 21/02/2018 :47:10 I hope this is our last conversation


Ticket Dеtails: HOP-579-38273
Email: nanette.kellyqz@my-maildomin-was-here


Camera ready,Notification: 21/02/2018 06:47:10
Status: Waiting for Reply 94xuYaAy2A3f15wFnGmHkW5LrR0Wy65Mu2_Priority: Normal
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


hi,


If u were more vigilant while playing with yourself, I wouldn't write did message. I don't think that playing with yourself is very awful, but when all colleagues, relatives and friends receive video record of it- it is obviously news.


I adjusted virus on a porn site which you have visited. When the target tap on a play button, device starts recording the screen and all cameras on your device starts working.


Moreover, soft makes a remote desktop supplied with key logger function from ur system , so I could collect all contacts from your e-mail, messengers and other social networks. I'm writing on did e-mail cuz It's your working address, so you should read it.


I suppose that 320 usd is pretty enough for this little false. I made a split screen video(records from screen (u have interesting tastes ) and camera ohh... its funny AF)


So its ur choice, if u want me to erase ur disgrace use my bitcoin wallet address:  1Ddm7UWzMTrY1q51XhzAdwvkU15JW4nzk4


You have one day after opening my message, I put the special tracking pixel in it, so when you will open it I will see.If ya want me to share proofs with ya, reply on this letter and I will send my creation to five contacts that I've got from ur device.


P.S... U can try to complain to police, but I don't think that they can help, the investigation will last for 5 month- I'm from Estonia - so I dgf LOL

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Clever way to apply BAND-AIDs

Many of the best ideas can be simple to implement.

Here’s one that certainly is:

     image
                   Attribution: unknown

Click the image to watch the video,

and be sure to share it around.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

CAN you believe these model cars?

See  Sandy's CanCars

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2480/3604/files/g_1296x.JPG?v=1509595866

There’s an associated hoax that's going around:
     Albert (Tapper) Torney and the Can Car Sculptures That He Did NOT Make

I was going to believe the tale about down-and-out Tapper Torney (received via a chain e-mail), but something smelt a bit off so I decided to check up on it and discovered Sandy’s fine model work.


While I'm at it, there's a bridge for sale, going real cheap!
Any takers?
f8046b9

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Weird pricing–Some very ordinary books that cost a fortune

I don’t understand how this can happen (but freely admit that there are many things I don’t understand).

This is what puzzles me. On occasion, while searching some book-selling websites, I’ve come across some quite ordinary books – not rare centuries-old manuscripts, or the like – that are being sold at exorbitantly high prices, hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Just a few minutes ago I stumbled upon an example of this, at no less than Amazon. Examine the two screenshots below:

image

image


Screenshot A is for a paperback sold directly from Amazon, while screenshot B is for what seems to be exactly the same paperback but sourced from outside Amazon. More than $1,300 for a paperback, what effrontery!

How and/or why does this sort of price-gouging happen, at Amazon or elsewhere? It beats me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Warning to Australian parliamentarians - the Australian people despise banking ‘bail-in’

It was only in 2012-2013 that Bank of Cyprus seized depositor funds and it seems like that Australian government has this in mind for us here Down Under. I wonder how many of our federal members of parliament (MPs) are aware of what sneaky legislation/regulation is being considered.

The press release below expands on this topic. Any feedback and comments by blog readers in other countries would be appreciated.
----------------------------------------------------------------

Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
Media Release Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Craig Isherwood‚ National Secretary
PO Box 376‚ COBURG‚ VIC 3058
Phone: 1800 636 432
Email:
cec@cecaust.com.au
Website: http://www.cecaust.com.au

Warning to MPs: More than 1,000 submissions to Senate inquiry prove Australians despise ‘bail-in’

Reflecting the overwhelming public opposition among Australians to losing their savings to prop up failing banks, the Senate Economics Legislation Committee revealed on 25 January that its inquiry into the APRA “bail-in” bill has received more than 1,000 submissions from the public. The vast majority of the submissions objected to the bail-in provisions of the bill, which would empower the bank regulator APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) to convert into worthless shares, or write off, the savings of unsuspecting mum-and-dad investors, and possibly depositors, in order to cover the gambling losses of banks and keep them afloat.

This is a stunning response—the average number of submissions to a Senate Economics Committee inquiry is 30! The submissions came from Australians who learned about the bill not from the media, which has largely blacked out any reporting of it, but from the Citizens Electoral Council. Once informed, a large number were motivated to write to the committee to express their objection. Unlike most politicians who reply to their constituents with identical form letters written by their superiors, the people who made submissions went to the effort to write their own letters.

In the face of this many submissions, which were made before the 18 December deadline, it is clear that the committee’s subsequent decision not to hold a public hearing is a cover up. A hearing would allow a public examination of the content of the submissions, including the all-important issue of whether the conversion or write-off provisions could extend to deposits, and concerns about APRA’s secrecy and complicity with the banks, which former APRA employees have raised.

The government, which controls the committee, does not want these issues aired. From the beginning, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have tried to minimise publicity for this bill—and the media has accommodated them. For the same reason, Turnbull rigged the terms of reference for the banking royal commission to exclude any examination of APRA and its policies. However, the scale of the public response to the Senate committee sounds a warning to MPs: Australians who are informed emphatically oppose bail-in, so be prepared for an electoral backlash if you agree to pass this bill.

Bail-in extends to deposits

It is undeniable that the APRA bill clears the way for the bail-in of hybrid securities, which APRA allowed the banks to sell to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting self-funded retirees and self-managed super funds. That alone is grounds to oppose the bill, but even more concerning is that the bill as written empowers APRA to extend a bank bail-in to deposits. Both the government and APRA deny this. For instance, APRA’s submission to the Senate committee states, with forcefully underlined words, that the bill “does not include a statutory power for APRA to write-down or convert the interests of other creditors in resolution, including depositors of a failing ADI (often referred to as a ‘bail-in’ power). … APRA also notes, and fully agrees with, the statement in the FSI [2014 Financial System Inquiry] Final Report that, in Australia, deposits should not be included within any such framework, and should not be subject to bail-in.”

As Shakespeare would say, “Methinks APRA doth protest too much.” Firstly, APRA does the bidding of the global banking regulation apparatus centred in the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland, which since 2009 has overseen the implementation of a global bail-in regime that in every other jurisdiction applies to deposits. Secondly, the reassurances of APRA and the government are meaningless—the wording of the bill is what matters.

On 23 January the CEC lodged a supplementary submission to provide the committee with legal analysis that the bill is worded to ensure that APRA does indeed have the scope to extend a bail-in to deposits. Following is the summary of the CEC’s submission, which outlines the legal analysis:

  1. Summary of supplementary submission

    In summary, this Supplementary Submission has been considered necessary as a consequence of communications by Members of Parliament to constituents which seek to allay constituents’ concerns as to the Bill’s provisions concerning “bail-in”—the conversion and write-off provisions—and in particular their extension to deposits. The communications contend that the Bill does not provide any authority for the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (“APRA”) to bail-in deposits in the event of an ADI bank getting into financial difficulties.

    This contention has also been repeated by various Authorities.

    Bail-in of deposits has caused considerable hardship overseas where it has been employed and is of increasing concern to the Australian community.

    This Supplementary Submission is accordingly being lodged to draw to the Committee’s attention the relevant provisions in the Bill relating to bail-in (whether explicit or implicit) and the concerns of this organisation and the community generally as to the nature and extent of those provisions.

    As elaborated in this Supplementary Submission:

    • by all definitions financial “instruments” includes deposits;
    • the Bill clearly states that its conversion or write-off (bail-in) provisions apply to Additional Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital or “any other instrument”;
    • if the Bill only intended to refer to instruments which include conversion or write-off terms, all such instruments come under the definition of Additional Tier 1 and Tier 2 capital, and the additional clause “or any other instrument” is therefore unnecessary, but sufficiently broad language to give APRA scope to extend a bail-in to deposits;
    • the author/s of the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum foreshadow a future scenario under which this Bill will allow APRA to determine through its prudential standards that instruments not currently considered to be capital, such as deposits, could be reclassified as capital for the purpose of conversion or write-off—bail-in.

    It therefore remains our contention that the Bill does provide APRA with power to bail in deposits and for this and the reasons appearing in our primary Submission of 18 December 2017 that the Bill should be rejected.

The CEC is continuing the fight to defeat the APRA bail-in bill—join us!

What you can do:

Make sure your MP and Senators are informed about this bill and the public’s opposition to it. Take or email the CEC’s submission and supplementary submission to your MP and Senators today (click here for links), and insist on a response in writing.

Click here for a free copy of the latest issue of the CEC’s weekly magazine the Australian Alert Service, which reports on the fight against bail-in and for Glass-Steagall.

Click here to join the CEC as a member.

We hope you found this message useful.
Authorised: Robert Barwick‚ 595 Sydney Rd‚ Coburg‚ Vic 3058

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Think your Australian bank deposits are guaranteed? Think again!

On the global scale, there's quite a consensus that the banks own your money.
But that couldn't be the case in Australia, or could it?

Forwarding …
Citizens Electoral Council of Australia   
Media Release Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Craig Isherwood‚ National Secretary
PO Box 376‚ COBURG‚ VIC 3058
Phone: 1800 636 432
Email: cec@cecaust.com.au
Website: http://www.cecaust.com.au

APRA update:

Think your bank deposits are guaranteed? Think again!

A former principal researcher at bank regulator APRA has revealed in a submission to a Senate inquiry that, contrary to government reassurances, Australian bank deposits are not guaranteed.

This explosive revelation shreds the government’s repeated assurances that its new bill to give crisis resolution powers to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) will not allow the “bail-in” (confiscation) of bank deposits, because they are guaranteed up to $250,000 by the Financial Claims Scheme (FCS).

In the cover letter to his submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers and Other Measures) Bill 2017, Dr Wilson Sy asks Committee chair Senator Jane Hume: “As a matter of urgency, I need to ask: are you prepared to have your savings in bank deposits confiscated to save insolvent banks? What about the millions of voters you represent? How would they react if you allow this to happen to them?”

Dr Sy charges that the bill “gives the Government and APRA new discretionary powers to confiscate bank deposits”, and that it should be rejected.

(Dr Sy’s submission, “Protect Deposits Not the Fraudulent System”, is the first submission posted on the Senate inquiry’s website, and can be accessed here.)

As a Principal Researcher at APRA in 2004-10, during which time he was briefly acting Head of Research for a time, Dr Sy is one of the most qualified people to comment on APRA and the powers it will be given by this bill. Both the 2008 global financial crisis and introduction of the Financial Claims Scheme occurred while he was at APRA.

FCS guarantee not activated

The essential point that Dr Sy makes is that the FCS is not an absolute guarantee. He quotes the FCS website, which makes clear that the FCS will only take effect if the government activates it when an ADI (Authorised Deposit-taking Institution—a bank, credit union, building society etc.) fails. “That is, when a bank fails, i.e. becomes insolvent, the Australian Government or APRA then has the discretion to decide whether or not to activate the FCS”, he says. “Hence, it should be emphasised that:

Bank deposits are not protected or guaranteed at all.

Under the Banking Act 1959, Dr Sy explains, APRA is responsible for two potentially conflicting objectives: the protection of depositors AND the promotion of financial stability. This depositor protection is “illusory”, he asserts, because the Banking Act doesn’t state which objective has priority.

Under the new bill, however, APRA will have the discretionary power to decide which objective has priority; alarmingly, it will be able to make such a decision “in secrecy”. Dr Sy references Subdivision D, Section 11CH (p.24) of the bill, which states that APRA may decide that its orders must be kept secret if it is “necessary to protect the depositors of any ADI OR to promote financial system stability”. (Emphasis added by Sy.) The replacement of “AND” with “OR” confirms that the objectives are in potential conflict. “Therefore”, Dr Sy continued, “it is important to recognise that the Bill allows APRA discretionary powers to decide secretly whether to protect depositors or to promote financial system stability.”

Quoting a 2012 Reserve Bank of Australia paper, which stated that the priority of regulators, mandated under Commonwealth legislation, is to “pursue financial stability”, Dr Sy concludes:

“Therefore, the evidence collected here strongly suggests that the Bill is designed to confiscate bank deposits to ‘bail in’ insolvent banks to save the financial system.”

Can’t be funded

Dr Sy’s revelation is further, damning evidence that the FCS is not a real guarantee. The Citizens Electoral Council had already exposed in 2014 that, by the regulators’ own admission, the FCS doesn’t have the money to guarantee deposits in any of the Big Four banks, which hold 80 per cent of all deposits! This was first acknowledged in a 19 June 2009 meeting of Australia’s Council of Financial Regulators, comprising APRA, ASIC and the Reserve Bank, which noted in its minutes that a failure of one of the Big Four banks would “exceed the scheme’s resources”. Later, the Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland, which is in charge of imposing a bail-in regime worldwide, noted in its 21 September 2011 “Peer Review of Australia” that the government’s $20 billion provision per bank “would not be sufficient to cover the protected deposits of any of the four major banks”, which each have more than $400 billion in deposits. The CEC presented this evidence in its submission to the Senate committee inquiry.

Defeat the APRA bill

Most members of parliament are assuring their constituents that the APRA bill—which virtually none would have read—does not mean deposits will be able to be bailed in, because deposits are guaranteed under the FCS. Dr Sy’s revelation explodes that myth. This is not an academic question. With all signs pointing to a near-term collapse of the so-called “everything bubble” comprising property markets in Australia and elsewhere, the US stock market, Bitcoin, and the US$1.2 quadrillion global derivatives trade, a looming global financial crisis threatens Australia’s banking system. It is urgent, therefore, that Australians demand their MPs reject this bill outright, and go with the Glass-Steagall banking regulation instead, which guarantees deposits and financial stability by separating commercial banks with deposits from all forms of financial speculation. As Dr Sy says in his submission: “The global financial system needs fundamental structural reform which many countries believe is the restoration of the Glass-Steagall legislation which had worked well for many decades until it was corruptly or mistakenly repealed at the turn of this century.”

What you can do

Before Christmas, upwards of 800 everyday Australians flooded the Senate committee inquiry with submissions opposing the APRA bill and demanding Glass-Steagall. The Committee is expected to hold hearings in either late January or early February, by which time it is imperative that every MP and Senator is confronted with the truth about this bill.

1. Forward this release, the CEC’s submission (download here) and Dr Sy’s submission (download here) to your local federal MP and Senators before the end of the month. If possible, print copies and deliver them in person.

2. Sign and share the CEC’s latest petition: “Global crash coming—Australia needs Glass-Steagall and a National Bank”.

Click here for a free copy of the latest issue of the CEC’s weekly magazine the Australian Alert Service, which reports on the fight against bail-in and for Glass-Steagall.

Click here to join the CEC as a member.

Click here to refer others to receive regular email updates from the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia.

Follow the CEC on Facebook Follow @cecaustralia on Twitter Follow the CEC on Google+