Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Old Boy Network seems Alive and Well

I'm getting mightily tired of the massive fines being imposed on banks (most recently for forex manipulation) not finding their way back to the people who were initially disadvantaged down the line.

I thought the financial regulators were altruistically set up to protect investors and strike a fair deal for them when they were wronged.

But instead it seems the banks continue with their dodgy practices and simply see these fines as a cost of doing business - I doubt that the fines represent more than a small fraction of the gains they actually make from malpractice.

And I can't help noticing what a lucrative industry governance has become in its own right - and how many executives (probably the majority of them ex-bankers themselves) are now doing rather nicely in both the States and here in the UK (despite occasionally having to defer the icing on the cake through bonuses).

In my most cynical moments, I'm convinced there's collusion between the City and its watchdogs*.  While hoodwinking the man in the street by creating the impression that everyone's playing by the rules, it's a perfect ruse for the fat cats to carry on pretty much as they did before - same greed, brighter halo.

They're not alone, of course - charity executives are also capitalising on the plight of those further down the food chain and the likes of Tony Blair are doing alright by picking up on both sides of their meddling as well (I wrote about the latter here).

I live in the hope that God ultimately won't help those who help themselves at other people's expense.

It's since been announced that the Government is allocating £100M from the LIBOR manipulation fines to military and emergency service charities.  Charitable donations by stealth from borrowers and investors to people whose pensions have ironically been decimated by the banks' other dodgy dealings. Blood money?

* If more proof is needed, welcome Attorney General Eric Holder of the SEC to the above club - a classic case of "working" with bad banks like JPMorgan Chase.

UPDATE (4 Jan '16): Another one under Blair's wing - David Miliband pockets big bucks from refugee misery.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Dear Cyclist - "It's Behind You!"

This week a Heathrow car rental firm got itself into hot water for warning its hirers that London cyclists are a "hazard" and "it is always the motorist's fault".

I'm not anti-cyclist, and we know that cars and bikes can exist in harmony in places like the Netherlands, but many London cyclists do seem to have a fairly blase attitude towards self-preservation.

I attribute most of my defensive driving skills to the spacial awareness that years of cycling and motorcycling instilled in me and it frustrates me that motorists and cyclists alike are often guilty of not paying nearly as much attention to what's coming up behind them as what's on the road ahead.

Which brings me to a glaring omission from most of the bicycles I see on London's roads - rear view mirrors.

It's true that motorists often neglect to check their blind spots, but at least their vehicles are equipped with the means to monitor potential developments behind them, whereas too many times I've seen cyclists swerve around obstacles like parked cars without so much as cursory glance over their shoulders beforehand.

Is it a vanity thing?  Do they think that, having spent so much on racing lycra and bikes that have specifications far beyond their needs or capabilities, it simply wouldn't be cool to spoil the effect with mirrors that might be seen as a betrayal of their commitment to shave milliseconds off their performance because of the extra wind drag produced?  This is commuting, guys, not the Olympics.

I have a friend who raced at a professional level, so I sought his opinion before writing this in case I incurred the wrath of those who take their riding seriously and are tired of getting beaten up on because they get placed in the same bag as their amateur counterparts.

His reply?  "I would say it comes simply down to people who don't have a clue how to be safe on bikes ... And there's a lot of them around!"

If you're too cool for school, there are mirror options that can be worn in-helmet or on your wrist etc.

For my part, I was proud of my mirrors as a kid cycling in the somewhat less frantic environment of a sleepy Australian town - although in retrospect I'd probably have lost the handlebar tassels ...

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Good / Grief

Last night's episode of Channel 4's 'Astronauts: Living in Space' reminded me of two of my earlier posts, One Earth - Why are we Squabbling over it? and A Look at Conflict: How Long can you hold a Grudge?

Our world is a complete miracle, but one of contrasts - Hot. Cold. High. Low. Dry. Wet. Beautiful. Dangerous.  And, at the building block level, Positive and Negative - the analogies we also use to describe our outlook.

I naturally incline towards the positive - I don't like to think that it's a freaky coincidence that the moon, although much smaller and closer, happens to fit exactly the size of our giant sun during an eclipse.  Or that it influences the Earth's tides so that our oceans and rivers cleanse themselves.  I marvel at the sheer distances in the Universe ... it blows my mind that we talk in terms of millions of light years, when I can barely get my head around the sun's rays taking only 8 minutes to cover the nearly 100 million miles to get to us.

Pondering stuff like this transcends the suffocating humdrum of daily life and puts a toe in the waters of spirituality - something beyond ourselves.  Call it what you will - Consciousness. Faith. Awareness. One-ness.  But I'd rather believe that there's a purpose to our existence than accept it as a happy accident.  And, for me, that's worth preserving.

So give me Love & Peace over Hate & War any day.  Easy and sensible choice, right?  Yet why is the world in political turmoil?  Surely everyone would prefer to live in Utopian harmony?

This is where the intangibles kick in - like emotion and sentiment.  Because it's not about who's Right or Wrong - principles are only as valuable as the best orator.  It's about whether the intent is Good or Evil.

If you believe nothing else, know that these forces are real and as viable as anything physical.  History points to the evidence.  We're not just organisms - we have the capacity to grasp this concept of positive and negative and, in my view, are an integral part of the cosmic machinations of working it through.  Science confirms that there's a constant dance going on between the two - for every action, a reaction.  A state of flux.  But if one were ever to prevail over the other, there would be a fundamental shift in the order of things.  Maybe then the Unknown will manifest itself ...

You better get on your knees and pray that the victor is Good, folks - it's gonna be a trippy ride.  In the meantime, play nice and delight in our beautiful planet.