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Being dead breaches Paypal’s contract terms

It would appear that all of us with a Paypal account should live forever. Presumably Elon Musk’s old firm has some idea as to how this should or even could be achieved. For their contract seems to indicate that the popping of clogs is a breach of their terms.

A widower told last night of his shock after receiving a letter from online banking company, PayPal, threatening his dead wife with debt collection and legal action.

Howard Durdle was contacted by the ‘insensitive’ company, which claimed the death of Mr Durdle’s wife, Lindsay, constituted a ‘breach’ of their rules.

Well, yes and no actually:

The death of the 37-year-old British woman, Lindsay Durdle, who passed away from breast cancer, apparently violated PayPal’s account holder policies. After being notified by her surviving husband, Howard, of her tragic end on May 31, the American company demanded, in a quite peculiar way, repayment of about £3,200 that she owed.

“You are in breach of condition 15.4(c) of your agreement with PayPal Credit as we have received notice that you are deceased,” PayPal scolded, in a letter addressed to Mrs Durdle, after her husband provided copies of her death certificate, her will and his ID.

It’s badly worded, that’s true.

But here’s the full situation. She had borrowed money from Paypal Credit – OK, that’s what it’s for. There are certain repayment terms on such loans – that’s normal enough, when are you going to repay? Death does make following such terms a little difficult. But the debt’s still owed of course. It’s part and parcel of her estate in fact. What she owns is bundled up, what she owes – if secured of course – is also bundled up, one is used to pay the other and then what’s left over is distributed according to her will. This will be true of any other debts she has as well. The whole process is called probate.

So, yes, badly worded, possibly even a source of amusement for us out here, but nothing terribly odd about it at all. Being dead means the last chance they’ve got of getting the loan repaid is her estate. Thus the letter demanding immediate – for which read, the executor of the will out of that estate – repayment.

After all, a little delay here’s not going to harm her credit rating all that much, is it?

Posted: 14th, July 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Technology | Comment


Yes, let’s legalise cannabis – but not for tax revenue

One of the long running shouting matches out there is over the legalisation of cannabis. It’s worth remembering that it’s only just over a century since it was actually legal. Actually, back in Victorian England everything was legal, yes including the morphine and opium. It was concern over people being able to enjoy themselves which led to both the drugs bans and that idiot Prohibition over in the US.

Given that cannabis doesn’t harm anyone why not undo that historic mistake and make it legal again?

The report from the Institute of Economic Affairs has valued the UK’s black market in cannabis at £2.6bn.

OK, there’s quite a lot of it going on already then.

A report from the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) says decriminalising the Class B drug would also lead to savings for the police and other public services.

Well, yes, there’s an awful lot of idiocy that we’ll be able to stop doing.

Margaret Thatcher’s favourite free-market thinktank has called on the government to legalise cannabis, arguing that the move could save more than £1bn generated from extra taxes and other savings in public services.

The thing is though that we don’t really want to do it for the tax take. The point being that we’re only here talking about consenting adults. And it’s a basic matter of freedom and liberty that consenting adults should be allowed to get up to what adults consent to. Sure, some of these things will be wasteful – say, Simon Cowell – some will be damaging – Simon Cowell – and yet that’s the whole point of freedom itself. We get to do as we wish, even Simon Cowell. The only truly moral constraint is when our activities prevent others from enjoying those same rights.

So, legalise cannabis just in order to legalise cannabis.

As the report itself notes, if we do legalise it then we can tax it. Actually, we could tax it pretty highly and still have it being cheaper than the illegal stuff is today. And we’ve got to gain our tax revenue from somewhere. So, yes, tax it and collect some money.

But the reason for the legalisation is because there’s no reason it should be illegal.

Posted: 30th, June 2018 | In: Money, News, Politicians | Comment


Gender Pay Gap: Haim fires agent over male band getting 10x the cash

haim gender pay gap

 

There is indeed a gender pay gap out there. Some of it is – whisper it gently though we must – entirely justified. Women do tend to take career breaks, there is what is called occupational segregation – people deciding to pursue careers in different occupations – and it does tend to be men who are stupid enough to think that success at work is the be all and end all of life. There are other times it’s entirely justified too – no one is going to be surprised that Tom Cruise gets a higher paycheque than whichever blonde is the arm candy this time around.

There’re also times when it’s rather less justified. And the answer there is for women to take matters into their own hands. To complain and demand that is. Which is exactly what Haim have just done:

All-female band Haim say they fired an agent after discovering they were paid just a tenth of the amount of a male artist on the same bill at a festival.

The US rock group – made up of sisters Este, Danielle and Alana – called the pay gap “insane”.

For those who don’t know these things, band pay at a festival will vary wildly. There will be those there just to get the exposure and maybe thereby get onto the radio. There will be others whose presence on the bill is what sells the tickets to the whole gig. Those latter will gain very much higher pay of course:

“We had been told that our fee was very low because you played at the festival in the hope that you’d get played on the radio,”

Well, that’s OK, as long as everyone knows the deal on the way in.

“We didn’t think twice about it, but we later found out that someone was getting paid 10 times more than us. And because of that we fired our agent.”

Maybe that is OK and maybe it isn’t. But that is the correct answer even so. Not to complain to the world nor to insist that the law must be changed, but to fire the person who negotiated the price you didn’t like.

Of course, it’s always possible that demanding more money means no bookings to play festivals but as these things work out this would also mean no gender pay gap, wouldn’t it? For we do only measure the gap among people who get hired. Those entirely unemployed aren’t included in our numbers.

Posted: 27th, June 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, Music, News | Comment


The financial crisis is over; US Fed raises interest rates, ECB ends QE

Most of us have noted that the past decade hasn’t been all that hot on the economic front. That grand and resounding crash back in 2008 has led to government and bank finances being near obliterated, the follow on effects being not much to no economic growth, wages stagnating and so on. The good news though is that it’s all pretty much over.

Yes, a decade is a long time, yes, it’s even possible that different economic policies would have made recovery faster. Even, that not having the excess in the first place would have meant no crash. But it is still good news that it does, finally, seem to be over.

To think like an economist for a moment – yes, OK, so we all insist they don’t know anything. And yet they are the only experts we’ve got about this economy type thing. And they will be saying that these two events mark at least the beginning of the end. We’re now properly into recovery, rather than continuing crisis.

The US Federal Reserve has voted to raise the target for its benchmark interest rate by 0.25%, citing solid economic expansion and job gains.

The widely-anticipated decision will lift the target for the central bank’s benchmark rate to 1.75%-2%, the highest level since 2008.

When the economy goes kablooie the first thing we do is lower interest rates. The counterpart to that, the other side of the coin, is that when the economy has recovered and we’re worried again about inflation, not that kablooie, then we raise interest rates. Among economists who are not central bankers there’s a little muttering about whether interest rates should rise right now, or perhaps in a month or two – for the US that is. But that they should rise is agreed, the crisis is over and recovery well under way.

The European Central Bank said on Thursday it will end its unprecedented bond purchase scheme by the close of the year, taking its biggest step in dismantling crisis-era stimulus a decade after the start of the euro zone’s economic downturn.

When you’re really in the hole and you can’t reduce interest rates any further then you have QE. No, don’t worry what it is, it’s just what you do when there’s deep economic doo doo ahead. And if you stop doing QE then that’s the indication we need that the doo doo has been avoided, we’ve turned the corner and we’re back on the upturn. It’s not as good a sign as raising interest rates again but it’s a necessary precursor to it at the very least. The US stopped QE a few years back, has even started to reverse it – not something the ECB is starting to even talk about yet – and it took them a few years to then raise rates. So Europe is perhaps three or four years behind the US in recovery here, something which sounds about right to be honest.

The other way to put this is that if the crisis were over we’d be stopping QE and raising interest rates. We are stopping QE and we are raising interest rates, thus we should conclude that the crisis is over.

Posted: 18th, June 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Middle-class nightmares: Guardian readers panic over post-Brexit au pair shortage

Brexit matters trouble the Guardian’s readers as they made their way to Jezfest, aka Goodstock. What would it all mean for au pairs? One of the most-read stories on the Guardian’s website begins: “Au pair shortage sparks childcare crisis for families.” This from the paper that mused: “Is au pairing the new slavery?” and “Au pairs on a pittance: the young women minding kids.” And so to the looming Brexit disaster for the Guardian’s caring readers:

Many families are facing a childcare crisis following a 75% slump in the number of young Europeans willing to work as au pairs, as Brexit, plus other factors such as last year’s terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, deter young people from coming to the UK.

May, June and early July are when most au pair placements are arranged, before the beginning of the school term in September, but Guardian Money has learned that some agencies are unable to find a single young European for British families to even interview.

Or to put it another way not versed in the paper of the knowing liberal who outsources child rearing on the cheap: ‘Brexit ends au pair slavery’; and: ‘Brexit ends scandal of teens minding other kids.’ Says the paper, at pains to assure readers that an au pairs shortage affects not only middle-class professionals who can’t afford full-time staff:

While families who have an au pair are often characterised as well off, agencies say many are “ordinary” people such as doctors, nurses, firefighters and academics who work long hours, have long commutes or do not work nine to five, which means breakfast clubs and after-school clubs often do not benefit them. An au pair can be an affordable alternative to employing a nanny.

Since when did GPs and university dons become anything other than middle-class and wealthy? Does the Guardian really think GPs – average wage: £100,000 per annum – are anything but well off?

Maybe it does? And maybe if Brexit happens their kids will have to put their own plates in the dishwasher? The horror!

Posted: 17th, June 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Politicians | Comment


England’s World Cup kit made by starving waifs in Bangladesh

The headline is roughly the story from the Telegraph, that the workers who make the England replica kit over there in Bangladesh are starving helots who deserve very much better. It’s also not quite true. Those garment factory workers have a pretty good deal – by the standards of Bangladesh that is. That’s why they flock to work in those factories. And yes, I have been there, I have seen it.

England’s World Cup football kit is being made in a factory in Bangladesh where workers are paid as little as 21 pence an hour, an investigation by The Telegraph can disclose.

The official England shirt and shorts, part of the most expensive England kit ever, are made at a factory inside a restricted government-controlled zone where employees are paid as little as £1.68 a day and described having to live “hand to mouth”.

The currency of Bangladesh is “taka.” The minimum wage in Bangladesh is 1,500 taka a month. The minimum wage in the garment factories is 5,000 and change taka. They’re doing pretty well by the standards of the time and place that is. That’s around and about £50 a month, true, which we’d think to be not very much at all. But then Bangladesh is a ery poor couontry still. It’s about as poor as Britain was back in 1700 AD or so.

No, really, that’s where they are and we were. That’s after we account for inflation. They’re 300 years behind us in economic development. Not their fault and all that but there’s the truth of it. And that’s why wages are shite – just as they were in England in 1700 in fact.

It’s also not much of a Telegraph investigation that uncovered this. For this is really a press handout from an NGO:

The Clean Clothes Campaign, which strives to improve conditions in the global garment industry, said: “With the minimum wage set at 5,300 BDT (£47), garment workers in Bangladesh are some of the most poorly paid in the global garment industry.

“Their wages do not even cover basic needs, much less enable them and their families to have decent lives.”

The group said that a living wage in Bangladesh would amount to 37,661 BDT (£335). This equates to £1.62 per hour.

The problem here is that that is higher than near all wages in Bangladesh. It’s about what a Commander (the same as a Major in the Army) gets per month. It’s about twice what a teacher preparing people for A Levels gets, four ties what a state school teacher does. The insistence is that the girl sewing zippers on a month after walking out of the paddy field should get that much?

It’s not a sensible demand, is it? As I’ve said elsewhere the last time this point came up, a year back:

What our doughty fighters for fashion equality are arguing is something very different. They’ve constructed an income that they think it would be nice if people had. This much food, that much leisure, this sort of housing and so on. It would undoubtedly be nice if we could guarantee a minimum quality of life for everyone. But people can only have that if production can support it. Which, in the still poor places of the world, it can’t. The demand is akin to insisting that people in 1800 should have had lives as rich in physical consumption as those in 1950 did.

The 30,000Tk demand is asking that garment workers in Bangladesh should be earning the same amount as garment workers in Malaysia, a country well over 10 times richer. This does not show a great deal of economic understanding.

Wages are lower in a poor country because productivity is lower. It’s a poor country because productivity is lower and, to complete the circle, low productivity means poor wages. They’re all different versions of the same statement of fact.

Frankly, they’re nutters and the Telegraph has been taken in by them. Wages are low on Bangladeshi garment factories because wages are even lower in Bangladesh in general. The reason for that is that it’s a poor country.

Oh, and the thing that’s making it richer? Richer about as fast as any place, ever, has become richer, at 6 to 8% a year? That we all buy those clothes made in those factories. If you’re really concerned about those wages the answer is clear. Check the labels, see where something is made. If it’s in Bangladesh then buy two, not just then one. Because that is what makes poor people richer, that we buy what poor people, in poor countries, make.

Posted: 2nd, June 2018 | In: Money, News, Sports | Comment


Are people richer In London?

We all know that wages in London are higher than they are in the rest of the country. When we start talking about inequality then that’s as far as people go. They get paid more money so they’re richer, inequality must be this much then.

That’s not quite how an economist would try to guide the conversation though. What’s important is not how much someone can earn but what can they consume? So, we talk about the concept of disposable income. And, to the economist, the important one is disposable income after housing costs. Because that’s what you can spend on everything else. Wages, or income if you like, after taxes, benefits and housing costs. That’s the important number to be using when discussing inequality.

This inequality is a lot less than what we’re generally told it all is across the country. A nice example being this:

The sharp differences in household incomes across the UK have been set out in official government statistics.

The average disposable income per person (the ONS calls this household income), once taxes and benefits are accounted, was £19,432 in 2016.

But in Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham in west London the average income was more than three times this at £58,816.

In contrast, in Nottingham – which has the lowest household income – the average income was £12,232.

This is before housing costs. This is rather important because we can look up what housing costs are by borough (for London) or region (for the rest of the country). We should take the median – 50% of households pay less than this, 50% more.

Nottingham is East Midlands and median rent is £500 a month. Kensington and Chelsea is £2,000 a month. So, the economists’ inequality is rather lower. Because we’d say that disposable income after housing costs, is £6,000 a year in Nottingham, £38,000 a year in K&C. Sure, this is still a big difference. But it’s a smaller difference than the one generally being used.

Sure, incomes are higher in London, but so are the costs of living there. National inequality is lower than what we’re usually told it is.

Posted: 29th, May 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


New Look charges the fat more for their clothes

This is being trailed as something of a scandal but it’s actually just great, the way the system should work. Some people should be charged more:

High street retailer New Look has been criticised by shoppers for allegedly imposing a “fat tax” across its plus-sized range.

What’s the standard complaint from fatty lardbuckets the average sized British woman?

Here, she found that the Green Stripe Tres Jolie Slogan T-Shirt was being sold for £9.99 in the standard range and £12.99 in the Curves range – a 30 per cent difference in cost.

So, what’s happening here then?

Firstly, realise that no one does price things by adding up their costs then trying to sell them at that plus a profit. So, arguments that larger sizes require more cloth don’t work. Instead, what everyone does is look at absolutely the maximum they think they can get away with charging. Then they charge that.

Hey, that’s capitalism, every producer of absolutely everything really is out to screw you. It’s markets which temper this. So, someone realises that there’s loads of fatty lardbuckets average sized British women out there looking for clothing more attractive than a Soviet potato sack circa 1955. They go make and sell them and make a fortune doing so. They really do set out to screw those fatty lardbuckets average sized British women. And they do screw them – unlike anyone else to hear the complaining.

Then other manufacturers spot those profits and copy what they’re doing. Prices fall, the range available expands, everyone – other than the original manufacturer – is happy. That’s just how the system works. It’s also how it’s supposed to work, it’s all in Adam Smith.

If New Look can get away with charging higher prices to fatty lardbuckets average sized British women then this tells us that there aren’t enough plus sized ranges out there with decent looking clothing. And the fact that New Look can charge higher prices is what will create the competition and cure the problem.

No, really, markets do in fact work. Which is why we’re not all in Soviet potato sacks, you know, the place which abolished markets and the price system?

Posted: 22nd, May 2018 | In: Money, News, The Consumer | Comment


Chinese corruption crackdown screwed Cartier watches

cartier fakes china

 

These aren’t things you’d really think would be connected. How much corruption there is or isn’t in the Chinese economy and the profits of a Swiss watchmaker. But there is indeed a link and it’s worth about £400 million.

The connection is that when people Out East make buckets of cash money from doing something they shouldn’t have done then they’ll invest some of the proceeds in a good looking watch. And the brand matters – because the watch is a signifier of being one of the rich guys. Therefore it has to be one of the brands which is seen as showing that you’re one of the rich guys.

Sure, it’s showing off but with a purpose. It shows you’re a player and if you can show you’re one of those them more games to play in will be offered.

Then what happens with a crackdown upon corruption? Fewer people have the cash to buy them of course. But also, even those who can legitimately buy them from properly earned money won’t – who wants to be market out as a player when there’s a crackdown?

The company took action after stocks of its wristwatches began building up in display cabinets in Asian markets amid a crackdown on corruption in China, where luxury products such as watches and whisky had been dished out as lavish gifts to curry favour with officials, as well as a wider sales slowdown. It was worried that unsold stock would end up being discounted in the so-called “grey market” of unauthorised resellers, damaging the image and pricing power of its brands.

There’s also that point that fewer “presents” were being bought. The effect is rather large:

Shares in Richemont fell sharply on Friday after the Swiss luxury goods group reported annual profits had been hit by more than €200m spent buying back excess stocks of watches to protect its brands from “grey market” discounted sales.

It was a couple of hundred million the year before too.

The real lesson here is that the world economy is a hellishly complex place. Less corruption in China means smaller Swiss watch profits. How can anyone plan something of this complexity? And that really is why planned economies don’t work, it’s just not possible to even know what’s going on let alone predict what will.

Posted: 19th, May 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment


Standing in a betting shop made women want me

They shoot horses and put greyhounds out to graze on the hard shoulder. And now there’s “bloodbath at the bookies” featuring human beings. The Star is labouring under the impression that bookmakers give two hoots about their staff as it leads with how the Government has “slashed maximum stakes at fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2”. This will, we’re told, lead to job cuts among the people detailed to scoop up the proceeds of the pitiless gambling industry and deposit the filthy lucre into the burgeoning bank accounts of the big companies running the show.

 

betting adverts tabloids

Betting is sexy!

 

betting adverts tabloids

Who sane dials these lines?

 

The Association of British Bookmakers warns that curbs on “crack cocaine” betting machines will lead to the loss of 21,000 jobs as 4,000 high-street bookies shut. All balls, of course. The big betting companies spend fortunes telling us to bet online, offering inducements for a more fun sporting experience from your smart phone. They don’t do that to improve the lot of their shop workers. Online bookies are often based overseas. They’re happy for British punters to chuck their money to non-British workers.

Switch on pretty much any televised sporting event and someone will tell you how betting is for hard men – men ‘hard’ to argue with, like actor Ray Winstone, or ‘hard’ to touch, like the priapic saddos who think betting on Harry Kane will get them laid, possibly with an actual flesh-and-bone woman.

 

betting adverts tabloids

 

Inside today’s Star there are plenty of adverts for gambling. “Bets plan is a loser,” says the Star’s editorial. The adverts agree – it’s free FUN and you GET YOUR MONEY BACK:

Page 50: topless stunna Michelle Marsh advises readers to “BET HARD & FAST” (see above). Subtle it ain’t.

Pages 46- 48: horse racing times are wrapped round adverts for tipster hotlines (£1.50-a-minute); and more ads for Ladbrokes and Coral – “Bet £5.. .& Get £20 in Free Bets” – “When The Fun Stops Stop – Be Gamble Aware.” Yeah, right.

Pages 27-30:  An entire section advertising Paddy Power bets on the FA Cup final – “The Craziest bets punters have placed this weekend.”

And it’s all done to keep people in work and the high-street bustling. It’s selfless stuff…

Posted: 18th, May 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Tabloids | Comment


Former Arsenal player invited to join pale and shadowy World Economic Forum

World_Economic_Forum

 

Former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini, 34, has been invited to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders (YGL). We know what that is – and what it aims to be – from the group’s website.

The YGL was “established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.” No profits and it’s based in Switzerland, with a big annual meeting in Davos? What are the wages and perks like? Why do they host their shindig away from other humans and flowers – are they scared they petals will wilt and fall as the selfless do-gooders walk by?

The Transnational Institute describes the World Economic Forum’s main purpose as being “to function as a socializing institution for the emerging global elite, globalization’s ‘Mafiocracy’ of bankers, industrialists, oligarchs, technocrats and politicians. They promote common ideas, and serve common interests: their own.” Bono calls them “fat cats in the snow”.  It is the “most exclusive private social network in the world”.

A look at the Board of Trustees reveals not a single black face – which seems a peculiar oversight for an outfit keen to improve the entire world and the lot of its peoples. There is also not a black face on Managing Board. There is one on the Executive Committee. So that’s one black face in 82 leading positions in an institution that will “bring attention to challenges that affect the future of global society”.

One hundred of the world’s most promising artists, business leaders, public servants, technologists and social entrepreneurs have been asked to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders. They are joining a community and five-year programme that will challenge them to think beyond their scope of expertise and be more impactful leaders. They were nominated because of their ground-breaking work, creative approaches to problems and ability to build bridges across cultures and between business, government, and civil society.

They want Flamini. But why would Famini want them? He works with GF Biochemicals, which works to develop technology to produce sustainable alternatives to oil-based products. His company produces levulinic acid, which could be an alternative to petrol. But not air fuel for private jets – not yet.

Posted: 10th, May 2018 | In: Arsenal, Money, News, Sports | Comment


The scandal of Motorway coffee costing more

motorway service station coffee

 

The Daily Mail has noticed that a coffee at a motorway services station costs more from McDonalds, Costa or KFC than it does from the same outlets not at a motorway services station. The explanation for this is really very simple – rent – and it’s the one explanation that we’re not given. Which is a pity because it is a very simple explanation.

Breaking up your journey with a coffee stop at a motorway service station? You may find it breaks the bank too.

An investigation has found that roadside stores charge up to 28 per cent more for a medium latte – costing motorists an extra 74p compared with the high street.

How desperately awful, eh?

Breaking up your journey with a coffee stop at a motorway service station? You may find it breaks the bank too.

An investigation has found that roadside stores charge up to 28 per cent more for a medium latte – costing motorists an extra 74p compared with the high street.

We’re given varied reasons for this, including the station operators claiming that it’s more expensive to operate such stations than general run of the mill services so therefore prices are higher. But it’s why costs are higher than matters and that’s rent.

The basic underlying story here goes all the way back to the very dawn of economics when David Ricardo published his book on rent, in 1817. If you can produce more crop from a piece of land then the rent on it will be higher than land that produces less. We can say the same thing by insisting that the cost of the land will be higher where there’s more money to be made. A third way of saying just that same thing is that the landlord always gets a chunk of whatever can be produced from a piece of land.

This is actually why Starbucks was making no profit – thus paying no tax – a few years back. They had lots of leases on lots of buildings that would be good to sell coffee out of. Because the landlords get a piece of that action places good to sell coffee out of have higher rents. Starbucks wasn’t making a profit selling lots of coffee but the landlords were doing just fine.

But that’s where there are lots of shops around. Starbucks couldn’t raise the price of coffee in those expensive places because if they did then we’d go to the one around the corner. Where prices were lower because they were paying less rent. That landlord’s share was thus coming out of Starbucks profits, not ours, the customers.

Now replay the same game but where there isn’t another shop just around the corner. We all know that lots of money can be made running a services station. Once people have decided to go there they’re a rather captive market though. So rents are high. But instead of those high rents coming out of the profits of the operators, they come out of our pockets in the form of higher prices. Because once we’re there we cannot go to another coffee shop.

There is no solution to this either. Just because there are only so many service stations, and once we stop at one we’re going to be doing our buying there, there’s lots of money to be had from running a service station. That means high rents – and that will, because of the lack of competition, lead to higher prices.

It really is all there in Ricardo’s book from 1817. It’s about time everyone understood it too, isn’t it? Two centuries being long enough?

Image: The Drive of Our Lives – The Heyday of the Motorway Service Station

 

Posted: 8th, May 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, The Consumer | Comment


Musical David Bowie MetroCards Go On Sale In New York City

David-Bowie-MetroCard-Spotify-NYC

 

There are no photos of David Bowie riding the New York City subway to and from his home near to SoHo’s Broadway/Lafayette, not far from CBGB. Undeterred by evidence – the lack of it – the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority is selling a David Bowie-themed MetroCard for $1 a pop. It’s part of a deal Spotify to create 5 limited edition MetroCards, most with a scannable Spotify code which triggers a sound file.

 

David-Bowie-MetroCard-Spotify-NYC

David-Bowie-MetroCard-Spotify-NYC

bowie-subway ticket

 

Finally, here’s Bow in the Tube in…Japan:

 

David-Bowie-MetroCard-Spotify-NYC
Close enough…

Spotter: Open Culture, Flashbak

Posted: 23rd, April 2018 | In: Celebrities, Money, News | Comment


Martin Lewis Is Suing Facebook – Good Luck With That

Martin Lewis we all know as the money saving expert who set up – and made a fortune from – MoneySavingExpert. Which is why various people trying to flog scam cryptocurrencies have been using him to push their wares in Facebook ads. We know of Lewis as being pretty savvy about money so why not try to co-opt his image?

Well, one reason why not is that it will obviously piss him off:

The founder of MoneySavingExpert and well known money saving expert Martin Lewis is to began a lawsuit against Facebook in London’s High Court on Monday.

Lewis said he had taken the decision “to try and stop all the disgusting repeated fake adverts from scammers it refuses to stop publishing with my picture, name and reputation.”

There’s a problem here of course. One such being that people who saw the ads might well have been mislead into investing into entire and complete duds:

He claims Facebook has published more than 50 fake posts bearing his name in the last year, causing vulnerable people to hand over thousands of pounds to criminals.

Mr Lewis told the Press Association the legal action was the result of months of frustration with scammers piggybacking on his reputation and preying on Facebook users with outlandish get-rich-quick scams.

He said people have handed over money in good faith, only to find the advert has nothing to do with Mr Lewis or his company.

That’s a significant problem, of course it is. But there’s another one here as well:

Today (Monday 23 April), I will issue High Court proceedings against Facebook, to try and stop all the disgusting repeated fake adverts from scammers it refuses to stop publishing with my picture, name and reputation. To explain it, below is the official press release announcing the action.

You see, in law, Facebook isn’t the publisher. Therefore a claim of defamation doesn’t work. The actual publisher, the person responsible in law, is the person who wrote the post, or made the ad. Not Facebook itself. The situation here is akin to the telephone company or Royal Mail. Sure, both systems of communication can be used to do illegal things. And the people who do so are guilty of using them to do illegal things. But the systems themselves aren’t guilty. They have a legal status called “common carrier.” They’re responsible for what they do themselves which is illegal but not for what other people use the system to do.

And at least as far as we know the internet giants like Facebook are given this common carrier status.

A suit against those posting or making ads would almost certainly succeed. One against Facebook not so much. And you shouldn’t be buying cryptocurrencies because of Facebook ads anyway, no matter whose face appears in them.

Posted: 23rd, April 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News, Technology | Comment


Martin Lewis sues Facebook over scam ads; but who watches MoneySupermarket?

The added benefits of ‘money saving expert’ Martin Lewis suing Facebook for allowing fraudsters to use his name to trick money from people who trust him is that Facebook gets another kicking – good news for publishers jealous and wary of its power – and media-savy Lewis gets to be relevant. Lewis has built a very lucrative career advising people how to save cash. In 2012, he sold MoneySavingExert.com for £87m to MoneySupermarket.com, which runs an online price comparison service.

As the BBC reported at the time:

In the 12 months to the end of last October, MoneySavingExpert generated revenues of nearly £16m from 39 million users. Of this income, about 59% was earned from referral fees paid by MoneySupermarket.

It’s no mere tip-sheet.

In 2017, MoneySavingExpert reported:

Comparison site MoneySupermarket has been fined £80,000 after it sent an email to millions of customers who had opted out of marketing messages.

The story on MoneySavingExpert.com makes no mention of the site’s relationship to MoneySupermarket. Is that fair?

 

martin lewis

Martin Lewis at the top of a story that makes no reference to the fact MoneySavingExpert is owned by MoneySupermarket.

 

moneysavingexpert martin lewis

No mention of the sites’ relationship in the story

 

Promoting financial products is a lucrative business.

Lewis says Facebook earns money from the fake ads, making it is responsible for them. What’s odd and troubling is that Facebook, having taken the villains’ money, seems less bothered about punishing the crooks. How many of them just book another ad?

“It’s so distressing, when all my life I have campaigned against this kind of thing,” says Mr Lewis, whose face has appeared on over 50 different ads on Facebook, reports the Times. The social network does take them down – but as Lewis says: “It can take a couple of weeks and another one just pops up again. Why should I have to police this? Enough is enough. I’ve been fighting for over a year to stop Facebook letting scammers use my name and face to rip off vulnerable people – yet it continues. I feel sick each time I hear of another victim being conned because of trust they wrongly thought they were placing in me. One lady had over £100,000 taken from her.”

Someone invested £100,000 in a financial product they first saw on Facebook because it featured a photo of a bloke from the telly? What madness. No wonder conmen feel it’s worth having a go.

 

matin lewis fake ads facebook

An example of a Facebook ad using Lewis’s face – and his response

 

“I’ve told Facebook that,” adds Lewis. “Any ad with my picture or name in is without my permission. I’ve asked it not to publish them, or at least to check their legitimacy with me before publishing. This shouldn’t be difficult – after all, it’s a leader in face and text recognition. Yet it simply continues to repeatedly publish these adverts and then relies on me to report them, once the damage has been done.”

That seems fair. Why should the victim have to report the crime to the company promoting the scam and earning money from it? And what does Facebook do with money earned from these ads?

“It’s time Facebook was made to take responsibility,”Lewis continues. “It claims to be a platform, not a publisher, yet this isn’t just a post on a web forum, it is being paid to publish, promote what are often fraudulent enterprises. My hope is this lawsuit will force it to change its system. Nothing else has worked. People need protection. And of course, on a personal note, as well as the huge amount of time, stress and effort it takes to continually combat these scams, this whole episode has been extremely depressing – to see my reputation besmirched by such a big company, out of an unending greed to keep raking in its ad cash.”

Mark Lewis, a solicitor with Seddons law firm who is bringing the case, outlines the case:

“Facebook is not above the law – it cannot hide outside the UK and think that it is untouchable. Exemplary damages are being sought. This means we will ask the court to ensure they are substantial enough that Facebook can’t simply see paying out damages as just the ‘cost of business’ and carry on regardless. It needs to be shown that the price of causing misery is very high.”

A Facebook spokesman replies:

“We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed. We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our advertising policies had been taken down.”

Buyer beware.

Posted: 23rd, April 2018 | In: Key Posts, Money, News | Comment


Will Flickr go the way of Facebook under SmugMug?

Flickr, the useful and easy-to-use photography app, grew and then began dying on the vine under Yahoo!’s slack ownership. Under dire Verizon control it withered. Now it’s been taken over by family-owned photo sharing service Smugmug from Oath (the clunky Verizon vehicle).

 

flickr smugmug

 

Flickr and its vast archives of images has been great for sites like Flashbak, which features gems from the past. Through it you can contact users directly and see which images are open to free use with the Creative Commons stamp by each photo.

Smugmug CEO Don MacAskill tells USA Today:

“We don’t mine our customers’ photos for information to sell to the highest bidder, or to turn into targeted advertising campaigns. It sounds silly for the CEO not to totally know what he’s going to do, but we haven’t built SmugMug on a master plan either. We try to listen to our customers and when enough of them ask for something that’s important to them or to the community, we go and build it.”

It’s not all that clear, then, what Smugmug plan to do with Flickr. It’s always been about the data with social media companies, so why will SmugMug be any different? Ads revenues, protectionism and greed power the American-run Internet.

The only announcement sent to users tells them:

We think you are going to love Flickr under SmugMug ownership, but you can choose to not have your Flickr account and data transferred to SmugMug until May 25, 2018. If you want to keep your Flickr account and data from being transferred, you must go to your Flickr account to download the photos and videos you want to keep, then delete your account from your Account Settings by May 25, 2018.

Seems fair. But what a big loss to the web it will be people do just remove their images. Is there nowhere Flickr users can store their work for free elsewhere? Is everything we put on the web just a way for a big US company to make a buck?

Spotter: USA Today

 

Posted: 22nd, April 2018 | In: Money, Technology | Comment


Action comics Number 1 yours for a bargain $300,001

To the attic in search of a pristine copy of Action Comics #1 (1938). It’s the magazine in which Superman appeared for the first time. On the Heritage Auction website, the top bid sits at an impressive $300k. The auction house hopes the bid will soar to double that figure at its Comics & Comic Art Auction May 10-12 in Chicago:

 

Action Comics #1 

 

Form the auction house:

“This auction has a chance to be among the largest comics auctions of all time, if not the largest,” Heritage Auctions Comics Director of Operations Barry Sandoval said. “It will be in a vibrant city that is easy to reach from just about anywhere, and we have an extremely strong collection of valuable comic books that will draw the attention and interest of comics collectors from just about everywhere.”

Action Comics #1 (DC, 1938) CGC VG 4.0 Cream to off-white pages(est. $650,000+) is among the most coveted comic books in the hobby. The issue generates major interest regardless of its condition, and this is one of the highest-graded copies ever offered by Heritage Auctions. Ernst Gerber’s The Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books rated it “scarce,” and CGC’s census lists just 40 unrestored copies. The first appearance of Superman launched the Golden Age of Comics, and every superhero that followed is in debt to the character created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster (artist). The issue also sits atop Overstreet’s “Top 100 Golden Age Comics” list.

 

http://www.anorak.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Action-Comics-1-.jpeg

 

In 2014, a mint-condition of Action Comics No. 1 sold for a record $3,207,852  in an auction on eBay.

Spotter: Boing Boing, Flashbak

Posted: 20th, April 2018 | In: Books, Money, News | Comment


How The US Will Impose Russian Sanctions On British Banks

The Americans are really rather pissed off at the Russians these days. To the extent that they’ve decided to impose sanctions on a number of Russian oligarchs and their companies. Hmm, OK, well, that harms the Americans rather more than anyone else, right? Because it is those USians who cannot work with Russia, while the rest of the world is entirely free to do so. Sadly though, that’s not quite how it works. The secret is here:

A senior American official has warned that British banks will face “consequences” if they flout new sanctions against some of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen and biggest companies.

In words that are likely to cause concern in the boardrooms of financial services groups, Sigal Mandelker, under-secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said that US authorities would be on the lookout for any breaches of their Russian sanctions.

The penalties for banks caught doing business with those sanctioned could include heavy fines, as well as the loss of their US banking licence.

The way this does work is that the US claims authority over any business taking place in US dollars. They’re, well, just about right in this. People who swap cash dollars with each other aren’t covered. But anything which works through the banking system in dollars is. They proved this when they fined BNP Paribas billions for trading with Sudan. BNP is a French bank, Sudan’s not part of America either. There were US sanctions on not trading with Sudan. A French bank should not be covered then, should it? But it was and when caught it paid up too.

For the US says, as above, that transactions in dollars fall under US laws. The link being that in order to settle a transaction it will go through New York. That’s just the way the international banking system works. Transactions in £ sterling go through London, in Yen through Tokyo, in $ through New York. So, even if a French bank, in France, lends to Sudan, if they do it in $ then that’s a transaction that goes through New York and is subject to US law. Including those sanctions – pay up buddy for breaking them.

The same is true of these sanctions against Russia and Russians. Anything done in $ is regarded as being under US law. So, no one can deal with these Russians in $.

But it gets worse than that. For, obviously enough, this doesn’t cover people who deal with the Russians in £, or € or Yen. So, everyone can still deal with the Russians, right? Except no, and this is where the US gets a little controversial. For just about every bank even with pretensions to doing international business does some business in dollars, thus some business in the US. Meaning that they’ve got a US banking licence and a business in the US to protect.

What the US says is, yup, sure, strictly speaking our sanctions only apply to business in $ and if you work in another currency then you’re fine. Except that’s not the way we work, if you work in those other currencies then we’re going to have a good hard look at whether you can continue to do business in the US. And guess what, we bet we could find a reason why you can’t.

And that’s how the US will impose their Russian sanctions on British and global banks. You’ve sure got a nice US business here, be a shame if anything happened to it, wouldn’t it? The tactics of the Mob being used by a government, such a pleasant sight.

Posted: 14th, April 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Amazon is now the world’s largest investor in research and development

One of the more amusing things that we’re told about the tax dodging by the internet giants is that the government needs all that money in order to be able to invest. We’ve got low productivity rises, this means that wages will rise slowly into the future – and it’s true that if productivity rises are slow then so will wage rises be. Thus the Treasury should get a goodly slice of the moolah so that those wise people in the House of Commons can invest it.

This rather fails with Amazon:

Amazon passed Volkswagen AG in late 2016 to become the world’s biggest corporate R&D spender, and its hold on the No. 1 spot has only grown more secure since.

Amazon doesn’t pay a dividend, the only share repurchases it does are to buy the stock that is then awarded to employees as part of their pay. It also doesn’t make much of a profit. Sure, the number can be large, but as a percentage of anything it has always been tiny. The reason being that any money they do make on one line of business is then sent off to be invested in some other line.

They’re actually doing what people claim they want companies to be doing, sending their profits back into investment so as to create more growth and more jobs with higher wages in the future. So this claim that they should pay more taxes so that government can invest the money is more than a little odd.

Of course, the claim that companies should pay more tax so that government can invest is ridiculous anyway. The company can invest it itself, or it can give it all to shareholders. Who then make the decision to either spend it – raising demand and thus wages- or invest it – raising future growth and future wages. There’s nothing else that can be done with money, you either spend it or invest it, that’s all that’s possible.

The real complaint here is that the politicians can see a pot of money and they’re pissed off that they don’t get to spend it. But then we knew that, right?

Posted: 12th, April 2018 | In: Money, News, Technology | Comment


London House Prices Are Falling, Hurrah!

Or is is hurrah at all? For if London house prices are falling doesn’t that mean lots of people are going to get screwed by their mortgages? And thus we get to one of the great economic problems, there is no way to please everyone.

House prices in parts of London that were once at the epicentre of the UK property boom have fallen as much as 15% over the past year in fresh evidence of the impact of the EU referendum.

Figures from Your Move, one of the UK’s biggest estate agency chains, reveal that the average home in Wandsworth – which includes much of Clapham, Balham and Putney – fell by more than £100,000 in value over the last 12 months.

So, start from what we all would say is the largest housing problem we’ve got in Britain – no one can afford the damn houses. At least no one normal, on a normal income, can afford to buy a house. Therefore we’d really rather like the price of houses to fall.

So, we vote for Brexit, all those foreigners get cold feet about living here and house prices fall, Huzzah!

But we all know what happens next, don’t we? There will now be endless complaints about negative equity, about how people are being bankrupted because their houses are going down in value. Thus we’ll get all the more usual cries that government must do something to keep house prices up.

We could just say this proves you can’t please all the people all the time but that would be trite. We actually want to know what it is that government should be doing about all of this. The answer being nothing. They cannot win, there’s no right thing for them to be doing. Better by far if they simply retreat from the whole sector. Just leaving houses and their prices to the markets and when asked the government can just shrug and insist “Nowt to do with us, is it?”

No, really, what else can they do?

Posted: 19th, March 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Unilever be gone: Marmite maker leaving Britain don’t matter a damn

The maker of Marmite, Unilever, has announced that it is to give up its UK headquarters and move to Holland. This doesn’t matter a damn. No, really, it’s a triviality of no import at all. It’s also nothing to do with Brexit, They even say this themselves:

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch group, said on Thursday that Brexit played no part in its decision to choose Rotterdam over London for its single legal base.

It’s always useful to take peoples’ word for such things.

 

Asylum seekers and economic migrants swear by it

 

Unilever has always been a slightly odd company anyway. It’s long been near half Dutch anyway. And it reports its results, does its internal accounting, in euros as well, something a bit odd for a UK company. But then no large multinational is really from or in any one country anyway. There’s some slight importance, mainly due to where the senior execs get to live, to where head office is. Other than that it doesn’t really make any difference.

The factories are going to remain where the factories are. That doesn’t change when HQ moves. The company will still have its shares listed in London. Because you don’t have to be a UK company to do that. In fact, there are FTSE100 members who don’t do any business at all in the UK, they just use the stock market as the place they’re listed and that’s it.

The change won’t even make any difference to taxes collected. Now, as it wasn’t in the past, we don’t tax foreign profits made by companies with an HQ in the UK. We tax only on the profits they make from business in the UK. And we tax companies without a UK HQ on exactly the same basis. Foreign profits aren’t taxed by us, profits made in the UK are.

Unilever moving HQ to Rotterdam makes very little difference therefore. Sure, a few wine bars will miss the spending of the top execs but other than that, pretty much nothing. No factories will move, tax collected won’t change, it’s all a bit of nothing in proper economic terms.

Shrug, have fun over there folks is the correct response.

Posted: 16th, March 2018 | In: Money, News, The Consumer | Comment


Stormy Daniels will reveal all about her candlelit romance with Trump if he returns $130,000 hush money

You know how it goes: you shag the billionaire and take his hush money. Then the billionaire becomes president of the US of And you realise you undervalued your services. And so it is that adult film star Stormy Daniels says she not longer wants the $130,000 she claims Donald Trump paid her to remain tight lipped about their affair. She thinks it best that she return the cash and place her story on the public record.

 

Stormy Daniels

Hush ‘n’ tell

 

Daniels, nee Stephanie Clifford, has laid out her plan in a letter to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen. She has set a deadline of Friday for the return of the cash. She will then be at liberty to “speak openly and freely about her prior relationship with the president and the attempts to silence her and use and publish and text messages, photos and videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession, all without fear of retribution or legal liability.”

“This has never been about the money,” Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told NBC New. It’s the principle, right? “It has always been about Ms. Clifford being allowed to tell the truth. The American people should be permitted to judge for themselves who is shooting straight with them and who is misleading them. Our offer seeks to allow this to happen.”

 

Generous it is, indeed. And should Trump fall into a a trap marked ‘TRAP’ with huge arrow pointing at it, we can all marvel at how a man who outlined his mating ritual as “Grab her by the pussy” really treats women he fancies.

You can read Daniels’ letter in full here.

 

Posted: 13th, March 2018 | In: Celebrities, Money, News, Politicians | Comment


25% of People in Wales Are in Poverty – Nonsense If We Count Properly

A new report out insisting that 25% of the Welsh are living in poverty. Our conclusion might therefore be that we’d not like to have Labour running the UK as they have been Wales these past few decades. But that would be partial, extreme and unfair. The truth being that we’re measuring what poverty is wrongly:

Growing numbers of Welsh families are at risk of being trapped in poverty, a major report warns today.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows Wales has a higher rate of poverty than England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What poverty is depends upon how we measure poverty. For the world as a whole we use the World Bank’s measure, $1.90 a day. There is no one at all in the UK living at this standard, not one single person.

Within the UK we use something called “relative” poverty. This is less than 60% of median household income. If you live in a household which gets less than 60% of £25,000 or so a year then you’re in poverty. Sure, it’s not great riches but it sure ain’t the same as that global poverty. Also, note that this is after benefits, this is total income, not just that from work. But note one more thing – that’s the national median income.

And incomes vary over the country. More than that, the cost of living varies over the country. It’s not just housing either – a pint’s cheaper outside London, outside the SE, than it is within either of them. But we don’t account for that at all. And as anyone who has ever tried it knows, trying to live in London on £25,000 a year is very different from trying to live on that in Abergavenny is.

The reality is that many of those described as “poor” in Wales actually have a higher standard of living – well, except for being in Wales – than many of those in London on nominally higher incomes. Britain does have regional variations in wages but it also has large regional variations in costs. Once we account for those differences, both of those sets of differences, much of reported poverty simply disappears.

The biggest problem we’ve got with poverty in the UK is that we just don’t measure it the right way.

Posted: 9th, March 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Provident Financial’s Nearly Bust, Not Overcharging On Those 5,000% Loans Then

One of the more difficult things to get people to do is make them understand the implications of their prejudices. One such is that all those Wonga-like companies offering high APR loans must be overcharging. APRs of 50%, 500%, 5,000 %, these must just be capitalist greed ripping off the poor, right?

The granddaddy of these firms probably being Provident Financial, starting out as a door to door operation well over a century ago rather than some internet upstart. But the logic and economics work the same way:

Provident Financial’s shareholders are hoping for better days ahead after the troubled doorstep lender unveiled a £331m cash call aimed at reviving the business after a torrid year.

But if the plutocrats are successfully ripping off the working man then why do they need to put more money in?

The update came alongside Provident’s much-anticipated annual results, which revealed a pre-tax profit drop of 67.3pc to £109.1m during a year that was the toughest in its 140-year history.

Well, yes, that’s a decent enough profit there. But on the capital that they’re employing it’s actually lower as a percentage than the average across British companies. They’re making less profit than normal industry, despite those sky high interest rates. Which does rather mean that those interest rates aren’t too high, doesn’t it?

The truth being that lending small amounts of money for short periods of time is a very expensive thing to do. Firstly, say you’re going to lend £100 to someone. Or £1,000? The decision making process will probably cost you about the same. So also the basic nuts and bolts of taking the application, sending the money out, setting up the repayment plan and so on. There are simply costs to doing this. Whatever, call this £10. Now note, that’s 1% of the larger sum, 10% of the smaller.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that not everyone repays all of their loan in full. whatever interest is charged has to cover that fact too. Finally, the way APR is calculated means that the arrangement fee, that £10, is counted as a fee that repeats and repeats through the year. If the loan is for a week then the APR calculation counts that fee 52 times to get to the annual rate.

A much simpler and more accurate method of working out whether these charges to borrow are too high is to look at the profits being made by those doing the lending. If those aren’t high – and that Provident Financial shareholders have to put more capital in shows they ain’t – then the lending rates aren’t too high either.

It just costs a lot to lend small amounts for short periods of time. Shrug.

Posted: 4th, March 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment


Haven’t We All Got So Much Richer?

This little statistics rather surprised me. I should have known it but didn’t:

The average house price has soared by 7,578 per cent, from £2,100 in 1952 to £161,937 in 2012, according to Halifax. But in the 1950s, prices were much lower relative to earnings — around 3.5 times the average salary compared with 4.8 times over the past decade, so it was more affordable to get on to the property ladder.

OK, well I did know that. Houses have got more expensive relative to wages. It’s one of the ways in which you can say that we’ve not actually got richer over the generations: sure, wages have risen, but we’ve got to spend it all on a house.

It would have cost around £160 a year over a 20-year mortgage term to buy a typical home in 1952, but at that time around two thirds of properties had no hot water.

And that’s the important point. Sure, houses have got more expensive: they’re also less shit than they are. Central heating didn’t become even a luxury until the 1950s either, widespread adoption only coming in the 1960s. Which brings us to another complaint. We’re often told that a generation back one income could feed and house and raise an entire family. Now it takes two: so we’re no better off at all.

To which I would say bollocks. You can live a 1950s lifestyle on one income in the UK no problems. A house with maybe an inside lav, more likely than not no hot water, almost certainly no actual bath in a bathroom. And certainly no central heating: mebbe a coal fire in one or two rooms. Shitty food, no foreign holidays at all (this is still the era of a week’s camping at Scunthorpe). No meals out of course: it’s not just that no one could afford them, restaurants, other than those in expensive hotels, just didn’t exist (seriously, the expansion of Berni Inns in the 50s and 60s was the first experience of restaurants for many).

You can very easily live a 50s lifestyle on one single earner these days. The problem is that we all like being a great deal richer than that.

Posted: 28th, February 2018 | In: Money, News | Comment