Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Australia really needs Glass-Steagall banking separation to protect us from any financial meltdown


Below is the latest news release from the Australian political party, the CEC (Citizens Electoral Council). which points out in no uncertain terms why a form of Glass-Steagall banking legislation is badly needed here Down Under.

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Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
Media Release Wednesday, 4 October 2017

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

Glass-Steagall unites unions, community groups against financial looting

Trade unions and social advocacy groups in Australia and the UK should look to their US counterparts, who are uniting behind the campaign to restore the Glass-Steagall separation of banking from financial speculation. Australia, the UK and USA and other neoliberal economies are on the verge of another banking crash, with any number of likely triggers, including the inevitable collapse of Australia’s housing bubble, or a chain-reaction meltdown of the so-called “everything bubble”—corporate debt, consumer debt, derivatives, etc. Under their present policies, governments will resort to massive bailouts (and bail-ins) of the banks that will be the driver for more brutal budget austerity imposed on the poor, sick, elderly and workers. From the experience of the 2008 crash and its ongoing aftermath, there is growing recognition that Glass-Steagall, the US law that from 1933 until its repeal in 1999 kept speculators out of everyday banking that served the community, is the first step necessary to rein in the predatory financial system and make the economy work for everybody. US trade unions and community groups are mobilising a coalition of forces to pressure the US Congress to enact a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act.

On 27 September the USA’s peak union body, the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), hosted at its Washington DC headquarters an on-line “Webinar and Panel Discussion on Glass-Steagall Mobilisation”.

Click here to watch the 50-minute webinar.

The panel of speakers included: Marcus Stanley, Policy Director for Americans for Financial Reform, a leading progressive think tank coalition of more than 200 organisations including consumer, labour, business, and other groups; Nomi Prins, former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, Managing Director of Bear Stearns, Financial analyst for Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan banks, who is now a well-known author of seven books on the banking crisis, including All the Presidents’ Bankers and It Takes a Pillage; Bart Naylor, Public Policy Advocate for Public Citizen, an organisation in support of Glass-Steagall legislation that has over 400,000 members; Heather Slavkin Corzo, Director of the AFL-CIO Office of Investment and formerly the Chair of the Americans for Financial Reform Task Force on Derivatives, during and after the 2008 crisis; and Mayo Makinde, small business owner, community activist and Democratic candidate for Ohio Senate, who has lobbied Congress for the Glass-Steagall bill now being sponsored by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and US Senator Elizabeth Warren.

The AFL-CIO’s Corzo explained that the US trade union movement is demanding Glass-Steagall because of the ongoing economic destruction caused by the financial crisis. Her stark description of the crisis should ring alarm bells for everyone in Australia, which is poised for the same disaster. For instance, Corzo emphasised that millions of Americans lost their homes when the US housing bubble burst—a bubble proportionally smaller than Australia’s housing bubble today. Another harbinger for Australians is that trillions of dollars of US workers’ retirement savings—the equivalent of superannuation—was also lost in the crash. She debunked the claim that economic conditions have improved and pointed out that banks are not functioning as engines of economic growth by lending to small and medium enterprises that create jobs for regular Americans, but are speculating instead, which is only generating wealth for the top 1 per cent that the rest of the country isn’t sharing. This parallels the way Australia’s banks are starving small businesses and farmers of credit in order to load up on mortgage loans. “The other huge reason the AFL-CIO supports the reinstitution of the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act is that we want to see a return to prudent banking, where banking is a vehicle for investment in the real economy as opposed to investment in speculative bubbles and bursts,” Corzo said.

A number of unions in the UK have expressed strong support for Glass-Steagall, as have many MPs from all parties, and the UK Labour Party’s election manifesto called for a firm separation of commercial banking and investment banking. This support is passive, however, and there is not an equivalent grass-roots mobilisation to ensure it becomes law.

For Australia’s labour movement, the AFL-CIO’s leading role in this Glass-Steagall mobilisation should give them pause. Why is Glass-Steagall a major union issue in the USA (and UK), but not Australia? And why did the Australian Labor Party under former union boss Bill Shorten oppose Glass-Steagall, or even a banking inquiry, until it was fishing for extra votes in the 2016 election? The difference is the US and UK trade unions have experienced a financial crash, and know the survival of workers depends upon ending the unbridled speculation that has looted the real economy, and that begins with Glass-Steagall. Australia’s labour movement is in denial.

For too long Australia’s unions have been complicit in the “financialisation” of the economy—the shift from productive industries to financial services—which has enabled financial speculators to dominate and loot the economy. The unions’ own Labor Party privatised the Commonwealth Bank, deregulated the private banks, and replaced a fair aged pension with the compulsory superannuation system, which has forced all Australian workers to ride the stock market rollercoaster, and enables predatory banks like Macquarie—in cahoots with union-controlled industry superannuation funds—to buy privatised assets and gamble with workers’ retirement savings. Since this process began in 1983 under Labor’s Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, manufacturing and agriculture’s share of GDP has plunged, and financial services has become the biggest sector of the economy. Hawke and Keating took their “reforms” from the same neoliberal Mont Pelerin Society blueprint that Margaret Thatcher used in the UK; in turn, Australian Labor’s “success” was used to justify Tony Blair’s continuation of Thatcherism as UK Labour policy—now ended by Jeremy Corbyn.

Australian workers have never been more exposed to a financial crash than they are today. They are losing their full-time jobs in productive industries like car manufacturing, forced to borrow huge money to buy unaffordable houses which leaves them dreading the slightest rise in interest rates, and their superannuation is locked up in the financial casino, much of it invested in the banks. Household debt is soaring in Australia and the UK.

It is time for unions and community groups in Australia and the UK to join forces with their counterparts in the USA and not just support, but mobilise their memberships to fight for, a Glass-Steagall banking separation that can end this era of financial speculation and looting.

Click here for a free copy of the Citizens Electoral Council’s pamphlet, Glass-Steagall Now!

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+


We hope you found this message useful. As a registered political party‚ the CEC receives email addresses from various sources‚ which it does not pass on to any other organisation.
Authorised: Robert Barwick‚ 595 Sydney Rd‚ Coburg‚ Vic 3058

Monday, September 18, 2017

The wisdom of the old?

Lying around, pondering the problems of the world, I realized that at my age I don't really give a damn anymore.

If walking is good for your health, the postman would be immortal -- but not now that he uses a bike.

A whale swims all day, only eats fish, and drinks water, but is still fat.

A rabbit runs, and hops, and only lives 15 years, while a tortoise doesn't run and does mostly nothing, yet it lives for 150 years. Yet they tell us to exercise? I don't think so!
from young to old
Now that I'm older here's what I've discovered:

1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.
3. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
5. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it?
6. It was a whole lot easier to get older, than it was to get wiser.
7. Some days, you're the top dog, some days you're the hydrant.
8. I wish the buck really did stop here; I sure could use a few of them.
9. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.
10. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.
11. It is hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
12. The world only beats a path to your door when you're in the bathroom.
13. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.
14. When I'm finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.
15. It is not hard to meet expenses . . . They're everywhere.
16. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth..
17. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter . . . I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm "here after".
18. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
19. It is a lot better to be seen than viewed.
20. Have I sent this message to you before...or did I get it from you ?
Old man sign

Windows system restore point files can consume HUGE amounts of disk space

Beware, this might well happen to you on a Windows system!

Refer to the following Microsoft Community user query:
Windows 7: System Volume Information has many large files ...

image

Today I just noticed on my Windows 10 Pro system that my 250 GB Samsung SSD was unexpectedly running out of space. I assiduously do a disk cleanup every few months, but today I discovered only about 12 GB was left when I would normally expect around 70 GB of free space.

A little analysis showed a similar situation to the screenshot above, there were more than 80 GB of system restore files.

I suspect that the System Restore settings might have been changed during a recent Windows update. I have no proof of this, but I certainly didn't myself make any change to the settings.

All that I had to do to make lots more space available was:

  1. Open the System Protection tab of Disk Cleanup and click the System Restore button.
  2. Move the Max Usage slider slider across to the left as far as I felt satisfied with. (I chose 30 GB, for no special reason, just an estimate that this would be sufficient to store the latest four or five restore point files.)
  3. Click the Apply button.

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Note that I did not have to reboot Windows 10 or do anything else. The space was immediately freed up, and now there’s 90 GB available on the C: drive.

Monday, September 04, 2017

A shocking example (of lightning during a dry thunderstorm)

dry-thunderstorm-lightning-river-strike

Dry thunderstorm lightning causes the majority of forest fires.

It seems this video was from a fixed camera, as a human operator may not have survived this strike. Watch (at 7 seconds, of 56) how the lightning first strikes the river bank, then into the river and downstream with much turbulence.

Glad I wasn't swimming or fishing or boating there!

(Sorry, I’m not clear about the attribution of this video.)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Optus Fetch TV set top box flagged by Bitdefender as having two HIGH-RISK vulnerabilities

Today I discovered the free Bitdefender Home Scanner security product, installed it and ran a security scan for my home network.

My impression is that everybody should use this very nice free security monitor from Bitdefender. You’d be silly/careless not to!

The scanner reported the device named "HyBroad Vision (Hong Kong) Technology Co Ltd" has two high-risk vulnerabilities:

  • Denial of Service (DoS) .... HIGH
  • Arbitrary code execution .... HIGH

See screenshots (1) and (2) below:

image

 

image

I was puzzled by the device reported as  “HyBroad Vision (Hong Kong) Technology Co Ltd” and wondered what it could be.

A quick Web search informed me that this network device in fact it is the Optus Fetch TV set top box -- which is installed with no special configuration settings -- all the Optus default. (For overseas readers of this blog, Optus is one the main telcos in Australia.)

Does anybody know how these two high-risk vulnerabilities can be eliminated for this device?

What Fetch TV STB configuration options are there to accomplish this?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Microsoft Expression Web–Version 4.0.1460.0 free (sunset edition)

I rather like the easy-to-use and familiar user interface of Microsoft’s various editing apps. Microsoft Word. for example, the most widely used document editor, the one that all others have to measure up to (and some do that very well).

Microsoft Visual Studio is another favorite of mine, right up to and including the latest VS2017 edition,  most certainly a top-class IDE.

Then creating and submitting blog posts there was until recently the free Microsoft Windows Live Writer (WLW), where you create your posts via an offline editor rather similar to a simplified version of Word. I grew to love WLW as an easy and efficient tool for blogging. It has interfaces with WordPress, Blogger and other blogging services, but was deprecated by Microsoft in 2015 or 2016. Luckily, out of its ashes appeared an open-source version called  as Open Live Writer, also free and with all the functionality of WLW.

But what about an offline editor for creating and maintaining web pages. There are quite a few free and commercial products available, and I have a number of them installed. They each have their pros and cons, and I pick the one that’s best for a particular job.

The web page editor that I use most is Microsoft Expression Web, a commercial (paid-for) product. I started in the late 1990s with Expression Web 2, upgraded to version 3, and then to the final version Expression Web 4.

I find Expression Web that it’s very easy to use, again with a familiar interface to that of Word, with a particularly good WYSIWYG capability that suits my need for creating and maintaining my website.

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Admittedly my site is fairly vanilla, without many of the advanced “bells and whistles” that are all the vogue on many websites. (If I want any advanced or more recent features I use one of my other web editors to code these, then usually switch back to Expression Web to continue with simpler HTML and CSS coding.)

Microsoft deprecated Expression Web (and its companion Expression Design) in December 2012 and made them available as free products. Of course they will no longer be updated, but they are still quite decent, powerful web creation tools.

Give it a fling, you’ve nothing to lose!

You can download Expression Web 4 (free version) from the following Microsoft location:
       Expression Web version 4.0.1460.0

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Interactive health visualizations

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has some fascinating interactive data visualizations on its website.

You can select a chart type (such as USA health map, tobacco visualization, Life Expectancy & Probability of Death) and adjust a wide range of parameters -- such as country, age or gender – and see a visualization for that group of selection criteria.

For example, below is a life expectancy chart for both sexes combined, where those countries shown in lighter colors (red, orange, yellow) have the lowest life expectancies:

image

 

Here’s another one, showing life expectancies in the USA since 1981:

I commend that you check out the visualizations.

Friday, April 21, 2017

TIP - How to navigate quickly through Scientific American archives


For subscribers to Scientific American, see How to navigate quickly through Scientific American archives or read below.Scientific American transition in 1921 from weekly to monthly issues.

Subscribers to Scientific American are given access to every issue, in PDF format, right back to the magazine's launch in 1845. Wow!

It can be quite a laborious, hit and miss process to navigate back through all those issues, particularly for the earlier years (prior to November 1921) where there are about fifty issues per year.

Originally there was an issue per week, then in November 1921 came a transition to an issue per month.

The website provides only a very primitive way to navigate through those hundreds and hundreds of archived issues.

Simplistic navigation provided for Scientici American archives.As shown on the left, you can select the nearest fifty years by clicking on a radio button drop-down list, and that's the closest you can get to a desired issue.

As a consequence of this simplistic navigation design, I found myself doing lots and lots of laboriously  slow paging in order to arrive at any given issue.

After a while I cottoned on to a much quicker way to go directly.to any particular year's list of issues.

At the end of each page's URL is the four-digit value of the archived year currently being viewed, such as:

UPDATE (10 September 2017)
They seem to have changed things. Now the URL is simpler, so to jump to 1881 you use:

So there you are. Merely by altering this value to some other year you can go directly to that year's archives (the December issues are displayed first):

Scientific American archives URL wit year highlighted

Quick Navigation within a Particular Year

When you open an archive page for a particular year will find that the Scientific American issues for that year are displayed in descending chronological sequence. There are five pages per year, with twelve issues per page (except for January).

The first page displayed shows the issues for December and November, beginning with the final issue for the year (the closing week of December). There are up to four issues per row, fewer when the browser window is made narrower.

Scientific_American_1908_showing_the_Page_parameter_in_the_URL

You can save time and effort and jump to a given month by replacing the page= paramter in the URL (green balloon) as indicated in the above screenshot.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Firefox browser is stuck since 2006 at file version 4.42.0.0 – Why so?

I have saved quite a range of Firefox installers, and there’s something that puzzles me about them

Let’s start with Firefox release 1.0.3 which is indicated to be File Version 3.12.0.0 as follows:

image

My understanding of “file version” is that the developer is supposed to register each file with a unique number that truly represents the release number, as happens with RoboForm 8.3.3 (its latest version at the time of writing):

image

With many products, the external  “release” number and the internal “file version” number are kept in sync like this.

When Firefox release 2.0 was made available in December 2006, it was changed to File Version 4.42.0.0 as follows:

image

Most strangely, ever since then and up to the current  Firefox release 53.0 (April 2017) the internal “file version” has remained at 4.42.0.0 which irks me. It seems rather sloppy, but I might be missing something.

Can anybody advise me why Mozilla hasn’t kept the release number and file version number in sync since 2006?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Combo BBQ and Drinks Cooler


            BBQ and Drinks Cooler
 _tmp119

When you are finished, just turn the handle and it extinguishes the fire.

Not sure who came up with this nifty idea,
but don't you wish that you were this clever?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

TIP – Add Safe Mode to the Boot Menu of Windows 10 (and 8)

Recently I had a PBSOD (pale blue screen of death) crash with one of my Windows 10 systems, and kept getting crashes within minutes every time after rebooting the system.

Somewhat annoyingly, starting with Windows 8 Microsoft removed the old boot menu options that we were used to with Windows 7 and previous versions. Run a search like this to see the complaints about this from the Windows user community.

It’s not a bad idea to modify the Windows boot settings in order to get back the capabilities of the old boot-time settings:

top

As good an explanation for doing so, in easy steps, can be found in this article at How-To Geek and I recommend that you do it on your systems too, in advance of being caught out.

UPDATE:
For reasons best known to Microsoft, you cannot make this happen with Windows 10 Home edition. They really do make some weird decisions.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Informed consent, software-wise -- or software-dumb?

This is an update to a post originally published way back on 11 January 2010. Unfortunately, the industry of creating stupid software still is thriving in 2017.

You should learn something new each and every day of your life, so I keep reminding my young grandsons. It’s a maxim that I still follow myself, in a desperate bid to keep my brain alert and defer that day when my grey matter finally degenerates into a useless pile of wobbly jelly.
As an example, this morning for the first time I came across the legal term “informed consent” which is explained thus at Wikipedia:

“An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action. In order to give informed consent, the individual concerned must have adequate reasoning faculties and be in possession of all relevant facts at the time consent is given.”
I was led to this learning opportunity by David Platt’s MSDN Magazine Blog post The Myth of Informed Consent (go read it yourself before continuing here). He finishes with:
“We developers are the experts, and users depend on us. We cannot abdicate our responsibility by asking for guidance from someone who cannot possibly know. Informed consent in computing is a myth, and companies that claim it as an excuse for their malpractice are weasels. Stop it. Now.”

“Low Risk”? Who knows?

David was commenting on the a dialog box generated by Norton Internet Security which leaves the hapless computer user to work out and decide on the significance of the meaning of an obscure message. Actually, I’d go even further and call the message is obscurantist (rather than just obscure), leaving the user most likely to have to guess what to do, rather than coming to a reasoned conclusion.
Software tends to be rather difficult to design, develop and test, and in my experience the people involved typically focus on the the technical architecture/design/coding accuracy rather than the textual precision and accuracy.

Usability testers should always be involved, and if worth their salt they should pick up on wordings and meanings that are obscure, incomplete, misleading, indeterminate, and so on. I wonder how much software gets released without any significant degree of usability testing.

Sensible and accurate wordsmithing takes time and effort, hence adds cost (which is doubtless the reason why it’s often not done). Further, not all people are good at writing clearly and concisely – not to mention spelling properly, as well as using accurate terms and terminology.

As an aside, my pet peeve at the moment is the schoolboy howler error of referring to a single building as a “premise” when discussing broadband (such as Australia’s National Broadband Network), using terms such as cabling is laid right up to the premise and  in-premise terminating equipment. However it wasn’t my intention here to focus on poor writing, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, and the like, bad practice as they are.

David Platt’s security warning dialog box is just one example of the sort of rubbish that software designers and developers keep forcing upon us.

You’ve surely got your own examples.

Below, without further commentary, are a few others: inane, puzzling and meaningless gibberish from software vendors big and small,  that I’ve collected over the years …

image
Mr. Software Vendor, I do happen to run more than one application at a time,
not just the one YOU developed, whichever it is of all that are currently active!
And I have multiple hard drives, so which one?

image
At least I know that the problem’s occurring with Eudora,
but that’s about all I know.

image
Thanks for telling me, so what?

image
I knew this was associated with Acronis True Image. but what should I reply?
[It took some time to discover which of the drives was “hard disk 7’ and
I wonder why they don’t make it easy by quoting the drive letter instead]

image  image
You don’t say!

  image and  image

I do really like Lotus Notes, but for crying out loud.


image
Oh no, Techsmith's Snagit suffers from such inanity too.

The above messages are about as useful as the following unique device:

image

Click “Yes” or “No” .. or so you say:
image
Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

 

One of many applications has sent me a message:

image

UPDATE:
Here’s yet another one, just encountered:
image
image


Enough, enough! We need some relief.
The above are laughable (or perhaps “cryable”),
but the following is laughworthy:







"For gorsake, stop laughing, this is serious."
Stan Cross (in Smith’s Weekly, 1933, Australia).

One of my favorite illustrations of all time!