Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

George Soros’s Double Bubble

December 7, 2009

I hate George Soros for destroying the pound when another of our pairs of incompetents were in government – John Major and Norman Lamont. These terrible twins fought to try to buck the foreign exchange markets and in so doing gave George Soros five billion good British pounds!

But he is a very bright spark about how markets work – after all he makes a lot of money that way.

And I was fascinated to read in the FTWealth  ideas column that he has a view about bubbles as well. To him every bubble has two components.

The underlying trend in reality is one, and the other is a misconception relating to that trend. Boom and bust happen, he believes, when a trend and a misconception “positively re-inforce each other.”

Well, I’m, not going to try to explain that. You’re right, it’s because I am not quite sure myself what he is talking about. Essentially I think it is about the propensity we all have to see what we want, rather than what is there.

But what it did do is remind me of my discussions about truth. That truth itself is hard to find, or really define. And that we need certainty and so make truths of what makes us feel safe.

Well, anyway, that’s what I think. and I’m sure he is right.

Even if he does think of himself as a failed philosopher.

Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man

Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms

Goodbye to the Cheque

December 1, 2009
Hardly a ripple seems to have crossed the media pond at the threat to bring an end to the cheque.

 Paper documents to enable the transfers of moneys have been around almost since the dawn of banking. Indeed there is evidence of written authorities in the first century BC.

 The praescriptiones was believed to be the Roman name in the first century BC. In the 3rd century AD Persian Empire (Sassanid) banks issued Sakks, while Muslims were known to be using sakks from the ninth century.

 The Knights Templar ran a nice little earner, using drafts, for pilgrims to the Holy Land for a couple of centuries via their chapter houses. And by the fifteenth century the use of paper by merchants to carry money between major cities was well established across Europe and areas of Asia and the Middle East. Fragments found show the 12th century cheques were remarkably similar to our own

 Now our unromantic money men wish to end the paper trail some two millennia, or more, after it started.

 The suitable dryly named Money Council, in a consultation paper with a similarly dead-from-the-neck-up title National Payments Plan – Consulting on change in UK payments talks of the changes that might be made in the future.

 Now I am pretty critical, but the Council is not blind to the whole picture: “…special account must be taken of the needs of minority and disadvantaged groups…” it declares, with suitable gravitas.

 It then spoils the declaration with the fait a compli smug comment “…so that they can share in the benefits of innovation. We are asking what can be done to ensure that all sectors of our society can benefit from the move to more efficient means of payment.”

 Well, as it happens, the cheque remains the only paper trail of payment for the ordinary person. Anyone who uses digital technology, on which all other systems are based – and we all use computers, is fully aware how easily mistakes can occur, and how big (though fortunately rare) a catastrophe is.

It also ties us more closely to the banks than ever before. We can have little confidence in them after their comments following the strange judgement form the law lords sitting in their nice new supreme court. Indeed that case was about the distinctly fishy behaviour of the banks; how nimble their fingers are in our pockets!

Read this consultation document. If, like me you prefer to use cheques often, or appreciate the difficulties for the elderly and the lonely and the isolated. please send a comment to these worthy ladies and gentlemen to help them in their deliberations.

And, in the gadarene rush to the card, think also of the person who has hit troubles that mean they are denied the use of those cards. Are they to become the excluded of the new society?

SAQ – SAve the cheQue – give the bankers the SAQ!

Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man


Tremble: The Power Shoulder Cometh

November 3, 2009

Dallas and Dynasty, old tv soap operas, competed in dramatising the worlds of the rich. Perhaps the biggest icon of them was Joan Collins in dresses [sorry gowns] with shoulder pads that almost defied parody.

It seems the shoulder pad is back. But not just the shoulder pad, but the Joan Collins knock-you-down version. Apparently pads are being stacked vertically or horizontally.

Extreme shoulders, I am told, take four in each shoulder. Such is the sudden take of the new look that one major store reports a sell out in all its stores!

The objective is to give confidence in the boardroom, or other workplace.

This ties in neatly with a report on women as entrepreneurs, and this is done by the Financial Times in an article which refers to them as lipstick entrepreneurs.

I thought this might be disparaging, until I saw it was a co-production between Avon and the Federation of Small Business.

The report suggests the number of enterprises run by women could double in 10 years, to a total of 2 million. This includes the one person business to larger ones.

Increases in women on company boards and women millionaires are both forecast, as is the end of the glass ceiling. Almost as a redundancy the report points out the obvious that “…the workplace will become more female-friendly…”

Talking of redundancy this is also part of the switch of breadwinner. As more and more men are finding themselves first in the job-loss line, it rests with the lady of the house to start a business to keep that roof over their heads.

Unfortunately I cannot find a link to the report, nor find the name of the report – not even in the FT news story. Tut, tut. When I was a journalist…

Joseph Harris

Change, what change?

October 29, 2009

I’ve been around a bit in my life.

If I haven’t travelled the world, I have certainly travelled the work and non-work experience, as well as areas that few have to. I have been in politics, and out of it. I have been in journalism, and out of it. I have seen the financial, management and economic world at work. I have learned from uncomfortable and continued experience how wonderful our NHS and its dedicated people are.

I have done jobs near the ‘top’ and jobs near the ‘bottom’. I have met, worked with and helped and been helped by people at every level of society; and not helped by some all over the place too!

In that time I have seen a world in flux; from a post-WWII to a post-credit-crunch. Frankly, for all its deprivation and shortages, I think it was better half a century ago.

“But,” you will be shouting at me, “we have made progress. the internet and computer, the airplane travel and the food supply. Why even the clothing and housing is better; our cars, our supermarkets.

“It is not good enough yet, but even dealing with one’s debt problems is better!”

Of course it is. But is – that extraordinarily difficult thing to describe – life better?

Alright, tell me: how much direct contact with people do you have? People that are not your family or work friends? I mean face to face contact, socially and of concern for one another? And of concern about where you live, and how?

If you are a younger person how much interest do you take in your parents? How often do you see them, or contact them to check how they are? And if you are an older one, how much do you seek to advise your children?

Families: how often do you gather round a table for a meal and a chat?

And when did you last feel contented. Not contented with any specific; not happy or sad; not triumphant. But just able to be still and enjoy the world?

Even a century ago William Henry Davies [the poet of the tramps] had this to say about the ‘progress’ of the industrial revolution:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to turn at beauty’s glance,

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Because of the pressures on me, partly over the debt issue, I have not been able to keep up this blog very well, far less stand and stare ;-). I am trying to rationalise how I do all this, so I am in the process of bringing the blog into my website and making the management of the whole far better.

Then I hope to write much more on the attempts to roll back all the advances made over treatment of debtors in recent years. Then, or at the same time, to prepare books of my poetry and write new poems. Then complete my book on how to create a better tomorrow. And then a few other things that I’d like to do.

Who knows, perhaps then I can just sit – or stand – and contemplate, well, just nothing; or at least nothing consequential.

Something to look forward to, anyway…

Joseph Harris

Whither The Battered Economy

November 17, 2008

Because I have some financial and business background in my early life I have been increasingly astonished, not to say angered, by all the devices that are being uncovered in what has been a casino [still is, I fear]called the financial sector.

The various government supports in response to that industry’s yells of ‘Feed Me!’ have shown the truth of the old saying ‘Owe a million and get an honour, owe a thousand and get put in prison.’ Except these days no respectable honoree owes less than a billion!

You know the film, don’t you? ‘Feed Me!’ gets fed by all those who owe it nothing, and it gradually takes over and destroys everything. This seems a good analogy for the financial sector – certainly since the early 1980s.

Now it seems, through government action, we, our children, our granchildren and on are going to be paying off the gambling debts. Indeed that sector appears fully in the tradition of the rake who, on inheriting the family fortune proceeds to gamble it away, as well as the lands, the building and possibly his own grandmother.

I am not encouraged either by the G20 meeting or its statement. In brief it seemed to say ‘our answer is more of the same even though we know it isn’t working… …And we are putting off the hard decisions until another generation of politicians comes along’.

And no, I do not think President-Elect Barak Obama is that new generation in this sense. If you look at his advisors who have been drawing up his plans you will see how heavily finance and business oriented they are.

By ‘new generation’ I think I mean of economic thinkers. My personal view is very revolutionary – and for someone who tends to be small ‘c’ conservative that is saying something!

I believe the fault lies with the structure of the company. It lies far outside democratic process, yet it is so easy for the larger ones and the corporations to affect our lives in the most personal ways. Our jobs, our communities, our very environment and our world. Oh yes, and our finances.

Plan as we might, understand the dangers to the future of mankind as much as we will, all protest is frustrated by the big business power to buy influence and to drown out protest. It is not the format of George Orwell’s 1984 but it is most certainly his concept of Big Brother!

Can you go anywhere without being on CCTV? As things are shaping even your iris will be on a database – ready to be accidentally ‘lost’ and for sale. Or even accessible to so many that it can be easily hacked.

The foundation of the company lies 400 years ago, with the first Queen Elizabeth. Four worlds ago and for a completely different purpose.

Do we, this time, just want to patch things up again for a third Depression in 80 years time?

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man

Olympic Cheer

August 20, 2008

Normally my nearest brush with sports and athletics is that I know the cricket season has started, and wonder why the Kent team is always so near and yet so far.

Yet even I have been diverted from debt considerations by Team GB (who on earth thought up that name!) not only getting among the gold medals, but being currently third in the table of golds—and I think fifth if all medals are tabulated.

Heady heights for the nation, heady heights.

Of course it is very difficult for Brits to deal with success and winning. We are quite brilliant at explaining the game’s the thing, or what special factor caused us to lose.

And indeed when the Olympics was still an amateur event the game was more the thing than national pride. But it is some decades since the event became one with professional sportsmen.

Still, I look with some relief at the remnant of the true Brit in the nation that nearly all the television commentators immediately said the equivalent of ‘Ah, yes, but look at the cost per medal’!


As I understand it we are already showing better results than for 80 years or for a whole century. It shows you actually do have to put some money into winning in professional area [even and amateur one if truth be told].

But that discussion hides the triumphs of the individuals and the team. Many people provide the important backup, support and training for today’s athlete and we should not forget the role of any of them.

In the end though it comes down to the athletes themselves and how motivated they are to go through all that it demands to become the best at anything.

So congratulations to all those athletes that are coming home with medals, those that have proved good enough to take part and to the whole operation which has created Team GB.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll have everything ready for 2012.

Joseph Harris
[doffing his Debt Control Man hat to them all]