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Economy and Credit Ratings

Let's face it. Europe's political response to the current economic crisis has been woeful. I think it is fair to say that measures applied to Greece have not be particularly successful, and this in part is due to Europe itself losing the trust of investors. Investors, and the voting masses alike, want to know that when things go wrong, their elected people will take decisive steps to counter the difficulties, not spend forever squabbling.

This is something that may come and bite America in the ass when the Republicans seem wont to block everything Obama puts on the table simply "because". And this will, no doubt, bite Merkozy in the ass when they realise that to push through a hardline set of measures to rescue the Eurozone will require ratification from each country, and those countries that know they will be in line for penalties will hardly be inclined to ratify. That said, Greece does need its ass kicked for their legendary mismanagement. Not that the rest of us are much better, the only difference is we haven't run out of money... yet.

So yesterday "Merkozy" FINALLY brought something forward. A treaty change. No real details as of yet, but at least it is sinking into their thick bloody skulls that this isn't a problem that can be handwaved away. Come on Sarko, you didn't get elected the President of France in order to swank around with a beautiful wife twice your size. No, you got elected to fix crap like this. So slap Merkel, or be slapped by her, it doesn't matter, just sit the hell down and FIX THIS.

Which, it actually looks, as if they might now be attempting to do.

Greece... What can we say about Greece. Nothing useful, so moving swiftly on, Italy. Now, Italy is one hiccup away from collapse. Which is interesting as it has a workforce, production, exports, and money. What it doesn't have is the liquidity. Nor does it have confidence. There's not a lot of trust in Italy right now. And that, more than anything else, is the damaging factor. Italy has a crap government (so what's new) but aside from posturing and female liaisons from Berlusconi (so what's new), nothing in Italy has changed much from this time a month ago.
But look. Their credit offerings come with an appalling rate of interest, and the country is on the precipice of meltdown. Because World+Kitten kinda just lost the faith.

On the day of Merkozy pulling their heads out of the sand (or their asses, depending on where you sit in the political spectrum) and looking to have a workable plan, Standard & Poor's - an American Credit Ratings Agency - gives warning that the sovereign countries of the Eurozone, and that's all of them, risk being downgraded if they don't go a long way to fixing this in three months.
My first thought is Shut The F*** Up And Die followed by Don't You Think We'd Like That Too?

But I'm just going to have to do with STFUAD. Because the timing of this announcement is extraordinary. Just as the markets, which seem to rely on ethereal trust more than common sense right now, were thinking there was some good news in Europe, S&P trots out this bollocks.
This, I might point out, coming less than a month after S&P's "oops, we didn't mean to announce downgrading France". This, also, from a company known to have given good ratings to the main players in the subprime collapse, and some might go as far as to say damn near instrumental in what happened in 2008. Believe me, if countries such as France and Germany lose their AAA rating, it would probably spell the end of the Euro and possibly much of the EU. Because the AAA rating allows favourable business with those countries which, in turn, is used to aid lower-rated Eurozone members. Without this, confidence will collapse and what happened to Iceland could happen to Europe. All because some unknown people in a foreign country who were never elected by any democratic process "said so".

I'm afraid, given these events, questions need to be asked, openly:

  • Who exactly decides the rating of a bank or country? Upon what criteria?
  • Who do these agencies answer to?
  • How can we be sure there are no, shall we say, other influences on such decisions?
  • Why is there no appeal process to ratings announcements?
  • Why do unelected market oriented people (who may have bias or conflicts of interest) wield such power over the economies of entire counties?
  • Who stands to benefit from a Eurozone collapse?
  • Does this not count as a form of Economic Terrorism?
You'll see there's a definite pattern to those questions. Finally:
  • Is the market so stupid that they need some frigging agency to tell them who is and isn't good? Especially somebody who rated junk CDOs as AAA, and managed to make a $2 trillion (let me spell it out - $2,000,000,000,000 - count those zeroes) error in calculation of debt for the US downgrade.

Do we need Credit Ratings Agencies? Or are they just a crutch so investors, upon being caught with their pants down, can point the finger at somebody else?


Belated Thank Yous

Here are some Thank Yous I should have said earlier...

First up, to Wookie (no, not the Aleph1 Wookie!) who, as a thank you for the enjoyment of Frobnicate decided to answer my plea for obtaining an MMC card for the GoMMC that I inherited. I'm looking forward to digging out my Beeb and giving it a whirl. That and the 6502 co-processor.
Here's a photo:

MMC card in a GoMMC interface.

Next up, Joe, who you may have spotted in the comments, who kindly donated €15 to the Cookie Fund. I'll stick a PayPal link on the right column some day...
Anyhow, as promised, I bought cookies. The first was a break-off-and-bake premade dough. They made very nice cookies. Here's a picture of them baking:

Let the cookies become.

This taught me a valuable lesson with respect to my own cookies (made from scratch using a recipe I, um, sorta made up as I was going along). I should take them out of the oven before they are ready, then they'll stay soft in the middle and not turn into an icky overcooked dry French biscuit (sorry Nikko, but most French biscuits are icky - doubly so for "sables", or is it only a Bretagne thing to burn them?).

My recipe, which I will write up once I've made another batch and managed to remember the exact recipe, was made using all organic ingredients. Pure cane sugar from... <points to non-specific Caribbean island on the map> and fair trade chocolate from... <points to South America>, plus organic flour, free range/organic eggs, organic milk.
I don't really buy into the health benefits of organic food (except OGM, I'd like to minimise my exposure to that), it is more a personal protest against industrialised farming raping the land with more concern for profit margins than the damage they're doing to the countryside. Yes, neighbours in all directions, I'm looking directly at YOU. Where the hell are the field boundaries? Where are the trees? Are you happy you cut down three solid big Oaks just because you couldn't get your damned crop sprayer machine through? Or cutting off the supply to our stream so your pond fills so you can irrigate. We had a pond too... once. Oh my God, now that's a story of Fail Upon Fail. I might tell it one day. Not to mention that while Brittany gets fined up the wazoo for nitrate-laden water (seriously, don't drink tap water in Brittany, you'll glow in the dark, or something), the government wisely permit even more nitrates to be thrown around. Because Brittany is just a giant pig production unit - seriously, somebody even wrote a book about it (link on the right) - they need some place to dump all the caca. I would curse a blight upon your crop, but you're doing that pretty well on your own, having been so far removed from the origins of farming that you don't seem to understand what the hell the point of bees and other winged bugs are. Hint - it's called pollination. Look it up.
Anyway, my cookies had a lovely rich taste, but the texture needs some work. I preferred the 'feel' of the prepack cookies.

I also have an (as yet unused) dry mix for cookies. I plan to give that a whirl over Christmas, to help get a feel for the sort of consistency I ought to be aiming for. I suspect my dough was too moist.

And that's all thanks to Joe. Cheers!


Sleep deprivation

I didn't watch JESC. I did, however, move my dish as a last minute choice about ten minutes before broadcast and set both of my PVRs to record it.

I found out that my SL65 won't actually tune into an arbitrary channel on an arbitrary frequency. But a moment of lateral thinking provided a neat anwser. I, with my dish pointed to 28°E (British) created a new satellite definition called "Hotbird 13°E". I ran the auto-tune and it found three transponders and picked up on Channel4, E4, and FilmFour. I aborted scanning and deleted the two transponders with no channels (those may have been non-FTA channels that'd have been skipped over). I then configured the remaining transponder to the frequency I wanted on Hotbird - 10992 V 27500 2/3. I then deleted all of the channels except FilmFour. I renamed that to "RAI1" and set the VID to 512 and the AID to 650 [thanks to Lyngsat for the details]. I tuned to that channel and set the signal strength beeper.
Walking outside and up the ladder with my little PMR radio giving me a low-pitched beep, I swung the dish around. I forgot how far over Hotbird is, but I got a mid-pitched beep in around 30 seconds, and only a small amount of nudging to get a high-pitched beep. A little more prodding to ensure that the dish was pointing bang in the centre of Hotbird's signal. It took longer to get up and down the ladder than to reorient the dish. It worked a treat. I ran an autotune and once that was done, I picked ARM1, having Googled for which Armenian station would be showing JESC and remembering the onscreen ident.
Armenian is a strange-looking language. Draw a line across the top, it could be mistaken for some sort of Indian language. You'll see what I mean when I get some screen-caps up for the review.
Later on, when my alarm woke me up to check/stop the recording, I went out and put the dish back to 28°E using much the same process, set the older PVR to record an episode of NCIS (because it had a 'Rec' button on top). God, I'd forgotten how poor the sound recording on the old PVR was - though to be honest it didn't look so terrible given the resultant file was under 400MiB for an hour. I suspect the older PVR records VBR while the OSD is fixed bitrate. As to which is better? The OSD - because you can specify the quality. Oh, and it isn't hardwired to assume everything is 30fps.

Anyway, I didn't sleep Friday night. Nor much Thursday. I had a 'visitor' in my room. A noisy visitor. Dropped down mom's chimney by an owl. It was tiny, and was quite able to eat peanut butter from a trap without triggering it. After some careful work with pliers, I modified a trap to be highly sensitive (my smashed fingers testament to its sensitivity).

Viewer discretion is advised:

A Shrew. And something of a shame as they're in quite a different league to manky mice, but... goodness... it was noisy. I'm a little bit sad about killing it, but, really, what did it think it was going to live on in my room?



That's an American FCC approved/mandated/whatever television rating. All programmes are supposed to be rated, and all TVs are supposed to have a V-chip which allows parental control to block programmes on the excuse of "think of the children". It's a bit of a farce as many many people don't know how to use it, or don't even know it is there, and ratings don't apply to adverts which can be, shall we say, less than wholesome? Those poor puritanical Americans ought to come over here. I've seen full frontals on French TV in the evening (advertising yoghurt or something, but let's face it, all the men in the room will be oogling the gorgeous girl's assets); plus some British channels after watershed are, well, pretty much a nonstop stream of soft porn and filth. Or maybe just effluent if you lean towards Mary Whitehouse sentiment.
Either way, you might see on some American <cough> imports that this rating pops up briefly, sometimes after each commercial break.

Now, to top it all, and to prove the FCC has totally lost the plot (or they truly think American law applies globally), there's a group who fansub an animé series called "Mirai Nikki". It is... an interesting mix of Haruhi-like high school hijinx and, frankly, the nastier bits of Higurashi. It runs to a logic all of its own, and often succeeds in leaving you mouth agape just when you thought last week's episode would be as far as they'd go. Except for the comic pixelation, but that might be a nervous broadcaster?

TV-MA rating applied to a fansubThis subbing group received an email from the FCC to state that a rating was to be applied and displayed, due to the graphic nature of the video.

So let me get this right. A group who obtain a recording of a Japanese broadcast, sub it in English, and make it available (and, obviously, don't own the rights to it) and a video that isn't actually broadcast, is asked by the FCC to apply a broadcast rating label?


I think you FCC guys might need to change the coffee in the machine.

The label is "TV" for, duh, broadcast. "MA" for MAture. NSFW (Not Safe For Work), sometimes used to denote MA in excess, although anybody watching MA content at work ought to consider it unsafe. Hell, in many jobs, watching TV at all is a Bad Thing. And finally an Asian smiley as I'm taking the mick somewhat.


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