Category Society

Word of the year 2016

Nothing to do with the ice caps

It’s that time of the year when various bodies such as the American Dialect Society and Global Language Monitor nominate the word of the year (WOTY).

Not to be outdone, at VoxSapiens we would like to nominate our word of the year.

Our thinking is along the lines of the Oxford English Dictionary’s nomination of post-truth and dictionary.com’s nomination of xenophobia. We see Brexit, Trumpquake and woke, all contenders for WOTY, as key arenas for use of both the OED’s nomination and ours.

But we see the issue as more than post-truth. We see a fundamental change in the world developing.

For that reason, we nominate Read more

Donald Trump ate my hamster

And Freddie Starr beat Max Clifford to win the US Presidency

So the unimaginable did happen. The Donald came from behind and now he is President-elect.

Trump’s unexpected triumph intersects perfectly with the recent spate of false news stories garnering higher positions in search engine results than genuine news stores. I say this because many of the false news stories are related to Trump. Indeed, some people believe that they are major contributors to his triumph, even, perhaps, the “edge” that he needed to pip Hillary to the post.

This disconcerting trend has even evoked comments from the current US president, Barack Obama, who has denounced the spate of misinformation across social media platforms but without getting drawn into the specific cases of stories related to the presidential election. (One might compare this statesmanlike approach to Trump’s cries of “foul” even before the polls were tallied.)

Whilst fake election stories are the current vogue, the fake news phenomenon extends much further into may other realms. For example: Read more

Are polling companies in crisis?

Major wrong call yet again

Once again the polling companies have got it wrong. And not just slightly wrong, but very wrong.

This time they predicted a Hillary Clinton win. Even 24 hours before the polls they predicted that Hillary would win.

Just a few months ago they predicted a “Remain” win in the Brexit poll.

Last year, there performance would deserve an “F” for the UK general elections. None of the 92 polls accurately predicted the 7% lead the Conservatives would actually achieve and a majority predicted a Labour victory.

% gap between Conservative and LabourAll pollsConservative leadsLabour leads
Total923342
017
1321517
222715
31037
4752
511
6321

In 2013, the pollsters were wrong with the British Columbia provincial elections.

Why do the pollsters repeatedly get it so wrong? Why don’t they learn?

Well, Read more

Could the Brexit shock be out-Trumped?

Could The Donald deliver a second surprise?

Very few people really expected the Brexit vote to end as it did. Even the Leave campaigners were preparing speeches to thank their street campaigners when they had to perform an about-turn and make the winning speeches. Even the online petition (now with over 4 million signatures) for another vote was initiated by a Leave campaigner who expected to lose the referendum.

Similarly everybody expects that the US presidential election is Hillary’s to lose. That Donald Trump, considered by many as almost a joke contender, couldn’t win. He couldn’t, could he? Could he?

Well the recent news may suggest that the second unbelievable national poll result may become a reality.

Read more

Financial regulation and the loss of sovereignty

A global phenomenon, nothing to do with Brexit

Right now in South Africa, President Zuma is being urged to refuse to sign the new Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act.

This act is part of ongoing global tightening of controls to reduce/eliminate money laundering and combat the financing of terrorism. There is plenty of freely available documentation to describe the aims – for example from the IMF and from the World Bank.

So these regulations are centrally imposed by global non-government organizations. Just like the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, right?

Err ….. no. These regulations are different because Read more

British hypocrisy

Not so Nice

On the day of the terrorist attack in Nice, Fatima Manji was scheduled to present the evening news on Britain’s Channel 4. The newsreader roster had been prepared 10 days earlier.

As one might surmise from the name, Fatima is Muslim. So was the terrorist.

Purely coincidental one might assume; but Fatima’s faith prompted an outburst by Kelvin MacKenzie.

Read more

Heading for Brexit?

Hold on, it may never happen

So on Thursday 23 June 2016 a majority of British voters chose the Brexit option. This unexpected result has caused major ripples across the globe.

The next step is for the UK prime minister to invoke Article 50, following which two years of negotiations take place and then Britain (or, more accurately, the United Kingdom – see the box below) leaves the EU unless there is unanimous agreement amongst the remaining states to extend exit negotiations.

Read more

Google breakup? Now Europe gets it wrong

On the Internet four years behind USA as usual

Now the European Parliament has weighed into the battle, four years behind the US Consumer Watchdog, calling for a resolution that Google be broken up.

See this NYTimes blog article, for example.

This is going over old ground … very old ground.

We discussed it here.

Four and a half years later our opinion is Read more

No protective father figures

But non-protective mothers seem to be everywhere you look

The latest harrowing report of what appears to be a misapplication of the intent of the law requiring adults to protect children from abuse has been widely reported recently. For example, see the “battered, bereaved and behind bars” story on Buzzfeed.

There is understandable outrage at the judicial system’s application of the law – claiming that a woman failed to protect her child and sending the woman to prison for forty five years.

There is also an understandable backlash against sexist lawmakers.

Here at VoxSapiens we suspect that the backlash might be misplaced. We suspect that it is a sexist interpretation and application of the law, rather than a sexist law per se, that is at the root of the problem. Here’s why. Read more

Emigration Tax

Is the Finance Ministry becoming Hotel California?

You can check out any time you want but you can never leave. So sang The Eagles in 1970. Here at Vox Sapiens we suspect that country residence could begin to resemble living at Hotel California. There may come a time when you will be unable to leave the country without paying your share of the public debt.

Let us explain a bit more about the state of public finances before returning to the pay-as-you-leave hypothesis …

Read more

onlycoin – only ten years too late

PINning your hopes on an unCHIPped picture of the future

A new startup, onlycoin.com, is attempting crowdfunding for a new credit card wallet. This product, called coin, is the same size as a credit card and stores the details of up to eight other credit cards (or debit cards, or any similar card with a magnetic strip). The onlycoin.com card runs an application that allows you to select which of these eight cards the onlycoin.com card should emulate. This allows you to leave your other cards at home and carry just the onlycoin.com card.

Many people’s physical wallets are bursting with multiple cards, and the onlycoin.com card helps address this problem. But it has a major drawback. The onlycoin.com card does not Read more

The Internet Age Emperor’s New Clothes

A Bit of a long shot

The BitCoin bubble is in full swing. But this bubble started a lot longer ago than most commentators report, and is much bigger than most commentators report.

The main reason is that most commentators give credence to BitCoin, and treat it like a respectable currency. Even laying aside the Silk Road connections, here at Vox Sapiens we have no confidence in BitCoin (or in its cousins such as LiteCoin and NameCoin). Here’s why. Read more

Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire European Parliament

Diocletian, or Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus, a Roman emperor who ruled from 284 to 305, issued the edict on maximum prices (in Latin, Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium) in 301.

In an outburst against a European Union cap on bankers’ bonuses, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said “the most this measure can hope to achieve is a boost for Zurich and Singapore and New York at the expense of a struggling EU. This is possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman empire.”

Read more

Bubble 2.0

Wait for the pop!

Yes it’s happened again. Our memories must last about ten years. We have a new bubble in Internet stocks.

Read more

Driving bankers’ bonuses off the front page

That’s what government funds are for

Rumors today suggest that GM and Chrysler will award their employees with bonuses of up to 50% of base pay.

The VoxSapiens team assumes that bankers are breathing a sigh of relief at this news. Read more

Let’s Face(book) it, this time it is different

No it’s not !!!

Here we go again. Goldman Sachs drags up the mindless euphoria of the 1999 Internet bubble and makes a small investment in Facebook which indicates a valuation of USD 50bn. This is 25 times sales. When Google was valued at USD 50bn it had sales of USD 3.2bn, compared to Facebook’s USD 2bn, and a viable strategy to grow those sales rapidly.

And Facebook?

“Facebook is becoming like the telephone system,” according to a “the daily beast” commentator on Bloomberg, apparently justifying the stretched valuation.

Well here at Vox Sapiens we see this as a ridiculous overvaluation for several reasons. Read more

Paybox.me is not a competitor for Paypal

Beware this one.

This blog is not usually concerned with warning people about websites that show similarities with scams. But this post breaks with tradition because the website in question has been mentioned in the comments to a previous post: Google breakup? Wrong target again.

In that post I discussed why Paypal was far more dangerous than Google, with respect to consumer choice and other monopolistic matters.

Earlier today “Al” commented that Paybox (http://www.paybox.me/r/signuppage) was emerging as a potential competitor to Paypal.

I don’t think this is the case. For several reasons I think that the business is a l-o-n-g way from competing with Paypal. Read more

158 Million IT Jobs Sent Offshore in 2010

Yes, honestly, it’s in the press.

I never cease to be amazed at how some people have no innate feeling for the size of numbers.

One might expect IT people to be more numerically comfortable than the average person? Well today Read more

Juvenile crash test dummies

Where is the legislation that requires rear crumple zones?

When a car driver drives into the car in front, he or she has a fair chance of survival – because the law requires a crumple zone in the front of the vehicle to absorb the energy dissipated by the rapid deceleration.

But what of the passengers in the rear seats of that car that was hit from behind? Read more

Simple defense to reduce email risks

Why don’t major webmail providers support this?

We have all been subject to spam. And most of us to malicious emails too. Particularly annoying are emails that present a threat simply by being read, even if no links are clicked. But there is a way to substantially reduce the risk that people will open dangerous emails. But for some reason none of the major webmail providers support a mechanism to enable this.

Why? I have no idea.

The simple solution is to Read more

The end of Open Source ?

The GPL debate will run and run

Over the last few days a debate has flared up over the GPL (the GNU General Public License). Specifically, the debate relates to the refusal of DIYThemes to release its WordPress Thesis theme under the GPL.

The details of the debate encapsulate a major nerdfest, with legal and technical nerds crawling out of their boxes and greeting the world. But beyond this, the debate has much wider implications.

In fact, at Vox Sapiens we wonder whether this debate will be seen as the tipping point that identifies the crest of the Open Source wave. We think that, maybe, the strength of the Open Source movement will wane from this moment because Read more

Still wrong on bankers’ bonuses

What is wrong with a bonus culture in banking?

The European Union parliament will vote next week on new legislation to curb bankers’ bonuses. The rules on bonuses are included within a larger proposal on capital requirements. According to the Financial Times, ‘lawmakers and EU officials welcomed the agreement and said it should help to reduce the “bonus culture” in the banking sector.’

Well here at Vox Sapiens, at risk of repeating ourselves (see Bankers’ bonuses – wrong target) we think the bonus culture should be increased, not reduced. This is because Read more

Rusty old dumping ground

Await the Chinese backlash

The latest European passenger vehicle emissions standard (“Euro5”) was introduced in September 2009. Since that date, in Europe it has been illegal to sell new vehicles that do not meet this standard. Older models that only met the Euro4 standard can only be exported outside Europe to markets with more lenient standards. Within Europe the cars have little value – they can only be disassembled in order to reuse the components – and this value is therefore below cost.

This situation alone raises the possibility that dominant carmakers in the other markets will already be very suspicious of Euro4-compliant automakers. But it can get worse, much worse. Imagine that Read more

Snore and fleece

The US Financial Reform Bill is too long

The US Senate has started to debate the Financial Reform bill. This bill proposes the most sweeping changes to US (and, therefore, global) financial markets regulatory practices since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

So one might think this an extremely important bill, right? So all the Senators have Read more

The importance of thorough research

Repeating comments in a different context can be misleading

At Vox Sapiens we are disappointed by a recent FT article which appears to show sloppy research. We have long admired the quality of the research and analysis in the FT compared to many other newspapers. However, today’s article appears to have taken an idea from an old article and repeated it almost verbatim, thereby misleading the reader. We are using this as an example of how it is important to be careful when using the Internet for research.

The article in question relates to Read more

Google breakup? Wrong target again

Consumer Watchdog misses the biggest threat

The Consumer Watchdog April 21 asked the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch an antitrust action against Google. In its request it suggested that Google might be broken up.

While there is the potential for Google to develop into something that needs to be broken up, right now there is a candidate that is way higher in priority. And that is Read more

From petrolhead to chiphead

The future of the automotive industry is more than the new powertrain

Powertrain 2020! The EV vision! The lust for lithium! The fuss about fuel cells! The automotive industry is alive with a debate over the replacement of the gasoline powertrain.

This is an extremely important debate, and will have major impacts on the strategic positioning of the OEMs. For example, what would happen if the future is rechargeble batteries and in the future the electricity supply companies give away vehicles in exchange for exclusive recharging contracts? Don’t believe it could happen? Look at the mobile phone handset industry.

But creeping up quietly is another technological shift that could have even more impact Read more

Escher’s Bank

The incredible story of the Icelandic banking crisis

The Icelandic Special Investigation Committee (SIC) yesterday (April 12th, 2010) delivered its report on the collapse of the three main banks in Iceland. It makes shocking reading.

It can be downloaded here.

At Vox Sapiens, our initial vision was of a couple Escher’s masterpieces. Read more

Lawyers and the real world again

Why can’t they see the bigger picture?

So Microsoft (presumably on the advice of lawyers) used the DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to force Cryptome.org’s hosting provider, Network Solutions, to close down the website and keep a lock on the domain name to prevent the site being relocated. Then a day later the complaint was rescinded, allowing the site to be restored.

This was a bad thing to do? Why?

OK, where should I start? Read more

Forget Tequila, welcome the Ouzo Crisis

How to prepare for the collapse of the euro currency union.

Greece uses the same currency as Germany. But Greek government bonds yield almost four per cent more than German government bonds, an all time record for the eurozone.

This is telling us something; really telling us something. The bond market is pricing in a high possibility of default by the Greek state. Read more

Toy-woe-ta

Looks like a business school case study in the making

Toyota seems to have spent the last few weeks giving PR people a good example of how not to handle a negative story.

Firstly, there were the stories of floor mats preventing the release of the accelerator pedals and the potential for accidents.

Then, two days ago (on January 26, 2010), there is the halt to production in North America and the recall of another couple million vehicles.

But, worst of all, many consumers do not know that the latter recall is a separate problem because Read more

Bankers’ bonuses – wrong target

Unless you’re a shareholder, point your gun elsewhere

During the last few days many of the large Investment Banks have announced staff bonuses. And in many cases these have been at, or near, record levels. This has led to public outcrys.

As a response, some governments have announced special taxes on these bonuses. And the triumverate of governments, central banks, and financial services industry regulators have all railed against the bonuses.

But why are the bonuses so high? Who should be the real target of the outrage? Read more

What electric car tipping point?

Doctor Z, want to borrow my spectacles?

Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG (that produces Mercedes-Benz and Smart) is reported in Automotive News to have said of electric cars being on the immediate horizon that “we are at that tipping point now.”

Really? I disagree for several reasons. Read more

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