Saturday, June 29, 2002
The Illuminati obviously have significant interest in the degree confluence project, which aims to gather photos of the intersection of every line of longitude and latitude. Here's 43 by 9 in Spain:
If you're holidaying by any uncaptured locations, why not help them out?
Oh, and the Illuminati also told me how to get hold of Brains for Zombies. You know, in case I need some.
What is the "Security Edition" ?
The First Ten Amendments to the constitution of the United States printed on sturdy, pocket-sized, pieces of metal.
The next time you travel by air, take the Security Edition of the Bill of Rights along with you. When asked to empty your pockets, proudly toss the Bill of Rights in the plastic bin.
You need to get used to offering up the bill of rights for inspection and government workers need to get used to deciding if you'll be allowed to keep the Bill of Rights with you when you travel."
Buy it now!
Fawaz Turki (June 13) states that all "those Arabs who deny that as many as six million Jews died there ... are cranks who want to bend historical evidence until it conforms with their ideological perceptions".
What historical evidence?
The claim that six million Jews were killed by the Germans in the holocaust has never been proven and is based on assumptions made by Jewish historians. In spite of the fact that among these historians very different numbers are used for the victims of individual concentration camps and those outside the camps, they magically all arrive at about the six-million figure. Other Jewish holocaust experts deliberately confuse the issue by using aphorisms which characterize the holocaust as "noncommunicable", "we cannot talk about it" or "the truth lies in silence". The people who should be interested most in the truth block any attempt to find the truth. Anybody who dares to question the numbers is accused of anti-Semitism. A few countries even have adopted laws that limit or otherwise chill public discussion.
It should also not be forgotten that through the holocaust campaign money is extorted from the "guilty"; it is good business.
It would be very interesting to hear the historical evidence Turki has. Maybe he can share it with us. I am surprised that an expert on the Arab-Jewish question, who, one would think, is fully aware of all the distorted and falsified claims made on behalf of Israel, would accept claims from the same quarters with regards to the "six million Jews killed by the Germans".
Unless, of course, he has historical evidence.
R.P., Jeddah published 28 June 2002"
Wow. Guess it really was a mistake when they printed that column by David Duke*: they've definitely got their heads screwed on straight about what's worthy of publishing and what's deranged rambling.
* and didn't they also managed the blood libel the other day?
Ignore the rest of her ramblings. Can this be true? Workers in the US are worse off than unemployed Europeans? Possibly true of some workers and some unemployed (especially ones who've just left well paid employment in some countries, as there's a period where income is related to prior wages). However, given that Missippi (sp, sp, sp) just came out as better off than Sweden, there might be a suspicion that Toynbee is, yet again, wrong.
You've got to throw some assumptions in, but the US minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. For a 40 hour week, that's $206 or 208 Euros (just over £134). That's also $886 a month (yes, a month has more than 4 weeks - I assumed 4.3).
I hit google looking for French employment info (assuming France to be a land of milk and honey), and find:
"According to a report from a Catholic charity organisation, the unemployment rate has indeed declined since 1997, but the number of those economically and socially marginalised has increased. This social layer includes in particular single mothers and the so-called “working poor”—people who do have a job but whose income is under the poverty level of 4,140 francs ($575) a month." (data from an article written on 13th December 2000).
That's no unemployment benefit: that's what you get if you're working. There is a minority of French workers entitled to luxurious unemployment insurance based on previous wages, but subject to lots of conditions. Let's assume the rest of them get less than employment pays. I.e. less than $575 a month.
That seems a rather lower number than $886. To pass the French poverty line, an American on minimum wage must work only 26 hours a week (excluding the effect of any ancillary benefits - who knows what they are).
By contrast, the "poverty threshold" in 2000 for a US worker under 65 was $8,959 a year, or $747 a month. Thus the US poverty line is higher than the French one, and can be hit by a worker on minimum wage doing 34 hours a week.
Now, that suggests to me that, unless you really are better off on the dole in France than working, that US workers do better than the unemployed in France. And that Polly Toynbee just doesn't know what she's talking about.
I'll disregard the possible effects of the law upon the decisions of potential managers. What I have to add is this: "conservatism" in accounting (beyond sensible prudence) would probably not protect an executive.
Accounts are misleading not only if they make the situation look too good, but also if they make the situation look too bad. I'm not an expert in US GAAP, and know it differs from the UK requirement of the accounts being "true and fair". But it has a similar end effect. Let's talk through a
There are lots of estimates involved in accounts, and one of the major areas where companies sometimes just stick a finger in the air and make a best guess is in making provisions. You're being sued over the waste that leaked out from your plant. You're likely to lose, and the likely damages are £10m. Any provision you make is a straight hit against profits.
If you provide for £1m, you've overstated your profits by £9m, and that would, as Musil points out, possibly get you into a great deal of trouble at some future date. But if you were "inefficiently conservative", you might provide for £100m. Sure, the likely loss is £10m, but what if everything went badly in court? Shouldn't we be extra careful?The effect, of course, is to understate profits by £90m (a difference ten times the size of the hypothetical overstatement).
Notice that this is just as much a distortion of the "true and fair" picture of the accounts as wild optimism. It might be thought that this sort of conservatism can do no harm. Sadly, that would be wrong. If fact, it offers similar opportunities to exploit shareholders as those claimed to have recently occurred.
How so you ask? Well, if you are overly pessimistic, then the reported profits of the company are down. So the stock falls. So the management could buy lots of shares (or base their compensation packages on these dire figures). When the court case is settled for £10m, the "spare" £90m are written back to the profit and loss account, and all of a sudden profits boom. Share go up, the management sell up/cash their options, and the original shareholders get screwed through selling up too soon or having to pay out big bonuses.
This isn't entirely a hypothetical case. There used to be a tradition of "big bath" provisions: if you were going to make a loss, why not make it a big loss and take care of all sorts of potential profit depressors in the future? So some years excessively large losses were recorded to boost profits in other years. Buffet's compared the practice (still not extinct) to "playing" three great rounds of golf, and burying the "excess" shots in one absolute stinker (or some such analogy). And there are plenty of other examples of ways to be overly conservative.
Ignoring any instances of actual fraud, plain and simple, the CEO wouldn't just be at risk if he* was over-optimistic about the value of his stock of fridges in Alaska: he'd also be at risk if he assumed he couldn't sell most of the beers he'd stock-piled ready for New Year's. His only option would be to get it "right" first time. That's always our aim, but I suspect that not every company could manage it every year vs judges with the benefit of hindsight.
(let's be realistic people..)
This is a bit wierd. Basically, they've taken the logs of a search engine, and looked to see the most "popular" numbers, from 1 to 100,000. "hover" over the graphing for instructions. You also get listed "associations" with numbers. 2000 is pretty popular. But wierdly, 1998 is third in the rankings. All very odd.
Friday, June 28, 2002
"Auditor judgment is required on whether estimates and assumptions are reasonable or are fabricated solely to project an illusion of greater profitability. Investors may be aware of the limitations of earnings as a measure of performance. Yet once a company reports its earnings, they accept the number as an accurate indication of its health.
This may be irrational. But it's not difficult to understand: In sports, despite the inherent subjectivity of calling penalties or balls and strikes, games retain their integrity because the referees and umpires are accepted as unbiased. Unlike corporate auditors, they are neither hired nor paid by the home team.
How can auditors regain the public's trust? As long as Congress and the S.E.C. cannot reduce the significance of judgment or the weight that investors place on earnings per share, they must make certain that the auditors are impartial and have no incentive to bend to the "home crowd.""
The difference is this: the decisions made by umpires (etc) are constitutive of the game being played. The calls made by auditors, on the other hand, are subject to later revision.
If the umpire calls a ball "in", then it's in, and you've just won a point. If the auditors spot and allow (immaterial) misstatements, or a company sneaks something by them fraudulently, their "call" in the annual report doesn't make it true. If replays later show the "umpire" to be mistaken, you've still won Wimbledon, but your company may well be bankrupt.
An auditor is only called upon to certify (in the UK) that accounts give "a true and fair view" of a company's position, subject even then to some caveats: the umpire actually gets to "make it so"...
""In a surprise decision that exonerates dozens of major companies, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that corporate earnings statements should be protected as works of art, as they "create something from nothing."
"One plus one is two. That is math. That is science. But as we have seen, earnings and revenues are abstract and original concepts, ideas not bound by physical constraints or coarse realities, and must therefore be considered art," the Court wrote in its 7-2 decision.
The impact of the ruling was widespread. Investigations into hundreds of firms were cancelled, and collectors began snatching up original balance sheets, audits, and P&L statements from WorldCom, Enron, and Global Crossing. Meanwhile, auditing firms such as Arthur Andersen (now Art by Andersen) were reclassified as art critics, whose opinions are no longer liable.
"Before we had to go in and decide, 'Is it right, or is it wrong?'" said [an accountant]. "Now we must only decide, 'Is it art?'""
" It might have been wiser – and more honest – if he had reminded us that the CIA trained the gunmen and intelligence thugs who worked for Arafat; if he had outlined the imprisonment and torture that Arafat inflicted on his Palestinian opponents with the complicity of those who supported the "peace process"."
"And children on both sides of the conflict have died. Two months ago three 14-year-old Palestinian boys set out to attack an Israeli settlement and were shot dead.
They packed away their bags after school in Gaza City and armed themselves with knives, an axe and crude homemade explosives.
They did not get even within striking range before being shot by Israeli soldiers.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were returned to their parents.
Last month a Palestinian bomber aged 16 killed two Israelis in a park near Tel Aviv.
Issa Bdeir was the youngest attacker to blow himself up up in the current wave of bloodshed.
His family said he was inspired by feelings of revenge.
An Israeli baby was among the victims of the suicide bomber who blasted a crowded bus apart last week.
Israeli troops killed three hungry Arab children - two six-year-olds and one aged 12 - looking for food in a fruit and vegetable market.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers were accused of opening fire in a market at Qalqilya during a break in the curfew, wounding three young Palestinians including a 10-year-old boy."
Now, I'm not certain. But I recall one market related incident in recent times, with a back-story of confusion all round and three young Palestinians involved*. These may be separate incidents, but I don't think so. And it's noteworthy that the Israeli children killed were all deliberate targets, whilst three of the Palestinians referred to were carrying explosives and other weapons, one actually carried out a suicide bombing, and three (assuming double counting) were, tragically, hurt/killed (depends what you read in the Mirror...) in a misunderstanding about what was happening.
Note also that the impression given is that more Palestinian children are being killed, an impression that seems to be false (sez me with bonus math - basically, it seems that the death rate, on an annualised basis of under 15 year olds was 31 Jews per 100,000 per year vs 12 Palestinians, based on deaths between 30th September 2001 and 7th May 2002 using figures provided by The American Kaiser drawn from Palestinian and Israeli sources for their own deaths. Some assumptions listed here)
* if anyone knows of a second incident that explains the Mirror's coverage, please let me know
Thursday, June 27, 2002
A rugby union match lasts 80 minutes. No timeouts, few player substitutions, not a lot of time for coaching. It's a rough contact sport that forces players to think and act under extreme pressure.
Mark Bingham may have demonstrated those hard-learned skills during his final moments on Septemver 11 aboard United Flight 93, the only one of the four hijacked planes that didn't reach its target.
This weekend, his San Francisco Fog teammates will honour that spirit by holding the Bingham Cup, an international gay rugby tournament, during the city's annual pride celebration.
"There's something to be said for competitive sports," said Alice Hoglan, Bingham's mother. "His last game wasn't on a grassy field. It was on a narrow 757."
Hoglan will present the trophy on Saturday to the winner that emerges from the eight rugby clubs. She also plans to march with some of the 200 players in Sunday's Pride Parade, which draws about 1 million people each year.
"It's going to be everything Mark would love," Fog forward Bryce Eberhart said. "It's going to be a rockin' party, people from different cultures getting to know each other and it's going to be two days of rugby, rugby, rugby."
While the two teams from England will be tough to beat, Eberhart said the Fog (2-8 this year) will play with the same fierce determination Bingham brought to the scrum. Just before he died, Bingham's team was accepted into a straight rugby league, prompting him to give his teammates a congratulatory pep talk.
"We have the chance to be role models for other gay folks who wanted to play sports, but never felt good enough or strong enough," he wrote. "This is a great opportunity to change a lot of people's minds."
"Mark came in like a steam engine, just knocking the heck out of all of these guys and he brought an intensity to that practice that left a lot of guys saying, 'We don't like this guy very much,"' Eberhart said.
"Then, afterward at the pub he made his way to each person and pointed out something they'd done right that day and maybe even gave them a little tip. And by the end of that social, he was everybody's best friend."
Bingham helped the University of California's rugby club win national titles in 1991 and 1993. At 1.93 metres, 99 kilograms, he played No.8.
Cal rugby coach Jack Clark remembers Bingham fondly as a player who wasn't a star but was always a dependable, fierce competitor. "Mark was one of the lads. He was right in the middle," Clark said. "I don't have much doubt that Mark would have been pleased to have his legacy in rugby remembered."
Clark also said he has no doubt Bingham was one of the passengers who took on the terrorists, forcing the plane down in a rural Pennsylvania field instead of into its unknown intended target. He credits rugby with helping to shape Bingham into a take-charge, fearless leader who didn't hesitate under pressure.
"I have no doubt he would have been brave enough to do whatever was needed," Clark said. "In rugby, you have to deal with pressure of that moment. You can't get off the mountain."
Sunday, June 23, 2002
As, to be frank, am I. I'd been amused and pleased by Korea's progress so far through the world cup, but I'm really behind them now. I went out into Leicester Square yesterday afternoon, partly to catch up on films I hadn't seen (Spiderman: HELLO - that's Kirsten Dunst! She's in danger anyway - just date her!) and partly to catch Argentina-England in the rugby.
I settle down peacefully in an empty part of the Sports Cafe (guess their function), bought a beer, and started flicking through a book as I waited for the game. Suddenly, thirty Koreans appear. If there was a more official victory party happening somewhere else in London that night, it must have been pretty damn good. They were wonderful fun, if a slightly odd back-drop to the rugby. Very keen to teach myself, and other random English, Korean chants, to sing in praise of England, to dance drunkenly, and to do an amount of toasting that was frankly obscene. And I'll be cheering them on their way on Tuesday, and will probably head to the Sports Cafe after work if they win.
Be the Reds!!!
Not a huge shock, though if the questions had been more nuanced, I'd have given slightly different answers.