Saturday, November 3

You stupid homar!

Well, listening to what is happening in Pakistan and so many other Muslim countries (and Muslims in other countries), I think this poem says it all. TBS referred me to this site and after laughing hard, I requested the blogger to translate it and he very kindly did so.

While this is aimed at Egypt, but it applies to all. Read and weep.

I am just posting the first stanza here, read the full thing here.  I am lead to believe that the arabic is even funnier.

How could you let them infest your mind you "Homar"
Amr Khaled, El Qaradawi, El Badri and Zaghloul El Naggar
And every impostor, charlatan or phony opportunist
Every hypocrite, con-artist or fake wanna-be Islamist!


All that and still you're silent?
Oh! how I hate you so... ya Homar!

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We will not go quietly in the night, we will never retire!

Well, if you ask me, I am not going to retire and I haven't hit 40 yet. The idea of retiring is anathema to me. I want to to the great computer in the sky kicking and screaming, burning and gasping for breath, not rusting out in a bloody old age home somewhere having apple mush spooned into me by a battleaxe of a harridan (j/k!!)! So personally speaking, the fact that the age discrimination laws have been passed makes it good news for me. I will work till I can work, not because of some odd sod arbitrary age.

But, we are now getting trained on age discrimination laws. For example, I cannot have a cv which has any dates in it. I cannot ask people for information which can give any kind of indication about their age. I cannot ask people to compulsorily retire, and so on and so forth.

Since the age discrimination laws came into being on both sides of the Atlantic, there have been severe issues and they are now starting to raise their heads. If I remember correctly, there have been a sharp rise in age discrimination lawsuits here in the UK.

But if elders stick on to the jobs, then what about the jobs for the youngsters? How about the fact that current "pay as you go" pension systems are not designed to handle people working past 65 (odd) years! You have been trained and educated and lived in a culture which thinks that old people should be firmly in bed or at home, worrying about your roses or playing with your grandkids, dealing with incontinence or liver spots.

But see this column from the FT. There are cultural changes required:

The first American baby boomer registered for her government pension earlier this month, and there are 76m more where she came from. Corporate America is terrified that the postwar birth boom could fuel a 21st century lawsuit explosion, as more and more geriatrics cling to jobs they can no longer perform – and then sue the boss that fires them.

Birthdays, it seems, are particularly dangerous territory: the guide includes a “sample birthday celebrations policy” that warns “careful attention should be made to the tone of and content of the celebrations to be respectful of . . . employees of all ages”. The policy sternly notes that “‘over-the-hill’, ‘it’s all downhill from here’, ‘next stop – the grave’, etc themes should be avoided”, and that “supervisors should be careful to avoid discussions of employees’ ages at these celebrations”. And by all means, managers must not talk about “work and/or career plans in relation to a particular birthday”. They must stick to “the usual small-talk topics” – though it is hard to imagine what those might be, if one cannot mention the grandkids or the golf game.

and this kicker!

The statistics are enough to give a thirty-something human resources manager premature arrhythmia: recent studies suggest that nearly three-quarters of American workers intend to work past retirement age – and 12 per cent say they will never retire.

People of my generation seem to have got it bad. We have to pay for the elder's pensions and healthcare. We have to pay for the welfare state. We have to pay for our own healthcare and mortgages without tax relief. No marriage tax relief either. We also have to pay for our children's schooling, college and university education. We will also have to help them get on the property ladder and possibly get them married off as well.

As for my son's generation, well, it will be scary for him. Today he went out on his first Halloween's mixed party. I suppose he can get scared about finances later on. Happy Halloween, Folks!

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The Hearts and Minds Campaign in Kashmir

Three stories came up today, and each of them are very good steps indeed. Each will help immeasurably in the hearts and minds campaign that is a vital component in any counter terrorist campaign.

Terrorism can never be defeated by military, security and policing alone, one needs to address the issues relating to the underlying cause. If that is not possible (for example if its religious in nature), then you cut out the support of the terrorists. If you do that, then the terrorist campaign will simply wither away by itself. Terrorists fear only one thing, that is to lose the support of the population. If that happens, then their crucial advantages over the security forces (hiding inside the population, getting additional recruits, getting funds, getting sustenance, propaganda, etc.) is negated!

So the fact that the Indian Defence Minister has promised to pay more for the rent on army occupied farmland is good. This will make the farmers happy.

The second story is that the Army will vacate schools, hospitals and other public buildings is great. For two reasons, the visibility of the armed forces will drop (which is a victory for the state!) and second, the life for the common man will progressively return to normal and state services such as schooling, medical care and the like can be provided.

For separatist terrorists such as the Kashmiri ones, the fact that a Kashmiri is actually going into a state school, getting treated in a state hospital etc. etc. each will cut into his support. After all, their whole reason for existence is to say that the current state is not providing the services that they think they want. But if they start doing schooling, health care, driving licenses, and the like, then the state starts to establish its presence!

The other story was that 85 Indian officers and soldiers have been found guilty of HR violations in Indian soldiers in Kashmir. Eight-five Indian soldiers have been found guilty of human rights violations in Kashmir in the 18 years since a revolt against New Delhi's rule erupted there in 1989.(AFP/File/Tauseef Mustafa)Kashmir and will be punished. Unfortunately, given the nature of the beast the army is facing, HR offences are going to happen. But the fact that its going to happen does not mean that they get away with it. There is nothing worse than the population to see army men committing crimes and getting away with them. The population needs to see the army as their guardians, their elder brothers, their friends. It is only then that they will trust the army and the state enough to get away from the terrorists. So very good step as well.

Good steps and good counter-terrorist strategy as well.

Do local analysts know more?

Well, common sense says yes. They know more about the country, have a better feeling about the words and language, the touch of the management of the firms and so on and so forth. Here's a paper which provides quantitative information on this argument.

Kee-Hong Bae, Rene M. Stulz and Hongping Tan, Do local analysts know more? A cross-country study of the performance of local analysts and foreign analysts, Journal of Financial EconomicsIn Press, Accepted Manuscript, , Available online 30 October 2007.

This paper examines whether analysts resident in a country make more precise earnings forecasts for firms in that country than non-resident analysts. Using a sample of 32 countries, we find an economically and statistically significant local analyst advantage even after controlling for firm and analyst characteristics. The local advantage is high in countries where earnings are smoothed more, less information is disclosed by firms, and firm idiosyncratic information explains a smaller fraction of stock returns. It is negatively related to whether a firm has foreign assets and to market participation by foreign investors and by institutions, and positively related to holdings by insiders. The extent to which U.S. investors underweight a country’s stocks is positively related to that country’s local analyst advantage.

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European Financial Regulation

How to regulate banks in Europe where they might have multiple jurisdictions and regulators is something that will keep the regulators and politicians (the very few intelligent ones anyway) awake at night.

I have talked about this before but here's another paper on this topic. Quite an interesting prescription, although I am a bit doubtful about whether it can ever be implemented given the political structure of the EU.

David G. Mayes, Maria J. Nieto and Larry Wall, Multiple safety net regulators and agency problems in the EU: Is Prompt Corrective Action partly the solution?, Journal of Financial Stability

Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) provides a more efficient mechanism for dealing with problem banks operating in more than one European country. In a PCA framework, a bank's losses are likely to be substantially reduced. This reduction in the losses to deposit insurance and governments will improve the problem of allocating those losses across the various insurance schemes and make it less likely that any deposit insurer will renege on its obligations in a cross border banking crisis. This paper presents a stylized mechanism aimed at dealing with the cross-border agency problems that arise in supervising and resolving cross-border banking groups in the European Union (EU). The authors assume that PCA policies have been implemented by the national supervisors and explore the institutional changes needed in Europe if PCA is to be effective as an incentive compatible mechanism. The paper identifies these changes starting with enhancements in the availability of information on banking groups to supervisors. Next, the paper

considers the collective decision making by supervisors with authority to make discretionary decisions within the PCA framework as soon as a bank of a cross-border banking group falls below the minimum capital standard. Finally, the paper analyzes the coordination measures that should be implemented if PCA requires the bank to be resolved.

Civil War Fortifications in London

At Spitalfields, they are developing the area rapidly. And I noticed this small model of the civil war fortifications constructed in London. Quite interesting, no?

The Civil War fortifications of London are a forgotten feature of the city's urban fabric. At the time they were one of the most extensive feats of civil engineering ever attempted in the British Isles. The eleven mile circuit of the city is recorded as a sketch in Vertue's map of 1738, a sketch of sufficient accuracy that it may be transposed onto the contemporary London map and its principle features located. Whilst a London-wide feature, the "Lines of Communication" as they were known possessed a number of significant features in and around Spitalfields including: Star Forts, Hornworks, palisaded ditches and moats. The construction of the Lines of Communication was a huge community endeavour, with reports of up to 100,000 citizens of all classes labouring voluntarily - and in good humour - to build the lines for their mutual protection.

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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #7

Some pictures of the park

some kind of theater I guess

the gatehouse to the Park

A pub called as The Loaded Dog!, lol

A small street

The Marquis Wellington Pub

Three banks all in a row!: Islamic Bank of Britain, Allied Irish Bank and First Sterling!

The typical boring grimy British Train Station

St. Pancras at night

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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #6

Then comes the War Memorial in the Victoria Park. Guess who designed it? the same chap who designed New Delhi as the capital of India!!!, small world indeed. The greatest British Architect ever known!



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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #5

The peace walk is a very interesting walk up a gentle gradient, very colourful indeed in the autumn.











And it was full of memorials and tablets. Take a look at this one: Three people from Leicester died fighting the fascists in Spain way back in 1937 and 1938! Can you imagine this? Wow, I was just standing there thinking about these young men, who went and died in a far off country, only for ideals and fight against the scourge of fascism. And all that is left of these three bright idealistic young men of the International Brigades is this stone tablet. Fred Sykes and Jack Watson died in the Battle of Jarama while Roy Watts died in the Battle of Ebro. I felt a shiver run down my spine, I tell you!



Then was a stone tablet commemorating the British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association who have died since the British Nuclear Tests at Monte Bello, Emufield, Maralinga, Malden Island and Christmas Island. The last line says, "All we want is Justice". This was curious and when I read more about it, it was horrifying:

  • Of 2,500 men surveyed in 1999 30% of the men had died, mostly in their fifties.
  • In their grandchildren spina bifida rates are more than 5 times the usual rate for live births in the UK.
  • More than 200 skeletal abnormalities were reported.
  • More than 100 veterans children reported reproductive difficulties.

Sad, very sad. Thanks to Monero for this link which is good overview of nuclear testing in Australia.



This is the view down the path.







Then there is a plaque to all the Ladies of World War 2 (1939-1945) and it says:


Salute to the women of the war and home and men

on the home front.

Our girls once they watches their men marching away

waved and waited.

Now they too march away, arms swinging chins up

March to war.

To grease and grime - with fair hands

To blitz and barrage with bright eyes

They drive the lorry, they load the bombs,

On char?? and plan they send them forth

They caring? them none?

Through Sleepless nights and weary days

They toil and fight and still they laugh

Our girls the fearless girls of freedom

Worked the Land

They made the bullets with fair hands

Will Corbett - RAF, Nurse

And another plaque just above it

This is how both looked



I looked up and saw this tiny plaque hidden in the shadows. Can you see the tiny white paper origami bird of peace on the tree?








And the plaque commemorates the 40th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki







I found the juxtaposition rather ironic.









And here's the final plaque for the peace walk






Now for the next post for the rest of the pictures!

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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #4

I decided to walk to the station, hardly 10 minutes or so!

The passageway to link the university medical school to the main campus.

And then spotted this ornate gate on the right. The lettering on the top says something along the lines of:

"This gate erected by Sir Jonathan North in memory of his late wife, Eliza North...., made in the City of Leicester, 1914.

If you peek up the gate, you see this very interesting view.

And if you look on the other side, you see another interesting view!

Sir Jonathan North seems to be a big chap in these parts. He has a College named after him, has cast a bell in the Leicester Cathedral, was a major of Leicester 1914-1918.

So I decide to check out what is up the gate and its in the next post.

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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #3

Then we went to lunch at the nice staff restaurant at the top of the main university building.




The University backs up to a large town park and playing grounds, beautiful autumn afternoon





But you turn your gaze to the right and you see a rather interesting sight!, The big banner on the top says, "The Univ generates sufficient waste in 1 year to fill this tower block!!!", HOLY MOLY!!!




And here's my friend, Professor Bernardo Batiz-Lazo.





Then we went off to the lecture and spoke to some very smart students. Not surprising, check this university's credentials out!

  • Mathematics 1st out of 50 universities
  • English 1st out of 93 universities
  • Electrical Engineering 1st out of 44 universities
  • Media and Communications 1st out of 40 universities
  • Physical Geography 1st out of 54 universities
  • Economics 2nd out of 46 universities
  • Mechanical Engineering 2nd out of 43 universities
  • Physical Sciences (including Physics, Chemistry and Geology) 4th out of 58 universities
  • Law 4th out of 73 universities
  • Medicine 4th out of 21 universities
  • Management 6th out of 71 universities
  • Politics 7th out of 60 universities
  • History and Archaeology 10th out of 87 universities
  • Biological Sciences 10th out of 73 universities

then I started back home and the last set of pictures are in the next post.

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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #2

Then I reached Leicester after bumbling around the train station and was waiting for Bernardo at the entrance to the University of Leicester.

This is the gate of the university looking at the computer science department

This is the Captaincy of the University, bang opposite the entrance. For some very strange reason, it is surrounded by a cemetery. I love cemeteries, they provide so much history and emotion. Passion and grief on the gravestones. Dust moving into dust, but to have one next to a University? hmmm...

This is the view of the south road, between the computer science department and the cemetery

Here's the view of the north side, between the school of management and the cemetery

Can you see the school of management in the background?

A view up the road to the main university building

I think this is the student union, which other building will have 30 feet tall banners talking about cheap booze? lol

Another couple of shots of the main road when I managed to bestir myself.

Continued on in the next post...

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Leicester Trip Report and Pictures #1

Well, I went off to Leicester for the first time. It was a really lovely time to be had. St. Pancras Station is being totally refurbished so that it can take the Eurostar strains. A very beautiful and interesting history it has too. Did you know this station was used for the train station shots for the Harry Potter Films (the 9 3/4 platform in the Paddington Station!!!)

But then I went to catch the 1025 Sheffield train.


I am afraid I was not impressed by the trains. Not clean, not tidy, service sucked, and the people were not really fully clued up. Still the day was lovely and wonderful.



Continued on in the next post

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