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Archive for November, 2013

Richard Stallman on How to Drive Change

TechBytes with Stallman

Direct download as Ogg (00:02:09, 7.1 MB)

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation’s founder, speaks about how we can organise for change in society and/or in the political/corporate system

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Richard Stallman on Free Speech

TechBytes with Stallman

Direct download as Ogg (00:03:07, 10.3 MB)

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation’s founder, speaks about laws that affect freedom of speech or, contrariwise, censorship

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Richard Stallman on Encouraging Large Companies to Split

TechBytes with Stallman

Direct download as Ogg (00:04:52, 16.2 MB)

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation’s founder, outlines his hypothetical plan for making corporations split into smaller units in order to reduce tax payments

Here is an article with the idea, stating: “Using anti-trust law now to split up a company requires a lawsuit, and many large companies can make that costly – as Microsoft did each time it was convicted. Corporations can also use their political influence to avoid being split, as Microsoft did when last convicted.”

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Richard Stallman Speaks About the Unitary Patent

TechBytes with Stallman

Direct download as Ogg (00:01:11, 3.8 MB)

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation’s founder, offers his analysis of the Unitary Patent and what it means for software patents in Europe now that the EPO increases its influence over continental law

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Richard Stallman on Assassination by Drones and Indefinite ‘Detention’

TechBytes with Stallman

Direct download as Ogg (00:02:13, 7.3 MB)

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation’s founder, comments on the practice of indefinitely detaining suspects or even killing them without establishing guilt

Made entirely using Free/libre software, heavily compressed for performance on the Web at quality’s expense

NatWest Likely Heading Towards Another Bankruptcy

Prism NatWest

Today I chewed the last straw. I went very eagerly and quickly to ‘my’ bank, having received an outrageous commission-related invoice (which the bank later cancelled). What a waste of time.

I am still with banks only because of hidden taxes like inflation; I wouldn’t bother otherwise. The financial circumstances imposed by the banks-funded state/government force almost everyone to become a customer of the big banking cartel, where choice is superficial and scarce (different flavour of the same pile of something). I can’t speak about other banks, but NatWest I just know well enough. Eagerly I went as I was close to closing my account, for all sorts of reasons I wrote about before.

The pain of moving standing orders, direct debit, ISA, all sorts of paperwork and a different kind of site, addresses, etc. is a very big pain. Aggregating it all may add up to entire days of a person’s life. It’s one heck of a project moving banks. But principles matter.

I raised all of my concerns with a consultant who sat there before me, speaking to my wife and I. She was losing the arguments all along and while she wouldn’t acknowledge that she agreed with me some of the time (agreeing with me would betray her employer and put her job in jeopardy), her face spoke volumes.

Among the topics discussed were privacy violations (not valuing customers, except as products) the bank’s devaluation of workers, and of course the bank’s huge risk-taking. Later today I spoke to a longtime friend who also had complaints about NatWest and he has just taken 50,000 pounds out of there. He closed his account, so it’s clear that I am not alone.

Dealing with the topics in turn, the bank realises that sending/selling financial details of customers to another country/ies is embarrassing and potentially illegal. Even domestic data-sharing such as this is dubious and very offensive to customers. It depends on the country.

Regarding workers, bogus claims and illogical arguments are used to dodge the reality that tellers are replaced by machines and those who insist of speaking to people will have fewer tellers available to serve them over time (longer queues or no tellers at all). Banks are becoming rich people’s gambling machines which they make accessible to poor people only via monitors. This time, unlike in previous visits to the bank, it seemed like the consultant actually absorbed the idea that redundancy might be around the corner. She said that they merely moved people from the back room to the front desk, but surely this is hogwash. The bank is lining up people for the next round of layoffs (or “cost savings” as they euphemistically call it).

The last point is the most important one; I confronted or at least questioned the marketing pitch which says they give a mortgage to nine out of ten applicants, essentially throwing away savers’ money under the assumption of stable house prices and stable employment. The consultant admitted that the bank almost went bankrupt 5 years ago; I told her that it did, but taxpayers including myself (through national debt) paid to prevent this. She said they had become more strict, but this contradicts the mortgage marketing. She said the chief of the bank was changed as if that in its own right means much. My wife was especially amused by that. She also said the bank was profitable last year, ignoring the fact that it cannot be measured based on years of recovery rather than a slump. What happens when the balance sheet changes and people cannot keep up with payments, let alone default?

Citing Cyprus, I asked about assurances. The consultant said that assurances for up to 85,000 pounds are provided per person, but she admitted (upon being challenged) that these rules have been changed over time and can still be changed. A seemingly independent (but connected to banks) entity is responsible for this. She wrote down an address for me to check out. She said it would be wise to save in another bank for sums higher than that. Ain’t that reassuring? NatWest saying it may be unsafe to save there….

The bottom line is this: NatWest screwed a saver like my friend by not properly informing him about terms; he quit them as a high-sum saver. NatWest has not much confidence that it can secure savings when there is a run on that bank. It even points to other banks. As for mortgages, it just gives them to anyone more or less; the consultant nodded when I said they can lend out around 10 times what they actually have and small players cannot do this (it would be called a Ponzi scheme or something). When a bank sells out its customers and staff and is giving mortgages so tactlessly you just know it’s waiting to burst. Don’t put a penny in NatWest.

NatWest Wants to Create Another Financial Crisis, Make More Staff Redundant, Sell Customers’ Data to NSA and Others

NatWest – where the bad things happen all at once

Prism NatWest

Back in 2000 I finally quit Barclays. It was horrible, I had suffered enough. Someone at HSBC advised me to look into the offer from NatWest, so I went there and have stayed their client since then. Everything was more or less okay, but in recent years NatWest became greedy, incompetent, outright insulting, and even corrupt. I would recommend NatWest to nobody. There are some local/small banks which may not have the same level of facilitation and accessibility, but at least they don’t treat people like merchandise (to be sold, exploited, herded like cattle).

Earlier this year I confronted NatWest over PRISM, having discussed the issue with them even before the NSA leaks (which merely helped confirm what some of us had known for years). After the leaks I took it a step further by demanding that they disclose their privacy violations. I eventually (after some nagging) got a call from a manager/PR spinner from NatWest; he prepared for his discussion with me, keeping careful not to openly admit what I already knew. He danced around the issue of privacy and could not deny that NatWest relays financial details (data) of its customers to spies in the United States. To NatWest, we are like a product. They sell dossiers about customers. Recently, through a cashback programme, NatWest also created an incentive for customers to give up anonymous purchasing, making it more expensive for people to pay with cash. It seems likely that NatWest will therefore sell data about customers to some unnamed marketing entities and somehow allow itself to do this by adding some shrewdly-worded phrase to the terms of conditions customers will sign. As NatWest is helping the NSA harvest financial information about customers, why not do this with the commercial world too? More money for NatWest, the Facebook model foisted on your bank without your knowledge.

What really broke the camel’s back was an experience I had yesterday. It was the last straw in a sense, proving that NatWest does not care about people; neither customers not employees. I stood at the line for a teller to service me, but a guard diverted me from a teller to a machine. I told him, you’d make tellers redundant. He said it was “good for customers”. That’s just spin. There’s a hidden cost there. I was tempted to tell him that his job too could be made obsolete if he did nothing to defend the tasks which are better done by human beings (faster, less error-prone, and also with a personal touch like personalised advice).

I am generally no fan of banks, to say the very least. Like my father in law, I only ever go there when there is no other choice. I would take all my cash elsewhere if I knew of a safer alternative, but we live in a banks-dominated world and the bank (or central bank) uses inflation to push people into reliance on banks.

Here is one last item of interest. Yesterday NatWest advertised and even GLOATED about accepting 9 out of 10 requests for a mortgage! Imagine a university advertising itself like this. It’s like a new advertising campaign and they use cookies (plus coffee) to lure people into so-called mortgage ‘advisors’. Yes, not to worry! They just accept 90% of requests. And they brag about it. Another crisis coming, eh? Where they lend out 10 times the money they have — my money, your money, every saver’s money. If you or I did this, we’d be in prison for creating a Ponzi scheme, but big banks enjoy protection from the government, which is just too happy to throw our money (or growing national, i.e. collective, debt) at them. They lend out to almost everyone, never mind credit ratings, history, capability/inability to pay back. They seem to rely too much on bailouts and just count on bulk interest payments in order to increase profit as well as risk. See Cyprus to witness what this means to savers. Their money can get literally confiscated, robbed. And NatWest is clearly part of the problem. It’s not selective at all, it just gives savers’ money to any Joe and Jane that walks in.

Avoid NatWest. It’s a scam and it doesn’t give a damn about people. It’s everything that’s wrong about banking. Not to mention downtime of their on-line banking service (which seems to require many reboots because it Windows-based)…

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