Thursday, 21 October 2021

The ringleader of the Gove ambush was a Tory


When Michael Gove was accosted by protestors in the street, the self-righteous condemnation from establishment politicians and the corporate media hack pack was instantaneous.

The usual radical-right suspects like Julia Hartley Brewer and Tom Harwood shared clips of the incident to whip up outrage by exclaiming how "shocking" and "unacceptable" they found it.

Several senior Labour MPs rushed to join in the performative outrage with tweets condemning the incident.

Former Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper described the scene as "completely unacceptable" and thanked the police for stepping in.

The dreadful Chris Bryant dialled up the outrage with more vehement condemnation and the ludicrously over-dramatic declaration "what have we become?"

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds took a break from his19 month invisibility act to proclaim that these scenes were particularly inappropriate because they happened in the week after the David Amess murder.

Obviously a load of Tories jumped into action too, attempting to weave the incident into their absurdist non-sequitur of a narrative about how the murder of an MP by a known Islamist extremist who slipped through a government anti-radicalisation programme ... means they now need to abolish Internet anonymity!

The thing that absolutely none of these establishment outrage mongers bothered to mention is that the ringleader of this harassment was until recently a Tory party councillor!

Will Coleshill was ejected from the Tory ranks in 2018 for hurling racist abuse at a Labour Party councillor, but he's come back to do his beloved former party a massive favour by giving the political establishment and corporate media outrage-mongers an incident to moral high-horse about, and weave into their authoritarian drive to crush Internet freedom.

Will Coleshill has never hidden behind Internet anonymity. He uses his real name on all of his social media accounts, and on his Resistance GB bio too, and on his abandoned Tory party councillor profile too.

He carries out all of his extremism in public, using his real name, and gets away with it.

Coleshill has got form for harassing MPs too, having accosted Jess Phillips in the street in 2019.

There's literally no excuse for Labour MPs to not know who this racist Tory-boy extremist is.

It's no wonder the Tories are playing along with the outrage-mongering narrative, because it could hardly fit their radically right-wing authoritarian agenda better, but what the hell are Labour playing at?

Why on earth are they spewing faux outrage about the incident, rather than pointing out that the ringleader was actually one of the Tories' own?

The answer seems to be that Keir Starmer is completely onboard with the Tory agenda. He's already declared that he'll whip Labour MPs into supporting the Tory attack on Internet freedom if they rush the legislation back into parliament this year!

I'm sure his dwindling band of apologists will be more than willing to do the required mental gymnastics to explain how "forensic" it is for Sir Abstainsalot to promise to support legislation that isn't even properly drafted yet ...

The fact that the ringleader of the Michael Gove ambush was actually a Tory would be a great attack point for any opposition worthy of the name, but instead Starmer and the useless nincompoops he's surrounded himself with have actually joined in with the Tory outrage-mongering, and the hard-selling of the Tories' authoritarian crackdown on Internet freedom!

It looks an awful lot like the entire political establishment class is colluding to attack our freedoms, and racist Tory-boy agitator Will Coleshill is actually helping them push this radically right-wing authoritarian agenda.


Big credit to Lloyd Hardy on Twitter for doing the digging on Will Coleshill's very recent Tory past. Make sure to give him a follow if you're on there.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

How social media platforms reward misinformation-spreaders


Dan Hodges is the anti-left polemicist who wrote the Daily Mail's grotesque "Labour Should Kill Vampire Jezza" article, just ten days after Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered in the street in 2016.

Dan's absolutely notorious for his ability to find the wrong take on pretty much any subject, and many have even argued that he's actually delivering some kind of absurd wrong-on-purpose performance piece designed to create as much reaction as possible.

You may well ask why on earth anyone would want to make themselves look like a venal, mindless idiot on purpose, just for attention?

The reason of course is that social media sites are designed in such a way that the loudest, crudest, most attention-seeking idiots actually get rewarded by the algorithm, as a result of the reaction to the bile and misinformation they spew.

These grifters either get their content positively shared by users who have had their minds rotted away by years of exposure to the venal radical right culture war bollocks, or it gets amplified by masses of reasonable people trying to point out how wrong and/or completely unreasonable they're being.

The golden ticket for attention-seeking grifters is the kind of post that does massive numbers from both of these target audiences, like that dreadful GB News hack who was invited onto the BBC to argue in favour of drowning migrants, which caused the extreme-right demographic to gleefully retweet clips of it, and liberal icons with vast social media followings like Gary Lineker to spread it further and wider by retweeting it in order to say how much they disagreed with it.

This kind of polemical attention-seeking grift is the entire modus operandi of GB News, and it's absolutely no surprise that Dan Hodges has got himself involved with their professional grifting operation.
 
In some cases the traffic is entirely made up of condemnation, as with Dan Hodges' economically illiterate interpretation of a BBC News item about a tiny fall in the rate of inflation, which he tweeted with a caption reading "Cost of living falls, just as everyone predicted".

Over a thousand people responded with comments pointing out that Hodges was completely misrepresenting the meaning of the story, either through economic illiteracy, or out of a desire to deliberately spread misinformation.

It's absolutely obvious that a fall in the rate of inflation from 3.2% to 3.1% is not wonderfully good news for the British people, or for the government, when the inflation target is 2%, and the Bank of England rate of interest is a paltry 0.1%, but who cares about facts and evidence, when Dan can just claim the article he's sharing means the opposite of what it actually says?

A fall in the rate of inflation, is simply not the same thing as inflation falling (deflation), and it's no wonder that public understanding of economic issues is so poor, when high profile commentators like Dan Hodges spread economic misinformation like this with impunity.

After such a large backlash, anyone with a shred of decency would delete the post and put up an apology, but attention-seekers who value their social media numbers above their reputation would never erase such a post, because 1,400+ negative replies, and 400+ negative quote tweets all still point to the Twitter account of Dan Hodges.

For being totally wrong about something, Twitter rewards him with thousands of links pointing to his profile, and the algorithm even begins automatically offering his account as a 'suggested follow' to people who got involved in the conversation about how wrong he was!

Why on earth would Dan Hodges delete his reward for spreading misinformation?

And it's clear that he knows it's misinformation too, because his follow up Tweet admitted that he got it wrong, then smugly implied that the people at fault are actually the ones who got "agitated" by his misinformation (which produced himself another reward of hundreds more negative replies and negative quote tweets).

Dan Hodges publicly admits that he knows that it was wrong, but he's leaving it up anyway, meaning there's no way it can now be interpreted as anything other than deliberate misinformation.

And he's actually gloating at all the people who have called him out, and revelling in all the attention and free publicity!

If social media sites like Twitter actually cared about confronting misinformation, they'd allow users the means to effectively report misinformation (crowdsourced peer review), reduce the visibility of misinformation-spreading accounts, and improve the visibility of accounts that routinely tell the truth and cite their sources.

Instead, social media algorithms reward misinformation-spreaders by treating all the criticism of their misinformation as if it's people merely sharing and replying to something that's "interesting"!

We're well into the second decade of the social media age, and none of the social media platforms have even attempted to try to effectively resolve this rewarding misinformation problem.

In fact Facebook has even developed a bizarre "violations" system designed to reduce the visibility of accounts that cite evidence and sources, whilst allowing outright liars to get off scot free!

This failure to address the rewarding misinformation problem means the rabble-rousers, hate-mongers, attention-seekers, and misinformation-peddlers are obviously going to continue gaming poorly-designed algorithms to bag themselves ever more social media prominence.

In a system in which the more wrong, more venal, and more provocative the content, the higher the reward, it's natural that amoral attention-seeking grifters like Dan Hodges would continue to work the system to their advantage, isn't it?


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Tuesday, 19 October 2021

The kinder, gentler gaslighters


Remember when Jeremy Corbyn said he wanted a find a less abusive way of doing politics?

And how the commentariat class absolutely ridiculed him for it, using the phrase "kinder gentler politics" whenever anyone from the left as much as used a swear word, despite Corbyn himself remaining calm, polite, and dignified in the face of undoubtedly the most concerted UK media vilification campaign in living memory.

The political establishment class and corporate media hack pack worked together to whip up raging firestorms of anti-left hatred; they accused Corbyn of disrespecting veterans by not bowing deeply enough at the Cenotaph; the next year they faked photos of Corbyn supposedly dancing at the Cenotaph; they faked photos of him wearing a Russian-style hat on a Kremlin background; they endlessly platformed every deranged anti-Corbyn ranter they could find; they spliced the wrong answers onto different questions to create outrage-mongering 'fake news' (and kept their jobs when caught red-handed); they derided Corbyn's "Chairman Mao style bicycle"; they spread nonsensical conspiracy theories about Corbyn being some kind of Czech Spy, Russian stooge, terrorism-loving, communist, Jew-hater; they ridiculed and grossly misrepresented virtually every policy position Corbyn ever took ("nationalise sausages"!); and they churned out endless hate-mongering rabble-rousing articles like "Labour Must Kill Vampire Jezza".

Just some of the political and media figures to switch
seamlessly from vilifying Corbyn to pretending they
oppose online hatred and abuse!
Then oh how they erupted in fits of laughter and frivolity when Corbyn was violently assaulted by that right-wing extremist; and how they chuckled and then instantly forgot about it when British soldiers used Corbyn's face as a target on a shooting range; and then they just ignored the multiple assaults on elderly Labour Party campaigners during the 2019 election (whilst uncritically amplifying outright Tory lies about Matt Hancock's aide supposedly being "punched" by a Corbyn-supporter).

To top it all off, they barely even bothered to object to the terrorist assassination plot against Corbyn and Sadiq Khan by the extreme-right Finsbury Park killer; or any of the numerous other examples of abuse and death threats against Corbyn and the Labour leadership team.

In fact their priorities were so utterly warped that they created vastly more faux outrage about a so-called "brick" through Angela Eagle's window in 2016, despite no evidence of who actually did it ever emerging, than coverage of an actual death threat made against Corbyn in the same week as brick-gate!

The political establishment and the commentariat class deliberately whipped up these firestorms of hatred because they detested normal democratic socialist policies like nationalised rail, energy, and water so much, and outright rejected the idea that the very-rich should just pay a bit more into the pot.

Then when their hate-mongering delivered the inevitable abusive, violent, and potentially deadly consequences, they simply turned their backs, refused to report it, belittled it, or even outright laughed at it.

Well now the very same people are all suddenly saying they want a 'kinder, gentler politics' in order to promote a right-wing authoritarian Tory crackdown on our Internet freedoms.

The gaslighting bastards!




NOTE: Of course these people and their supporters will resort to victim posturing, and pretending that proven facts about the vilification of Corbyn, and the conclusion "gaslighting bastards!" constitute the kind of horrifying abuse they're suddenly so concerned about. They didn't get where they were within the establishment order without knowing how to distort and manipulate everything to their advantage.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Monday, 18 October 2021

Landlordism is even more exploitative than capitalism!

One of the most commonly-held delusions amongst the property-hoarding class is that being a "landlord" makes them some kind of "capitalist".

It's completely wrong to imagine that landlordism is a sub-branch of capitalism, when it's actually a distinct sphere of economic activity, but it's easy to see how this confusion occurs.

Firstly there's the shockingly widespread misconception that "capitalism" is some kind of synonym for "trade", or "doing business", rather than a specific and defined form of economic organisation involving ownership of the means of production (which it actually is).

Then there's the fact that capitalism and landlordism are both highly exploitative practices that involve profit extraction from other people (employees/tenants), meaning it's easy to mistake one form of living off other people's backs as a version of the other.

The reality of course is that landlordism isn't capitalism, because capitalism is about owning the means of production (materials, facilities, machines) then paying workers below the actual value of their labour in order to extract profit.

I'm no fan of capitalism (to put it mildly) but at least there's some productive output at the end of it!

Landlordism on the other hand creates nothing.

All rentiers do is monopolise existing assets in order to extract unearned profits (whether that's buy-to-let slumlords, or private profiteers monopolising essential services like energy, water, public transport, etc).


Capitalism is a form of parasitism on economically productive activity.

Landlordism is an even purer form of economic parasitism, because it doesn't even produce anything other than unearned profits.

Of course landlords will try to pretend that there is some productive activity involved in landlordism, after all, don't they have to paint and redecorate when old tenants move out?

This is just a con-trick, because if the property was lived in by people who actually owned it, then they'd be much more inclined to invest above the basic bare-minimum, because their motivation is to make their home as comfortable and secure as possible, not to maximise profits by doing things on the cheap, and by cutting corners on long-term maintenance.

It's extremely telling that landlords try to dress up their bare-minimum of investment as some kind of economically productive activity, when it actually represents a reduction in investment on what would probably have occurred had the property never fallen into the hands of economic parasites.

Another common refrain from the idle landlord class is that they're somehow "providing a service" by buying up all the affordable housing, and renting it out to the people they've priced out of the property market!

If rented accommodation is such an essential service, then surely it should be taken under public control, so that it's run for the good of the British economy, and in the best interests of the British people, meaning any profits go back into improving the housing stock, rather than being siphoned off into private pockets?

But the landlordists react in absolute outrage at suggestions the rental market should be nationalised.

How are they expected to survive if they can't idly extract profits merely through ownership of property assets?

How are they expected to survive if they actually have to get a real job, and engage in economically productive activity like the rest of us?

Suddenly the provision of rented accommodation isn't the "important service" they just claimed it was. The only aspect of this "service" they actually attach any real importance to is preservation of the unearned income for themselves!

Of course the landlord class react with hot-headed indignation at those who describe the reality of their grubby, exploitative, unproductive economic parasitism, and desperately try to dismiss this criticism as if it's some kind of radical left-wing conspiracy against noble and honest people like them.

So I'll just leave you with a few quotes about landlordism from people that absolutely nobody in their right mind would ever describe as "leftists":

Winston Churchill
"Roads are made, streets are made, railway services are improved, electric light turns night into day, electric trams glide swiftly to and fro, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains - and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected by the labour and cost of other people. Many of the most important are effected at the cost of the municipality and of the ratepayers. To not one of those improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by every one of them the value of his land is sensibly enhanced. He renders no service to the community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare; he contributes nothing even to the process from which his own enrichment is derived." [source]

Adam Smith
"As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed" [source]

John Stewart Mill
"Only the landowners grow richer, as it were in their sleep without working, risking and economising" [source]

David Ricardo
"The dealings between the landlord and the public are not like dealings in trade, whereby both the seller and buyer may equally be said to gain, but the loss is wholly on one side, and the gain wholly on the other" [source]


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Who actually owns the UK's water supply?


A significant majority of British people believe that the water supply is so vital that it should be run as a not-for-profit public service, but the Westminster establishment consensus is that in England it should continue to be run as a vast profit extraction scheme operated mainly by foreign governments and overseas corporations.

In this article I'm going to give a basic overview of who actually owns the UK's water supplies.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Scottish Water and Northern Ireland Water are both government owned statutory companies, meaning any profits go straight back into public finances.

Welsh Water is owned by Glas Cymru, which is a not-for-profit company. It has no shareholders, and retains any profits for the benefit of Welsh water customers.

So far so good. Two different models of how water companies can be operated for the benefit of the people, rather than for profit-extraction purposes. 

England

England's water supply is an absolute mess. It's broken up into multiple different regional monopolies, operated by various different private entities.

Research by the University of Grenwich found that privatisation of the water supply in 1989 has cost customers in England £2.3 billion per year more than if it had remained under not-for-profit public ownership.

So who are the owners of the private water companies that are raking in all of this profit at English people's expense?

Anglian Water (£1.4 billion)

Anglian Water supplies 2.6 million homes with water, and compared to a lot of others its ownership structure is fairly simple.

Its parent company is AWG, which a subsidiary of the Osprey Group, which is owned by the following:

Canada Pension Plan Investment Group 32.9% (wholly owned by the Canadian government)
IFM 19.8% (Australian investment fund)
Infinity Investments 16.7% (Wholly owned by the UAE government)
First Sentier 15.6% (Australian investment fund)
Camulodunum Investments 15% (UK investment manager)

So one of England's major water suppliers is 49.6% owned by foreign governments, and 30.6% owned by foreign private investors. Leaving just 15% that's run by a private UK-based investment manager.

Northumbrian Water (£820 million)

Northumbrian water supplies 2.7 million homes with water. Its parent company is NWG, which is wholly owned by the Hong Kong based firm Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings is mainly owned by CK Hutchinson Holdings, which is run by the billionaire Li dynasty. Additionally there are number of other investment funds involved. Some of them are names which will be very familiar by the end of this article.

CK Hutchinson Holdings 72% (Hong Kong investment fund)
Conyers, Dill and Pearman 5% (Bermuda based offshore law firm)
BlackRock 1.1% (US based investment fund)

Other notable shareholders include: Lazard Asset Management (US investment fund), Vanguard Group (US investment fund), Norges Bank (100% Norwegian government owned bank).

United Utilities (£1.86 billion)

What used to be North West Water was merged with the North West Electricity Board to create United Utilities, which supplies water to 7.3 million people. The CEO took home £2.94 million in 2020.

United Utilities is a Public Limited Company (PLC) with a number of institutional shareholders. These are the owners with stakes above 1% (as of October 2021)

BlackRock 8.6%  (US based investment fund)
Lazard Asset Management 7.2% (US investment fund)
Legal and General Investment Management 4.1% (UK investment fund)
Vanguard Group 4.0% (US investment fund)
Norges Bank 2.9% (100% Norwegian government owned bank)
Impax Asset management 2.5% (UK investment fund - biggest shareholder French bank BNP Paribas)
Magellan Asset Management 2.4% (Australian investment fund)
Pictet Asset Management 2.3% (Swiss investment fund)
State Street Global Advisers 2.2% (US investment fund)
M&G Investment Management 2.0% (UK investment fund)
Nuance Investments 2.0% (US investment fund)
Amundi Asset management 1.9% (French investment fund, mainly owned by French bank Crédit Agricole)
Invesco Ltd 1.7% (US investment fund)
Columbia Management Investment Advisers 1.6% (US investment fund - a division of Amerprise, which is based in the US tax haven of Delaware)
Maple-Brown Abbott Limited 1.3% (Australian investment fund)
Ignis Investment Services 1.3% (UK investment fund)
Nordea Investment Management 1.2% (Finnish investment fund)
Aviva Investors Global Services Limited 1.1% (Investment arm of UK insurance group Aviva)
abrdn plc 1.1% (UK investment fund)
Northern Trust Global Investments 1.1% (US investment fund)
HBOS Investment Fund 1.1% (Subsidiary of the UK-based Lloyds banking Group)
UBS Asset Management 1.0% (Investment arm of the giant Swiss bank UBS)

Severn Trent Water (£1.84 billion)

Severn Trent Water supplies 4.5 million households and businesses. Their CEO Liv Garfield took home a whopping £2.807 million despite the company being fined £800,000 for leaking millions of litres of raw sewage into a Shropshire stream in the same year.

It's another Public Limited Company (PLC) with a number of institutional shareholders. These are the owners with stakes above 1% (as of October 2021)

BlackRock 8.1%  (US based investment fund)
Lazard Asset Management 7.4% (US investment fund)
Qatar Investment Authority 4.6% (100% owned by the Qatari government)
Vanguard Group 3.8% (US investment fund)
Legal and General Investment Management 3.6% (UK investment fund)
Aviva Investors Global Services Limited 3.0% (Investment arm of UK insurance group Aviva)
Impax Asset management 2.7% (UK investment fund - biggest shareholder French bank BNP Paribas)
Maple-Brown Abbott Limited 2.5% (Australian investment fund)
State Street Global Advisers 2.3% (US investment fund)
Norges Bank 2.1% (100% Norwegian government owned bank)
Royal London Asset Management Limited 1.7% (UK investment fund)
Amundi Asset management 1.7% (French investment fund, mainly owned by French bank Crédit Agricole)
Invesco Ltd 1.5% (US investment fund)
First Sentier 1.4% (Australian investment fund)
RREEF America LLC 1.3% (US investment fund)
Fidelity International 1.1% (Bermuda-based investment fund)
Janus Henderson Group 1.1% (UK investment fund)

Wessex Water (£550 million)

Wessex Water supplies 1.3 million homes with water.

It's a 100% owned subsidiary of the Malaysian conglomerate YTL Corporation, run by the Malaysian billionaire Yeoh Tiong Lay, and partially owned by the Malaysian government's pension fund.

Southern Water (£830 million)

Southern Water supplies 2.26 million customers. In 2020 they were fined £90 million for dumping untreated sewage into rivers and coastal waters on over 6,900 occasions. In the same year as this record-breaking fine they paid their CEO over £1 million in salary and bonuses.

Southern Water is a Limited Company owned through Greensands Holdings Limited which is based in the tax haven of Jersey, with the following major shareholders.

JP Morgan Asset Management 40% (Investment arm of the US bank JP Morgan)
UBS Asset Management 22% (Investment arm of the giant Swiss bank UBS)
Hermes Investment Management 21% (UK investment fund)
Whitehelm Capital 8% (Australian investment fund)

The Australian investment fund Macquairie has recently bought up a £1 billion stake in Southern Water. They're most famous for asset stripping Thames Water, paying virtually no corporation tax, lavishing £billions in dividends on its shareholders, lumbering it with huge debts, and flogging it off just months before it was prosecuted by the Environment Agency for pollution.

Thames Water (£2.05 billion)

Thames Water supplies 15 million customers, which accounts for 27% of the UK population. They were fined  £2.3 million in March 2021 for pollution, hit with another pollution fine of £4 million in May 2021, and paid an £11 million fine for overcharging customers in July 2021.

Britain's biggest water company is also its most opaquely structured, with strings of similarly named subsidiaries and shell companies falling under the ultimate ownership of Kemble Water Holdings Limited, which is apparently based on a Reading industrial estate.

It's pretty tricky to track down the owners of this £2 billion company, but they include the following major investors:

Church Water Investments Limited 13.9% (CWIL is owned by L3 Investment Holdings, which is owned by L3 Investment Holdco Ltd, which is owned by the UK-based Universities Superannuation Fund - Why they need such an opaque structure to hide their investment in privatised water infrastructure is anybody's guess)
Omers Farmoor Holdings 12.6% (Dutch investment fund)
Infinity Investments 12.6% (Wholly owned by the UAE government)
Wren House Infrastructure Investments 11.1% (A front company for the government of Kuwait)
Trustees of the BT Pension scheme 11.0% (Pension fund of UK telecoms giant BT)
Cicero Investment Corp 11.0% (US-based private equity fund)
QIC Infrastructure Management 6.8% (Australian government-owned investment fund)
Aquila Sonnet Limited Partnership 6.3% (A single purpose investment vehicle, designed to obscure the identities of the six investors)

South West Water (£500 million)

South West Water supplies 1.7 million customers. It's a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pennon Group, which announced pre-tax profits of £157 million in 2021, and they're sitting on cash reserves of over £3 billion. Instead of using this cash mountain to make improvements and stop repeatedly dumping raw sewage into waterways, they're using it to buy up other water companies like Bristol Water.

The CEO of Pennon Group Susan Davy took home £1.724 million in 2020.

These are the main shareholders in Pennon Group (as of October 2021):

Lazard Asset Management 10.0% (US investment fund)
Impax Asset management 5.8% (UK investment fund - biggest shareholder French bank BNP Paribas)
BlackRock 5.2%  (US based investment fund)
Vanguard Group 4.3% (US investment fund)
Norges Bank 4.1% (100% Norwegian government owned bank)
Pictet Asset Management 3.9% (Swiss investment fund)
Legal and General Investment Management 3.1% (UK investment fund)
Amundi Asset management 2.9% (French investment fund, mainly owned by French bank Crédit Agricole)
Invesco Ltd 2.1% (US investment fund)
Royal London Asset Management Limited 2.0% (UK investment fund)
Fidelity International 2.0% (Bermuda-based investment fund)
Columbia Management Investment Advisers 1.7% (US investment fund - a division of Amerprise, which is based in the US tax haven of Delaware)
Aviva Investors Global Services Limited 1.5% (Investment arm of UK insurance group Aviva)
Charles Stanley & Co. Ltd 1.3% (UK investment fund)
HSBC Global Asset Management 1.0% (Investment arm of the British bank HSBC)

Yorkshire Water (£980 million)

Yorkshire Water supplies 4.5 million people and over 100,000 businesses. It's another one with an extremely opaque ownership structure.

Yorkshire Water is run as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kelda Group. Kelda Group is made up of an intricate network of companies, which includes Kelda Eurobond (which makes vast losses meaning it has to pay no taxes in the UK), before you finally end up at the overall parent company Kelda Holdings, which is based in the tax haven of Jersey.

Kelda Holdings is owned by the following (as of October 2020):

GIC 33.6% (The sovereign wealth fund of the Singapore government)
Gateway HK Water (I and II) + Gateway Infrastructure 30.3% (Three recently formed Hong Kong based private companies, very difficult to find who the ultimate owners are)
Wharfedale Hong Kong Limited 23.4% (Another recently formed Hong Kong based private company)
SAS Trustee Corporation 12.8% (Australian state-owned pension fund)

Conclusion

The people of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland benefit from not-for-profit public ownership.

The water supply of England is used for profit extraction purposes by the following:

Governments: Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Norway, Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore, UAE

Private companies based in: Australia, Bermuda, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Jersey, Malaysia, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, US

You'd have to be beyond delusional to think that this chaotic and opaque system of ownership makes any kind of rational sense for English water consumers.

The only reason it would be arranged like this is in order for private companies and foreign governments to extract as much profit as possible out of England's water customers.

How on earth is it justifiable that the governments of eight other nations can hold direct stakes in England's water supply, while the UK government itself insists that it's unfit and improper for the nation to own and run its own water supply?

What kind of person believes other governments are fit to run England's water supply, but their own government isn't?

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Squid Game and the steel industry


In the mid-20th Century South Korea was an economic minnow. It was a war-ravaged country with a largely pre-industrial economy.

In 1960, if you divided the total economic activity of South Korea by its population (GDP per capita) it amounted to just $79 per person, but within sixty years, this figure has multiplied to over $47,000 per person, which makes it one of the most prosperous large economies on earth, above large developed nations like Japan, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and Russia.

This remarkable period of economic growth in South Korea is known as the Miracle on the Han River, and it started off in the early 1960s when their government initiated the first of the country's 5 year economic plans.

The objective was to modernise the South Korean economy through full employment, and strategic investment across numerous sectors, including infrastructure (roads, rail, ports), core industries (steel, fertilizer, cement, petrochemicals ...), science, and technology.

South Korea's rapid climb up the world development rankings is proof  of how astonishingly successful their strategic investment agenda has been.

Steel industry

When South Korea set about building their first modern steel production plant they were derided by the so-called experts. Why would a country like South Korea make their own steel, when they could just import it from countries with established steel industries?

Well, South Korea ignored the heckling and derision, invested in their own steel industry, and rose from absolutely nowhere in steel production, to become the 6th largest steel producer in the entire world in 2020. 

From having no modern steel industry at all half a century ago, they've soared past countries with long-established steel industries like Germany, France, and the UK.

In 2020 South Korea produced almost ten times as much steel as the United Kingdom! 

A country with a population of just 51 million people produced almost as much steel as economic giants like Russia (146 million), Japan (125 million), and the United States (331 million).

Not bad for a country that were laughed at when they first proposed developing their own steel industry eh?

Having their own government-owned steel industry gave South Korea a huge economic advantage, allowing them to provide cheap steel to other industrial sectors they wanted to develop, especially ship building, electronics, civil engineering, and road vehicle production.

This ready supply of cheap steel helped turn small South Korean firms like Samsung, Hyundai, Kia, and LG into globally recognised brands.

Thanks in a large part to the development of their own steel industry, South Korea is now the world's largest ship-builder, with 40% of the global ship-building market!

Only China even comes remotely close to the shipbuilding power of the South Koreans.

Strategic investment, and the deliberate nurturing of core industries turned South Korea from an economic backwater into an absolute powerhouse over the course of just a few decades.

While developed countries like the UK were deliberately de-industrialising their economies and outsourcing production overseas, South Korea rocketed past them by modernising their core industries and establishing themselves as the premier high-tech, high-skill, hyper-productive economic workshop of the world.

Creative industries

Having learned from their strategic investment in core industries, the South Koreans have recently begun investing in their cultural industries too, with the objective of establishing their nation as one of the creative powerhouses of the world.

The results have already been spectacular:

You'd have to have been living in a box for the last few weeks to have not heard of the South Korean survival drama Squid Game, that's absolutely smashing streaming records across the world.

But the hit Netflix show Squid Game is far from the first massive South Korean cultural export. 

In 2020 the South Korean boy band BTS absolutely dominated global music sales, securing first and second place in the IFPI album sales chart.

Then there's Bong Joon-ho's black comedy thriller Parasite, which became the first non-English language film ever to win the Oscar for best picture in 2019.

Either it's a massive coincidence that South Korea has come from nowhere to suddenly deliver worldwide smash hits in television, music, and cinema, or maybe could have something to do with their deliberate policy of investing in their cultural industries?

Investment vs Austerity

South Korea have proven twice over that strategic investment is the key to delivering future economic prosperity, but certain western nations seem determined not to learn this lesson, especially the increasingly-parochial United Kingdom.

The UK was home to the industrial revolution, and pioneered all kinds of industries from steel foundries, through railways, to ship building.

It's all gone now, thanks to the deliberate neoliberal policy of de-industrialisation that's been pursued for the last four decades.
  • The country that invented the modern steel industry is no longer even in the top 20 world steel producers, and the remnants of its privatisation-wracked steel sector is now owned by Jingye Group, which is a state-owned Chinese regional bank.
  • The country that invented the railways no longer has a single train manufacturer.
  • The country that once "ruled the waves" deliberately tore down its own ship-building industry as part of a demented radical-right war on trade unionism (destroy the entire industry and the trade union dies with it).
As South Korea has stormed up the world rankings thanks to their strategic investment policy, the United Kingdom is falling away thanks to policies like de-industrialisation, under-investment, and austerity.

And there's a big danger of the same kind of sectoral decline happening in the UK cultural industries.

The UK is still an undisputed world leader in the creative industries, punching miles above its small island status in music, film, television, sport, and arts, but the process of decline is already underway.
  • And just to make his utter contempt for the wellbeing of Britain's £111 billion cultural industries unmistakable, Boris Johnson has recently appointed the notoriously thick, radically right-wing, culture war grifter Nadine Dorries as Britain's culture minister!
South Korea showed the UK the way on industrial strategy, but the Brits ignored it and did the polar opposite, which means South Korea is now an industrial powerhouse, and the UK seems locked into in terminal industrial decline.

South Korea is busy showing the UK the way on cultural strategy too, but once again the British government is doing the opposite, slashing away at cultural funding, when strategic investment is obviously the key to success.

The UK has already reduced itself from industrial pioneer to absolute minnows in industrial sectors that they themselves invented, and if there's not a rapid change in direction, the UK is going to see its position as cultural world leaders eroded away by the same myopic agenda of austerity cuts, and radical-right 'leave it to market forces' ideology, while other countries like South Korea surge ahead by actually investing for the future.


 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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Monday, 11 October 2021

How Facebook is systematically persecuting evidence-based debate


It's been obvious for a long time that misinformation has been a huge problem on social media, but Facebook's cack-handed efforts to counter it are massively counter-productive, because they're systematically punishing the pages that cite their sources, while letting the liars get off completely free!

Any social media site with the slightest sense of responsibility towards the standards of public discourse that they host on their platforms, would seek to actively encourage evidence-based debate, and discourage the spreading of outright lies.

But instead Facebook is systematically punishing pages that cite evidence via unappealable decisions that their evidence constitutes "spam", draconian distribution restrictions to dramatically reduce the audience of the evidence-citing pages, and even profoundly intimidating threats to delete the pages outright if they carry on trying to engage in evidence-based debate.

The draconian restrictions and threats against Another Angry Voice began on September 3rd 2021, with a supposed "spam" violation, which was actually an article on the independent left-wing media site Skwawkbox, posted to justify an assertion about the ongoing persecution of left-wing Jewish activists within the Labour Party.

The only previous "violation" of Facebook standards on record was one solitary algorithm glitch on a June 2020 post, which was absolutely hammering the Daily Mail for their support of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, where the algorithm somehow concluded that because the image contained a picture of Adolf Hitler, it must have constituted glorification of Nazism. The appeal against this ludicrous algorithm glitch was then ignored.

So just two so-called "violations" in well over a year, and the Another Angry Voice page gets hit with draconian reach restrictions, and intimidated with threats of outright deletion!

Since then, Facebook's "spam" algorithm has gone absolutely wild, with accusations that links to the following all constitute "spam":
  • A link to an article about HGV driver shortages on the UK newspaper The Independent.
  • A link to an article from the trade union Unite posted to counter an outright lie about what trade unions had been saying about Brexit (Facebook obviously took no action against the completely unsourced lie)
  • A link to the website of the British Safety Council
  • A link to the Another Angry Voice website, which has never even contained adverts, let alone "spam". There's obviously something seriously wrong with the system if the algorithm is flagging links as "spam" even when the link is from the website the page that posted it takes its name from!
Every single one of the these five links flagged as "spam" is from entities that have their own Facebook pages! (if they truly were spam-peddlers, why does Facebook allow them to have official presences on their platform?)

And every single appeal against these false accusations of "spam" has been met with a boilerplate notification that Facebook is too short-staffed to actually investigate the appeal, so it just stays on record as a "violation", adding more distribution restrictions, and edging the page ever closer to deletion.

Every single one of the links being punished as "spam" was either posted to justify a factual assertion, or to counter an outright lie with facts and evidence to prove it wrong, yet they're being used as the basis of draconian and unappealable punishments.

The strangling of the page via distribution restrictions is bad enough, but the threat of outright page deletion is a profoundly sinister attack on the concept of evidence-based debate.

If people think they're going to get their page deleted, just for backing up their assertions with facts and evidence, Facebook is actively making itself an anti-scientific forum, in which citing sources is punished, rather than rewarded.

Not only does this systematic persecution of evidence-sharing discourage the responsible practice of citing sources to justify assertions, it also gives succour to misinformation-peddlers by intimidating and dissuading those who would be inclined to counter their lies with links to facts and evidence.

If Facebook really wanted to counter misinformation on its platform, they wouldn't be systematically persecuting evidence-sharers, and restricting the visibility of their pages, they'd be rewarding them, and giving them priority over the misinformation peddlers, and over those who don't bother to evidence their claims.

But Facebook is a profit-seeking corporation, so their priority isn't the fostering of healthy evidence-based debate on their platform, it's whatever makes them the most profit in the short-term.

I'd argue that Facebook's best strategy for the long-term would be to introduce some kind of social peer review, via a gamefied feedback system designed to reward pages that provide verifiable information, and reduce the reach of those that promote lies, and also to reward users that provide accurate peer review feedback, and penalise those that try to game the system though malicious misreporting of links that they just don't like.

But as is always the case with capitalism, it comes down to the conflict between short-term profit and long-term gain.

It's obviously more profitable in the short-term for Facebook to allow the misinformation-peddlers to keep churning out content on their platform, whilst introducing cheap sticking plaster solutions (like appending automatically generated information warnings onto posts based only on keywords, and algorithmic solutions that end up systematically persecuting evidence-based debate).

But they really need to consider whether it's a good long-term branding strategy to run their site as a vast misinformation hub, where misinformation-peddlers spread their lies with impunity and those who approve of, and engage in, evidence-based debate are actively driven away onto other social media platforms.

I'd be more than happy to talk to someone at Facebook about these issues, but it's basically impossible to get hold of anyone there, even to get the false 'violations', distribution restrictions, and intimidating threats removed from my page, let alone to talk about better strategies for combating actual misinformation-peddlers on their platform.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. Access to my online writing will always remain free. If you see some value in what I do, please consider supporting my work with a small donation/subscription.



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