Friday, January 28, 2011

Layer 431 . . . Meditation, Mindfulness, Miliband, Zen, Soros, Davos, Bankers, Bonuses, Boris, Posh Rock and Egypt

It's interesting to observe the awesomely mega-rich as they go about their everyday business, especially if they owe their wealth and status to their own intellectual and creative efforts and not to inheritance, theft, corruption or the corporate gravy train.

Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, these days spend all their time and energy running the Gates Foundation and handing out their billions to good causes - most of them working on health issues in the poorest parts of the planet. Bill is a clever, lucky and somewhat enlightened individual who happened to find himself in the right place at the right time at the birth of the (micro)computer age. He's clearly a decent as well as a powerful man who has no need to connive or talk bullshit with anyone.

You can say pretty much the same thing about George Soros, the billionaire financier.

George Soros is a Hungarian-American financier, businessman and notable philanthropist focused on supporting liberal ideals and causes. He became known as "the Man Who Broke the Bank of England" after he made a reported $1 billion during the 1992 Black Wednesday UK currency crises. Soros correctly anticipated that the British government would have to devalue the pound sterling. - Wikipedia

When Soros says something on the subject of finance and economics we do well to listen. He's been speaking about British monetary policy.

George Soros tells David Cameron: change direction or face recession

Mix of tax increases and spending cuts unsustainable, speculator says, as World Economic Forum gets under way

by Larry Elliott

The international speculator George Soros warned David Cameron tonight that the government would push the British economy back into recession unless it modified its hardline austerity package.

Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, the hedge fund owner who famously wrecked the reputation for financial competence of the last Conservative administration on Black Wednesday said the mix of tax increases and spending cuts planned by the coalition was unsustainable.

Soros's suggestion that the UK needed a plan B came only hours after Cameron insisted in fierce Commons exchanges with the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, that there would be no change of government policy following the unexpected news yesterday that the economy contracted by 0.5% in the final three months of 2010.

"They will have to modify it when the effects are felt," Soros said. "I don't think it can possibly be implemented without pushing the economy into a recession." Noting that the initial market reaction to the government's tough stance had been positive, Soros added: "We will have to see it unfold. My expectation is that it will prove to be unsustainable."


It's interesting how the use of meditation is becoming more and more mainstream. The Guardian's guide is worth looking at.

An introduction to easy meditation

These three short animations by Headspace will introduce you to the concept
of 'mindful' meditation.


How to meditate: Overcoming potential obstacles

Everyone who learns to meditate encounters obstacles. Here are some of the most common ones and a few tips on how to deal with them


The Headspace meditation podcasts: Day-to-day mindfulness - audio

First of a series of podcasts explaining how to use meditation and mindfulness to reduce stress and increase concentration

Have you ever wondered how you could live your life with a greater sense of calm and clarity? Perhaps a greater sense of emotional stability?

When it comes to practicing the skill of mindfulness it's all about repetition and being familiar with what it means to be in the present moment.

This short exercise from Headspace will show you how you can use everyday activities to help learn this invaluable skill.

It's all very well using meditation as a means of relaxation, to increase concentration, to decrease stress, to improve emotional stability, etc, but there's no sense here, in these articles, that the ultimate purpose of meditation, or Zen, is to move the individual towards states of greater spiritual awareness and intelligence, and towards experiences of satori and enlightenment.


Is He A Zen Master?
Ed Miliband is right to keep silent

There are good reasons for Miliband to step back and work on renewing Labour – rather than seek a high profile

by Sunny Hundal

A frenzy of speculation surrounds Labour leader Ed Miliband. Is his brother coming back? Is Ed Balls planning to move in for the kill? Is he moving too much – or not enough – to the left? Why don't voters rate him more highly?

Lefties complain he isn't doing enough to oppose the government's ruinous agenda, while on the Labour right the usual voices say he isn't doing enough to occupy Tory territory. Is he a Zen master? Does he need more spinners and strategists?

It's absurd. There are at least five good reasons why he should stick to playing the long, waiting game . . .
As I was saying yesterday,

People are starting to understand that we don't want government to be our rulers - we should expect them to do things on our behalf. But first we have to articulate what we really want. It's stupid to just vote for parties on the basis of what they offer in their manifestos. WE have to make demands and expect our elected representatives to act on our behalf.

Sunny Hundal says,

This is the important point. The fightback against the Conservative agenda doesn't necessarily need to be led by Labour . . .
If you're angry about the Tory cuts, as I am, then get organised and mobilise ordinary people to fight back. That will grab attention and will force government ministers to listen, especially if the coalition against the cuts is broad enough (worth noting that the high profile campaign to save UK forests is partly run by Boris's sister Rachel Johnson). There is no reason why the fight against the government's cuts has to be led by Labour; it would be better led by local people from across the country. Don't get angry, get organised.



In North Africa the people have begun to take to the streets to make their needs and demands clearly known. These are 'popular' movements - and nothing to do with organised political parties or religious groups.

Egypt's Day of Rage goes on. Is the world watching?

The scale of protests in Egypt has shaken a regime that has long relied on citizens' passivity to retain power

Tens of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators took to the streets on 25 January, young and old, Muslim and Christian, rich and poor, educated and not so-educated. They all chanted "Long live Egypt", "Life, liberty and human dignity" and "Down with the Mubarak regime".

The day marked for the celebration of Police Day was dubbed the Day of Rage. The protests, which continued through a second day in almost every part of the country, are showing no signs of abating on the third day, with a million-strong march scheduled for Friday. These demonstrations are sending shivers down the spine not only of the regime but of its friends and allies as well.
For three decades now, Egyptians have been kept on a tight leash, fed more with promises than with bread. They were cajoled into compliance by a media that has the interests of the regime at heart and a religious establishment that owes its allegiance and existence to the state, but were often threatened into submission by the force of the baton if they refused to comply.

Egyptian grievances are numerous. They have seen neither the fruits of peace nor of the huge economic growth that Egypt is reported to be making in international economic indices. What they experience on a daily basis is endless queuing for inedible bread and suffocating traffic congestion as the police force is increasingly burdened with the task of protecting the regime and its men.

There were also demonstrations last month calling for a minimum monthly wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds (roughly £130). Too much, said the government. It could only promise to institute a minimum wage of 400LE (£43). This is hardly surprising from a government made up of businesspeople who no doubt have a vested interest in keeping wages as low as possible. The spokesmen of the regime shamelessly argued that it was a fair wage to expect.

For some years now, the Mubarak regime has been heading for disaster. With rampant unemployment, soaring prices and a 30-year long state of emergency, its popularity has dropped to an all-time low. But more importantly, it has repeatedly shown its total disregard for public opinion, a disregard that would have amounted to political suicide under any other system.

An obvious example is the rigged parliamentary elections of November 2010, which were perhaps the worst in Egypt's history. The ruling National Democratic party had the audacity to announce that these elections were one of the fairest in Egypt's history. Ahmed Ezz, the iron-tycoon-turned-politician and one of the new guard at the NDP, who is known to have masterminded the electoral operation, triumphantly announced the results. He stated that the landslide victory that secured 98% of the parliamentary seats for the ruling party was the result of its popularity on the streets and the fruit of the hard work of its members.

The initial call for the Day of Rage was made by young Facebook activists inspired by the success of Tunisians in overthrowing Ben Ali. The Facebook invitation for the protests received 95,000 positive responses. Other forces and opposition groups later responded to the call, including the Muslim Brotherhood, whose participation has so far been quite low-key.

For the first time in decades, Egyptian protesters went out in unprecedented numbers across the whole country with one slogan: "People want the regime to fall". They made their demands clear. Mubarak should step down, the illegal parliament be dissolved and emergency law be suspended. The call was for the whole country to rally and unite, and there were no religious chants or slogans.

The reaction of the regime to the protests so far has been pathetically inadequate. It shows that this regime is still in denial. While Mubarak kept his silence, the interior ministry took on the task of communicating with the people, in the only way it knows how to. As it cracked down on demonstrators, it issued statements, banning any further protests and repeating the same old excuses. It blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for what it called riots on the streets and blamed their members for infiltrating the crowds in order to wreak havoc. This is supposed to do the trick of scaring the world about the propsect of an imminent Islamist takeover of Egypt – a fear that the regime has painstakingly been fostering. The interior ministry also blamed the ill-defined but frequently invoked "foreign hands" that are always bent on fomenting trouble and inciting people against their loving and God-fearing rulers. 

I found myself wondering yesterday whether there's a whiff of '68 in the air. It's been a long time since there were worldwide popular protests led by workers, young people and students - primarily against corrupt power elites, warmongering and injustice.


Davos Watch

It's time for the annual gathering of international the power elites in Switzerland. The whole world's watching, as they said in Chicago, all those years ago. Even more so in the age of 24 hour satellite TV, the Internet and mobile phones.



Having gone in for a fair bit of Tory-bashing recently (!) I have to draw attention to some of Boris's opinions about bankers' bonuses.

Boris Johnson plans bank message at World Economic Forum

LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson says he will remind banks of their responsibilities when he meets leaders at this week’s World Economic Forum.

“Last year I told them it was time for the masters of the universe to become servants of the people. That is absolutely right and it’s a message I will be repeating this year,” he said.


Cut 'excessive' bonuses, Boris Johnson tells bank chiefs

Boris Johnson today wrote to global banking chiefs urging them to scale back “excessive” bankers' bonuses.

The Mayor said he was “shocked and baffled” the banks had failed to acknowledge public outrage over the multi-billion-pound payouts.

In his strongest criticism to date, he urged the bank chiefs to show “much stronger leadership” on the issue. He told the Standard: “Nobody can possibly defend the huge sums of bonuses being awarded. The banks should not be paying out huge bonuses as though it was business as usual. They have to show they recognise the game changed when the taxpayer bailed them out.”

Mr Johnson suggested the banks should skim money off bonuses to set up a fund to help small and medium-sized businesses in the capital.

“In order for me to champion and support successful financial services, it is crucial that the sector itself demonstrates much stronger leadership.

“Collectively, financial services firms must take much greater account of public opinion and set justifiable remuneration packages accordingly, in the light of the unprecedented support given to the financial system over the last two years.”


Rock's Gone Posh
There was a feature on R4 this morning about most pop and rock musicians these days having had a private school or stage school education. Very different to the rock rebels of yesteryear. Rick Wakeman spoke about a 'snobbish culture'.

See Layer 367 re Clegg, Cameron and Radiohead.


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