Christmas, winterval, yule, Hanuka, Saturnalia, whatever.
We should all be celebrating today. For today is the Solstice. The longest night and the beginning of winter, The days will get longer from now until the Summer solstice in June. All the festivals we celebrate around this time are lunarised bastardisations of our much more ancient solar festivals.
I'm not some neo-pagan, dressing up like a character from Lord of the Rings to perform some farcical ceremony at Stonehenge. But these festivals are based in something real, the seasons, which give a natural rhythm to our lives, and have always done. The light has shone through that same gap, at the same point every year for about 4,500 years. This natural rhythm, combined with a human need to mark the passage of time, is why Atheists celebrate Christmas: you don't need a God to tell you to celebrate the return of the sun.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
Christmas, winterval, yule, Hanuka, Saturnalia, whatever.
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
One of the blogs in my reader is the well-known "every-day carry" where people show how they carry all the gadgets and gizmos they might need day-to-day. There are some "loadouts" that are survivalists, bristling with military hardware, hand-guns and fighting knives which are absolutely absurd, usually carried by fat men with thick spectacles acting out walter mitty fantasies, and would be illegal in the UK. There are also some minimalist and stylish collections of fine leather goods and beautifully chosen tools. It's a good place to go and indulge my small leather goods fetish, or my desire for beautiful tools, like these William Henry Knives.
I find it absurd, for example that a decent multi-tool would be (sort of) illegal to carry in the UK. Most have blades which lock in place (far safer than a UK-legal slip-joint folder) and blades greater than the maximum 3". If you have an excuse to carry a multi-tool, then it's legal. So if I carry one, it lives in my Bicycle tool kit but I regard the fact that I might have to justify carrying something so self-evidently useful as a leatherman, as a gross intrusion.
Generally speaking, the EDC is a philosophy of preparedness, at all times, while keeping the weight & bulk down. This requires thought about the objects you carry. So should your pen double as a self-defence tool? Your key-chain a tool or light? Memory sticks? Do you need a knife AND a multitool? Notebook, pens, sunglasses. Can you carry stuff on your belt, without looking like a total twat? These are all important questions.
Here's what I carry with me every day, bearing in mind I'm a cycling stockbroker. It's heavy on pens and business cards and light on firearms.
Omega speedmaster reduced (the automatic version of the moonwatch).
Wallet, business card case and pen holder by Aspinals
Parker 51 fountain pen, pencil & Victorninox Tourist which live in the pen-holder.
Fisher space pen & extra-small moleskine notebook, carried in wallet.
and of course, a phone: HTC desire, in an ultra-slim leather case by Senna.
More often than not, the Kindle plus cover by Piel Frama will come with me when I leave the house. Especially if there's public transport involved. If I'm cycling, I will wear Oakley half-jackets, and will certainly carry a flash-light, in case I need to cycle after dark. In the bag, I carry a waterproof, high-visibility jacket & overshoes (if not carried, it WILL rain), a small first aid-kit (gauze, iodine mesh, tape, antiseptic spray, tweezers, Ibuprofen scisors and a space-blanket), spare lenses for the Glasses for different light conditions, spare batteries for the bike lights.
In the small saddle-bag there is always a CO2 pump, plus spare canister, inner tube, tyre patch, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, zip-ties, a cycling multi-tool with Allen keys and a chain-breaker. I also carry a spokey, spare nipples and a kevlar spoke, enough to get the bike home after almost any disaster. This lives permanently on the bike.
Finally I usually carry an electronic gizmo "life support system" in a small pencil case, which contains a multi-usb plug, leads, adaptors and a power-monkey, a spare battery for the phone, with which I can charge any of the electronics I carry from either a computer or plug.
Is there anything else I need? It seems like a lot, but the first picture fits in my pockets, the second takes up the smallest pouch on my courier bag, including the contents of the third picture. Generally speaking, I'm ready for most things that the day might throw at me.
Friday, 16 December 2011
Since I've abandoned car ownership, I have given a lot of thought to cycling kit, as it is my main means of transport.
First of all the Bike itself. I ride a Condor Squadra. This is not the bike I would have chosen were I to buy it again as it is an out and out road bike, with no eyelets for luggage or room for mudguards or tyres bigger than 25mm, it's fine in the summer, but not so great in the winter. Carbon fibre, which is what the seat-stay is made from, isn't the right material for an everyday bike.
So what advice would I give to someone thinking of selling their car for a bike. First, bicycles are still seen mainly as a leisure activity in the UK and the bikes available reflect this. Road bikes have tight clearences, skinny tyres and close spaced gears. Mountain bikes have strong frames, knobbly tyres and extravagent suspension. You do NOT need suspension on roads, it's just weight. Both road and mountain are almost useless as an everyday commuting bike. You know why? Because they weren't designed for it. Road bikes gear ratios are too high for climbing if you're carrying anything at all, and knobbly mountain bike tyres and suspension make pedalling about 50% harder work than it needs be on most mountain bikes.
Buy a Dutch, Hybrid, Audax or touring bike, with clearances for big tyres for the winter and room for mudguards. Did I mention mud-guards? The Crud Road Racer IIs are excellent and make a road bike acceptable in winter, but a proper set of mud-guards are even better and certainly tougher. Most bikes in the UK are sold without mud-guards for aesthetic reasons. None of the bikes you see mountain-biking or racing on TV have them, so bikes with them look old fashioned. It is quite simple. With mud-guards and a decent coat, only the tops of your thighs get wet, in all but the most torrential downpour. Without mud-guards, you get soaked in seconds in the merest drizzle.
Frames should be steel or (if money is no object) titanium, not aluminium or carbon fibre. Why? Because steel and titanium are tough, and aluminium and carbon fibre are brittle and you're going to be lugging stuff over pot-holes. You wouldn't use a Ferrari every day, why would you use your Colnago?
Wheels. Any fewer than 36 holes on the rear is just stupid. Once more, Tour de France bikes have as few spokes as they can get away with for aerodynamic reasons. They have a mechanic who can and does true the wheels daily. These guys also weigh half what most of us weigh. You're buying a bike to use every day, and it's going to be lugging stuff over pot-holes. Leave the 28-spoke wheel for the weekend, on your carbon fibre road bike.
Gears. If you don't have a hill to climb, 3 or 5 speed hub gears will be fine. Otherwise derailleurs are popular everywhere for a reason. Although they require maintenance, the close ratios and index-shifting make much more efficient use of the 1/2 horsepower you have available. Hub gears are however, basically maintenance free. Beware road-bikes. There is a culture amongst freds of Big-Ring masochism. Because Miguel Indurain could climb on a big ring, everyone wants to. This hurts knees. Get gear ratios apropriate to the task and your level of fitness. Were money no object, for my every day bike I would use a Rolhoff Speedhub, but as it is, I have a 9speed Camagnolo cassette and a compact front.
Saddles: Padded saddles are NOT comfortable for any more than a mile. There's a reason why almost all round-the-world cyclists use the Brooks B17, a saddle which has been in constant production in the same factory in Birmingham since 1866. Because it's the most comfortable. Trust me on this one. £70 for a saddle, and you will never, ever want another. I use the Brooks team Pro and I love it. If you're sitting very upright and Comfort is your main consideration, try this, but really, if you're using the thing every day, buy a Brooks saddle there is no other choice.
You can spend anything from £400 to £4,000 on an every-day bike. At the bottom end, you'll get a reliable if heavy hybrid, and at the top end, you will have a hand-built steel or Titanium frame, measured for you with top-of-the range components. Remember the cardinal rule of cycling. Cheap, Light, Strong: Choose two. You get more benefit from tyres at the correct pressure and the saddle at the correct height (probably up a couple of inches) than an extra £1000 on the bike's cost. You're not racing, so don't buy a racing bike. You're not going off road, so you don't need knobbly tyres. You ARE going on roads which may be wet, so get mudguards. Mudguards make all the difference to winter cycling. They're even more important than the clothes.
Luggage is the other reason people give for not wishing to commute. Very few people need to carry more than a ruck-sack every day. Certainly two panniers and a ruck-sack will carry a week's shopping. And if you regularly take big loads, I reckon this will carry more than a small car. Kids? No problem. For day-to-day use, I've a courier bag, from Bagaboo in Hungary, which keeps everything dry, even in the most torrential downpour, and can take a week's shopping for one home from the supermarket. If you want a courier bag, I would highly recommend their Workhorse messenger, and they will even stitch your own design. Others swear by rucksacks. Most people who carry lots of stuff over a long distance, let the bike take the load with panniers, bar-bags and baskets. Trial and error, work with what you're comfortable with as there is no right answer.
What about clothes? Well the commuting cyclist is well catered for now. One extravagence is a pair of Rapha jeans which are wonderfully comfortable. Another is a merino wool habit. This means I don't have to dress up as a mobile billboard every day and can more or less cycle to work in normal day clothes. Merino resists odour, wicks sweat and keeps you warm or cool. Magic stuff. I have in the past kept suits in the office, and carried them with me. It's not a great problem having to change. If you're clean, you shouldn't need a shower if you're commuting less than 5 miles, especially if you take it steady. A pair of overshoes is a must, as is a waterproof, some of which are not eurofluro. Also look at Outlier and Velobici. It's not cheap, but think of it in terms of full tanks of petrol. Ah, that merino Jersey costs one tank of petrol... see. Easy to justify.
These days there is no reason why you shouldn't abandon your car entirely for all journeys of less than 5 miles. Try it. You might just start to like it.
Thursday, 15 December 2011
....Is an absolute disgrace.
Problem is Labour's mantra that this is an economic problem is belied by the fact that this has been rising since
they introduced the minimum wage about 2000. In Spain 40% youth unemployment is indicative that most young people have half a job, before they eventually join the ranks of the protected insiders.
In Britain however, 20% youth unemployment means many of those 20% of young people won't get a job, now or ever. This is one of the broadest measure of Britains multi-generational welfare dependency. There's the Workless households, in which one in six children grow up; without a role model of a parent going to work every day, the majority of which are headed by a lone parent. At the top of the heap are the "problem families" which blight every poor neighbourhood.
The problems are circular. Increasingly feminised schools have little relevance to working class boys in particular. They bunk off, find they can't catch up if they ever have periods of motivation, get frustrated, bunk off some more, and leave school without any of the basic skills necessary to succeed, or any of the qualifications employers demand. These boys then go on to lead chaotic lives, without the hope of employment, fathering children they have little intention of bringing up. Who grow up in workless households, for whom school has no relevance.... and so on.
The problem isn't a lack of jobs (the number of employed immigrants gives the lie to that), a lack of skills, or even discrimination against the working class, one ludicrous CiF article (I can't find the link) suggested employers' demands for punctual, hard-working, well-presented, literate people with clear diction was 'discrimination'; instead it's a moral poverty.
There are vast armies of state employees, some 43 agencies by one estimate, focused on solving these problems. Income transfers ensure that the multi-generational welfare families are not cash poor. There are plenty of low-paid people on wages lower than that which can be achieved by farming the benefits system's (at one recent count) 73 different payments.
Chris Dillow will scoff at the idea that living on £51 per week unemployment benefit. But this number is a joke. Unemployment benefit: that's just pin-money, when housing benefit ensures there's a roof over your head, and income support & child benefit to ensure little Wayne, Lee and Kayleigh don't starve. A multi-generational moral vacuum has been created, where there are no consequences to catastrophic life choices. Few single mothers get sent to gaol unless they've killed someone, and there are no punishments short of that hold any fear.
The Problem families don't need another agency of troubleshooters to ensure they behave. They need a system of consequences. Beyond a certain point of catastrophic stupidity, petty criminality, and ignorance the state needs to cease its efforts to 'help'. Perhaps above a certain number of ASBOs and convictions, all benefits should be stopped, all children taken into care and the family evicted from state housing. The adults would be free to find a living without the help they've spat out all their lives.
Consequences for actions. That is all that is required. It may even filter down through the levels of uselessness, without the hard-core of trouble families, their neighbours' kids might find education in sink comprehensives improve. This might mean that the employers, who've been importing labour rather than employing illiterate British teenagers, might start making a dent in youth unemployment. If you build an incentive or two into the welfare state, in 20 years, Britain's underclass might actually start to shrink.
Friday, 9 December 2011
We will find out over the next few days, but I suspect the conversation went something like:
France: "We want to impose a Tobin tax, Europe-wide"
The UK: "Um... sod off, you greasy little squit".
Germany: "We'd like to impose regulation on financial services designed to move transactions from London to Frankfurt"
The UK: "You two are shitting me, right".
France & Germany "No".
The UK: "Fine then, bugger off".
Everyone is claiming either victory, or that Cameron's made a terrible error. UKIP, because we're not getting a referendum that for some reason they think will solve everything, STILL call Cameron a Europhile. Labour think it's terrible that Britain is "isolated".
Actually I think the situation is broadly what the Conservative party AND the British people want: a 2 Teir Europe, with the UK the leading member of the small "never going to join the Euro" club. These will slide towards a Norwegian/Swiss position, while everyone else forges ahead with
a Franco-German empire monetary and fiscal union.
So Cameron has shot UKIPs fox who will continue to frot themselves about a referendum which is no longer needed and will fade into irrelevance. Labour will find themselves arguing that Cameron SHOULDN'T have wielded his veto and should have instead bent over for whatever the Merkozy borg was suggesting. This demonstrates Ed Miliband's tactical and strategic ineptness, and may have cost him the poll lead.
I am not sure Cameron could or should have played it differently. But there are deeper and more lasting issues here, which may or may not cause problems further down the line. This is an epoch-making moment. It is the end of 500 years of consistent English (& 300 years of British) foreign policy towards the continent. Namely that if the dominant hegemonic power isn't England, no other power, or combination of powers should be able to rise to dominate the continent. As I mentioned before
Since the wars with Spain in the 1500s, when England stood at the head of an alliance of anti-Spanish nations culminating in the Armada of 1588. Next, through the Wars of religion Protestant England was happy to ally with anyone including Catholic powers keeping Spain down. France was (believe it or not, after strings of stunning military victories) next up in an attempt to become the dominant power in Europe, first under the Bourbon monarchy and later under Bonaparte. Comprehensive British victories at Trafalgar in 1805 and Waterloo (with a little help from ze Prussians) in 1815 put pay to Napoleon's ambitions in that regard. The Russians made an abortive bid but were seen off by a Anglo-French alliance in the Crimea and turned their imperial ambitions east. A long peace saw the Rise of Germany, and the brokering of an Entente Cordiale between France and the UK should Germany get uppity and start throwing its weight around. They took some stopping, and the help of the Americans but Germany was prevented from getting a massive European empire....Well that nightmare is upon us. A unified Europe stares at us across the Channel and our only allies are Sweden, the Czech republic and Hungary to block the behemoth that is the Eurozone and the lackeys who STILL wish to join. Our influence in a club, which by treaty and Geography, still affects us deeply, is much, much less today than it was yesterday. The UK cannot outvote a EU17 voting at Merkozy's whim as a block. Euroskeptics, amongst whom I count myself, should not kid themselves that this decision is without cost.
...1914-1918 and 1939-1945 were the same war, with a bit of time to let Fritz regroup. The hun may have been utterly defeated, but they have never abandoned the dream of European empire which has burned in the Teutonic heart since the unification of Germany under the Hohenzollerns in 1871. The hush-puppy may have replaced the jackboot but the Boche are still marching in step.
Even if we leave the European Union, we still have to deal with that European behemoth, which will remain our biggest trading partner and closest neighbour, linked by money, blood, and habit. Unlike yesterday, we have no reins with which to control the monster which a federal German-dominated euro zone will become. It will rapidly become under French influence, more protectionist and inward-looking as our counterbalancing influence will wane. This isn't in Britain's interest.
Britain got what she wanted and may yet regret it.
Monday, 5 December 2011
Robert H. Frank, professor of Economics at Cornell university has written a very interesting book called the Darwin Economy. The central Idea is that Humans are prone to decision-making which is optimal for the individual, but damaging to the Group, in a manner similar to the evolutionary Arms race which sees Bull Elk producing enormous antlers every year. Such adornments are costly, not only in the resources of calcium and protein, but also in the difficulty of moving in forests with such ungainly headgear, leading to predation by wolves.
Thus spending on such display items as cars and houses is excessive and sub-optimal. Humans being status-conscious beings, we feel it necessary to keep up with the Joneses, leading to an arms-race of consumption cascading from the super rich all the way down to the very poor.
This is market failure, but not in the way the left thinks, as is explained at some length in the book. Instead Professor Frank suggests it is a failure in the basis of taxation. Why do we tax things that are good, like income or jobs which we need more of? Why not tax things like status consumption or use of scarce resources, in which the effect of the tax is beneficial (lower mileage driven, fewer resources consumed, less excessive status arms-race) over and above the tax raised?
This isn't to say that tax doesn't take out of the productive economy, of course it does. But that the blow would be softened if IN ADDITION to the tax raised, there was some compensating behaviour change which made some people a bit happier. No-one benefits from a payroll tax like National Insurance in the UK. Many people benefit from lower congestion as a result of high fuel duty, not least the people paying it who would otherwise find traffic much more problematic than they do now were taxes less than 65% of the cost of their fuel. Perhaps a brand-new BMW (which as everyone knows will immediately turn you into a sociopathic tail-gating arsehole) should be taxed at a higher rate than a more utiliarian vehicle?
It's an interesting idea, but is perhaps over-argued. I'm not sure I appreciate the endless repetition of the zero-regulation, zero-tax Libertarian caricature in the book, which has me screaming "STRAW MAN" in almost every chapter. Most libertarians, on this side of the pond at least, accept the need for some regulation, especially in competition. Zero tax isn't a realistic propostion either and I am convinced by the Rahm Curve, with a peak at around 20%. Many Libertarians (including this one) even accept the need for some redistribution of income, to compensate people for the extent to which people's station in life is defined by luck (a lot more than most people think). Finally, redistribution is an important guarantor of social cohesion, preventing, in final analysis, the rich ending up swinging from a gibbet.
Where the book is strongest is in its defence of free markets. Many leftists think "market failure" is the observation that the rich have more options than the poor. It isn't. I would urge my left-wing friends to read it simply to hear a cogent and well-thought out explanation of how markets benefit ESECIALLY the poor. It is also why cash transfers are better at increasing utility, especially for the poor, than "free" top-down administered services, all areas which had me nodding in agreement.
I am not wholly convinced that the steeply progressive consumption tax Professor Frank advocates, should be the proper basis for Government revenue, but it certainly got me thinking. Certainly a properly constructed negative income tax or citizens' basic income fulfils many of the benefits of the free market that Professor Frank supports, in that they give the poor agency in how they spend the resourses available to them, rather than ceding all that agency to well-meaning bureaucratic agencies. Where I disagree with Professor Frank is the extent to which status displays and positional goods (especially access to education) hurt the poor. The mansion-extension example which crops up though the book may lead to bigger houses further down the income distribution, but I am not convinced this is a wholly bad thing. Maybe amongst vulgar americans, where relative size is everything (over here, of course, we pay up for age, which is um... better or something). And the benefits felt by tradesmen who will build the mansion extension appears to be completely ignored.
Everyone engages in status displays amongst those either side of them, and by and large, aren't that fussed by the lives of the rich & famous with whom they're not competing, however much media bien pensants think they shoud be. A progressive handicap system to status displays, as proposed, won't really change that desire to compete in status display. To decry as fundamental a human desire as competition as "waste" seems like social engineering and I'm not convinced by Prof Frank's explanation. Even Guardianista's eschewal of status displays can become competitive, as parodied in Viz's Modern Parents. The evidence appears to be that the demographic most upset by high GINI coefficients appears to be relatively wealthy lefties who frot themselves into a state of deep mailaise over the statisitics. If there is one group of people for whom I have zero sympathy, it's Hampstead sociailists. I like much of Professor Frank's analysis, but I remain a flat-taxer.
Monday, 28 November 2011
Got this in an e-mail from an academic buddy - his view of the Lecturer's union striking.
I am an academic at a leading UK university. Obtaining an academic position is not an easy thing to do and I have worked towards it, pretty much non-stop, since I left school. You will probably need a First Class degree to get onto a funded PhD course. Assuming your doctorate goes well, you need to find a postdoctoral position. There are probably four times as many new PhDs as there are postdoctoral opportunities, all being sought by highly-motivated, breathtakingly intelligent young people who have just obtained their degree. The competition is intense beyond belief.
If you get your postdoctoral position, it will probably be for a term of one to five years, during which time you have to build a publication record that makes you worthy of an academic position. With short postdocs, you might need to re-enter that competitive job market to get a second contract. You need to build enough experience – maybe three or five years’ worth – to be in a position to apply for an academic position, but not too much. Someone who doesn’t manage to get an academic position after six or eight years is at a huge disadvantage compared to the bright young things on the up.
The academic positions are, one again, about one-quarter as plentiful as the postdocs reaching maturity, and even if you get one, it will likely be fixed term. Use this term wisely – by bringing in a lot of funding, for example – and you just might obtain a permanent one.
The rewards though, are immense. I get to work on the thing which is most important to me in the whole world. I get to travel the world. I get to leave work at 2pm if I feel like it, even though I never do. The freedom is there.
I get to make, with my own mortal hand, things that will change the future of science. This, to me, is the most incredible thing that I could ever be allowed to do. These objects are going to be paid for by taxpayers – productive people who work hard only to have a slice of the fruits of their labour hived off and given to me. I am humbled by the trust put in me to use this money as wisely as I possibly can, to advance human knowledge, and I remember the thirty-odd hugely talented PhDs to whom I have, personally, denied the opportunity.
Today, I got an email calling on me to strike. It said that I should consider this hard-won chance-of-a-lifetime to be, well, a job. A job, like in Marks and Spencer’s. That I should consider a few hundred pounds, extracted from people who have had to actually work to fund my dreams, to be worth more than this chance of a lifetime. That I should spit on the thirty poor sods that didn’t get this chance by refusing to use it to its fullest possible extent, and on the people whose jobs went to the wall to pay for the taxes I spend. Somehow withholding marking of students’ papers and delaying their careers, the better to line my own pocket with other people’s money, is portrayed as a virtuous deed.
I am, quite literally, open-mouthed in disbelief. These people have, like me, been given the chance of a lifetime and they are prepared to waste other people’s money, to waste other people’s time, over a few percent on their investments. I can imagine more selfish acts, but not many. These, by the way, will be the same people who rail about the evils of the bankers. Say what you like about the bankers, they didn’t blackmail anyone to get to where they are today. Good luck to them.
So, when you see the lecturer’s unions on strike next week, remember that they don’t speak for all of us. Some of us have work to do.
A view from an academic, who wishes to remain anonymous, but I can confirm is working on stuff, that when he tells me about it, I'm awed at how cool it is. Think about stuff your 8-year old self wishes you did for a living, and that's what he does for a living.
Saturday, 19 November 2011
Here's the bad news. The bond markets are the masters now.
Here's the good news. We are the bond markets, and the bond-markets are us. Or at least anyone with a pension. Who needs democracy when we, the paymasters, have those who would rule us, by the short 'n curlies. When politicians decide that they know best, we, the people who pay their bills, and ultimately lend them the money for them to squander, eventually call time on their nonsense. They can pretend the bond markets are shouty shirty men with many phones shouting about stuff they don't understand. But it's people managing your pension fund for you thinking "you know what, I think I might dump those Italian bonds now" because they don't trust the Italian Government to repay you any more.
If you don't let the people decide, you end up with politicians in charge (until they run out of your money that is), and as far as the Eurozone is concerned, the Italians have shown that given democracy, they elect, repeatedly a magnificent, corrupt nincompoop and can't be trusted. It's too late to whine about sovereignty. The Italians gave that up, willingly when they joined the Euro. So did you, Ireland. You think British sovereignty was bad, now wait and see what happens when you're forced to bend over to bail out German bankers.. They won't even have the decency to spit first. And Greece, who are even more culpable as they lied flagrantly to get into the Euro. Germany rigged the system to it's benefit. And you didn't see it coming. So, democracy in Europe is dead. Germany has her Empire, and it will break their bank because they didn't set to it as the British did, with trade in mind. Indeed the whole project is designed to shield France from globalisation (that's what they ACTUALLY want!!!)
There is a solution to the current crisis, a simple one, and the markets know it. It's very, very simple. We're beyond moral hazard. Germany needs to bail out Southern Europe, and the ECB needs to indicate that it will print sufficient money to ensure that Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and yes, it will come to this, France too, do not default on their debts. The Euro will fall, but so will bond-yields and the Euro. The Germans must accept a stagnation of living standards for a generation.
The Euro was a political project. Politicians, had they asked their people would have been told "no". And the people are, once again, right with the politicians in the stupid corner. And the Icing on the cake is that the UK isn't part of this unfolding disaster, so while we will suffer a bit more than is reasonable as our trading partners' economies roll over, we can enjoy the Schaenfreude of knowing WE TOLD YOU SO. Britain, of course maintained her trading links with the rest of the world, rather than looking in to an aging, dirigiste, stagnating, over-regulated Europe and will remain the worlds second most popular destination for foreign direct investment, after the USA.
Just Imagine what it's like to be John Redwood now. Having endured a decade of ridicule and abuse to be proved so comprehensively, prophetically, totally right. The UK can try to help. We can, and probably will lend the IMF, and the Eurozone some more money. Bear in mind that we're borrowing at a little over 2% and probably lending it to those Euroweenies at 5,6 or 7%. And the German tax-payer's going to get the bill. It's like winning a war, but no-one's died. Who cares about an EU referendum when in a decade there may not be anything left but a ruin in Strasbourg and Brussels a ghost-town?
And when the Euro-project collapses into a singularity of political vanity, the UK can sail off into the mid-Atlantic, still a major global trading nation, still a permanent member of the UN security council, still (just) in possession of military forces with global reach and still with close relationships with rich, prosperous, free-market countries with which we share a language. All things the European Union sought to take from us. Oh. And the human relationship with the Next major superpower is pretty good too. (no, not China, they've demographically screwed themselves before they're rich), India, with whom we (or at least the English) share an obsession.
The UK, once again has flirted with disaster, yet will once more come out the other end the victor, still on top, and all because some politicians with humility decided in the late 90's that they ought to consult the people before surrendering economic sovereignty.
Don't write blighty off just yet.
Friday, 11 November 2011
For reasons beyond both authors' control, AVBD may well be taking a couple of weeks off. If you would like to post a guest post, and you're not certifiable, or a rancid lefty whinging about "the 1%", please feel fee to drop me an e-mail (It's to the right) with your post, and I will do my best to post it, if I have Internet access while I am away and If I like it.
Can I point you to My Fiance's new novel in the mean-time. It really is rather good. If you don't have a Kindle and want to know when the Hard-Back is coming out, follow the Blog.
See you all again in Decemeber.
Monday, 7 November 2011
The Multi Car Pile up on the M5 was just too good a bandwagon for Labour to avoid. Before they have finished scraping the last of the dead off the road they’re jumping up and down saying the speed limit should be reduced to 65 Mph when it rains. Nice one Labour, very tasteful; ignoring the fact that it looks like this pile up was caused by a) Fog rather than wet roads and b) what the fucking fuck is 5mph difference going to make? The state of the Car, how much rain, whether the car has ABS, the age and reaction times of the driver and the tyre wear are going to affect stopping distances far more that a measly 5 mph difference that is within the margin of error for most cars speedometers. What will also affect the stopping distance is the stupidity of the driver, and the degree to which they are driving like a cunt, but legislating on that would mean Labour voters being shoe horned into cars fitted with pedals which would be discriminatory.
A bunch of Nanny State pricks using deaths as political leverage, thank God these knee jerk idiots are in opposition now. When it’s pissing it down (or foggy) I have no problems with reducing the speed limit down to 60 or even 40. They’re called variable limits, you just click a button and all the signs on the M25 change. It’s already legislation; it requires no more training, very little extra cost; and has been shown to work both here and in Europe. But (and this is a big but) the minute the problem clears you put the speed limit back to a more reasonable speed. The Conservatives are right to move the speed limit up – not down – when the weather is good. But blanket legislation on rain is the dumbest idea I’ve heard in a long time, who decides how much rain actually constitutes “Rain”, “Your Honour, I’d like to call Ian McCaskill in my defence regarding getting off this speeding ticket”. Who is going to legally define when the roads are still piss wet through?
Educate drivers at the start to stop driving like nobs and you'll stop far more accidents than a blanket speed limit.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
First there was an agreement, to widespread euphoria, then Greece (all but) rejected it and the market fell. Then the ECB cut rates this morning, and the stock markets rose. What’s coming up in the next few days? Well most importantly US unemployment numbers called the non-farm Payrolls are tomorrow. I expect these to be good, given the strong (these things are relative…) GDP numbers from the USA last week. Either way they could Move the market significantly.
Compared to August, the market’s looking pretty resilient. This is because of continued strong corporate earnings, backed by mainly strong cash-flows. Many companies have little debt on their balance sheets, and most UK banks are well-capitalised, even if the Government owned ones are merely stable in intensive care.
I expected last Thursday’s Eurozone deal to kick the can a little farther down the road than 4 days, and now Italy is in the market’s sights. While Greece, whose government has collapsed, and who appeared threaten a military coup at one point may dominate the evening news, it is the relentless rise of Italian bond yields that is the main cause for concern. Financially speaking, Greece, 1.6% of Eurozone GDP doesn’t matter, and the banks (or at least all but the French banks) have already written down their Greek debt to 50% - they have ALREADY taken the loss. The Eurozone tax-payers through the ECB and the EFSF have yet to do so, mainly because politicians don’t want to explain how they set fire to €1tn to their electorates. This is politics. As far as the markets are concerned, Greece HAS defaulted. It’s over bar the shouting.
Italy on the other hand has the Worlds’ third largest bond market and much of this is held by systemically important financial institutions. A default could spell a run on Italian banks, and the complete failure of the Eurozone. 10y Yields are now 6.5%. Even Spain is holding steady at 5.45% and Portugal at 5%. Ireland is Yielding 8.5% and falling. Worse, French bond yields have started to rise. That we are talking about an Italian default is remarkable given they are running a primary surplus – that is to say the Italian budget is balanced before financing the debt. They have, by this one measure a stronger set of public finances than the UK. The difference? The UK can print any money necessary to service its debts and our debt is of much longer maturity meaning less falls due needing refinance in the near future.
So far the European Central Bank has ruled out the one course of action it could take to isolate the bankrupt countries: indicate that they are standing behind (French – though this is already assumed) Italian and Spanish debt with printing presses if needs be. It is just a matter of time. Until they do, there will continue to be bad news and the longer they leave it the worse it will be.
Finally, it should be remembered that the UK economy and even more so its stock market is tied to the USA, not the Eurozone. Our economic correlation to the USA is .95, almost as high as such things could possibly be. Thus even the disaster of Italian bond yields is probably less important than the Employment numbers from the USA, and the USA is recovering steadily as is the UK whose Q3 GDP numbers indicated a slight pick up from a summer stall.
This is why the UK stock market is 15% off August lows. Bankrupt governments in Athens and Rome just don’t affect business that much. Yet. A stagnant US economy would be much more worrying.
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
I'm growing a 'tache for charideeeee, inspired by, but independent of Movember.
The RNLI provide an emergency service without Government money. Volunteers save lives at sea, and millions of people make this one of the most popular charity causes in the UK (something Jonathan May-Bowles, the "activist" who got beaten up by Mrs Murdoch thinks wrong because it's "middle class"). The people have not forgotten that our island nation is totally dependent on seaborne trade, even if our political masters have: There are no warships patrolling UK waters. There are those who say quality services cannot be provided but by the state; the 4,500 Men and Women of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution demonstrate otherwise. Follow @outonashout on twitter to see just how often they are deployed.
The Just Giving page is here.
Medicins Sans Frontieres provide medical and emergency relief in over 80 countries, usually arriving before the news cameras and leaving long afterwards. They eschew photogenic disaster campaigns - or indeed any high profile marketing, but deploy themselves according to need, rather than media hype. They spend very little on marketing and even less on political lobbying, remaining dedicated to getting Doctors and medical staff to those who need it whether or not the cause is fashionable. They also undertake primary research into tropical diseases, which they make available to all, for free. I reckon my contributions to this charity amount to about the same amount as the proportion of my tax bill the Government spends on international aid. I know which bit does more good for people in desperate need.
The Just Giving page is here.
Neither take money from the UK, or any other Government, valuing their independence. I give to them willingly and feel good about doing so, and If the British Government didn't waste so much of my money, I'd give them both more. I'd like to raise £100 for each but any money will be good, and more is better.
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Angela Merkel must have been so pissed off when she read the papers this morning that she shat her own Fallopian Tubes. It seems that the Bubbles have a new found love of Democracy and are going to vote on the Bailout plan being put before them. After all that grandstanding, all those promises of a glorious European future a couple of days later it falls round their ankles like a wet pair of panties.
Now usually Referendum aren’t really a problem for the EU. The people vote, the EU doesn’t like what they say; they have to vote again to get the correct answer. So what’s so different this time? Well the minute the Bubbles say Αριθ or no, the markets will collapse Greek debt like Blaster Bates on a chimney stack.
But why are the Greeks really doing this. Democracy hasn’t bothered the Greeks since Athena debated the possibility of funding the possibility of investigating a preliminary committee for the assistance of Sparta in 479 BC. The simple fact is that A) The Socialists are covering their arses – if they have to go against type and actually do something instead of fire-hosing other peoples cash at the problem, they want a massive mandate to do so. And unbelievably B) They actually think they have room for negotiation. They think that threatening to unravel this fairly laughable attempt at a bail out will get them a better deal. They’re negotiating with loan sharks about which of their legs gets broken thinking they have the upper hand.
This is going to end in so much tears you’ll need a rubber dinghy. And the benefits to all this… well Nick Clegg won’t be singing either. We non Federasts in the UK might though, it all ends the minute the Bubbles say no, and not even Sarkozy can blame us.
Monday, 31 October 2011
British foreign policy has been remarkably consistent towards Europe for the last 500 years, since the English monarchy abandoned its rightful claim to the French crown. It can be summed up by the simple observation that, seeing as the Hegemonic power of Europe cannot be England, no other hegemonic power should rise to dominate Europe.
Since the wars with Spain in the 1500s, when England stood at the head of an alliance of anti-Spanish nations culminating in the Armada of 1588. Next, through the Wars of religion Protestant England was happy to ally with anyone including Catholic powers keeping Spain down. France was (believe it or not, after strings of stunning miliary victories) next up in an attempt to become the dominant power in Europe, first under the Bourbon monarchy and later under Bonaparte. Comprehensive British victories at Trafalgar in 1805 and Waterloo (with a little help from ze Prussians) in 1815 put pay to Napoleon's ambitions in that regard. The Russians made an abortive bid but were seen off by a Anglo-French alliance in the Crimea and turned their imperial ambitions east. A long peace saw the Rise of Germany, and the brokering of an Entente Cordiale between France and the UK should Germany get uppity and start throwing its weight around. They took some stopping, and the help of the Americans but Germany was prevented from getting a massive European empire.
And now Angela Merkel is belying her Hausfrau appearance and threatening war.
1914-1918 and 1939-1945 were the same war, with a bit of time to let Fritz regroup. The hun may have been utterly defeated, but they have never abandoned the dream of European empire which has burned in the Teutonic heart since the unification of Germany under the Hohenzollerns in 1871. The hush-puppy may have replaced the jackboot but the Boche are still marching in step.
The European project has operated at the behest of and for the benefit of the Germans. As a result, interest rates were far too low on the European periphery for most of the long boom leading to the catastrophic asset price-bubbles which have now turned to bust. The Euro was weaker than the Deutsche-Mark, benefiting Germany's exporters leading to the illusion of German thrift - their workers aren't particularly competitive, they just rigged the system to make it appear so. Greek bankruptcy is only partially a moral failing. Some of the blame lies at the door of the Bundestag.
Germany now needs to but dip its hands in the pocket and the Eurozone, those foolish countries that thought abandoning their currency would allow them to remain independent of Germany will be theirs. This is cheaper than war. C'mon Fritz; you broke it, you bought it.
Britain for her part should be true to her half-millennium of consistent European policy. We should lead the non-Euro nations of the EU in continued resistance to the onward march of German Kultur that the Greeks are about to experience. Again. This means that we should continue to operate within the EU, to frustrate the Franco-German axis, with help from Scandinavia, Poland and the rest of the non-Euro nations. This too is cheaper than war.
Were there a referendum on British membership of the European Union, my heart would vote to withdraw. But my head is more equivocal. The appalling mass-murder occasioned by the CAP needs nations with a weight equivalent to Germany and France, committed to free trade to argue against it in the Councils of Europe. Britain's influence in Europe saw off the Spanish Empire, Napoleon, The Kaiser and Hitler. Herman Van Rumpy Pumpy and Cathy "face like a melted waxwork of the Princess Royal" Ashton leading a bunch of grey bureaucrats just shouldn't offer the same resistance as the Waffen SS or Napoleon's Cuirassiers.
Remember, when the French and Germans are left to decide Europe's fate, the result is a pile of corpses. We should stay in the EU, not for our sake, but for Europe's.
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Twice a year the clocks change. We're robbed of an hour in bed in spring and get it back in Autumn to no end as far as I can see. And every year, we have to deal with the pointless debate that we should either have British Summer Time all year round (stupid) or worse, co-ordinate our clocks with Europe.
This probably matters little in Torquay. But Shetland, 700 miles & 10 degrees of latitude farther north, in the winter only gets 6 hours of daylight. BST would see first light on December 29th (the Latest sunrise - a few days after the winter solstice) until 10:10am and see last light at 15:56 on the 19th December (the earliest sunset is a few days before the solstice). GMT, UK winter time sees an earlier dawn around 9am in winter and an earlier sunset at around 3pm, which feels more natural.
The argument in favour of abandoning daylight saving usually suggest BST all year round - GMT+1 giving lighter evenings in the winter. Well even where I live, just north of London, in the winter first light is 8am (9am BST, 10am if we co-ordinated with Europe) and last light is 4pm (5pm BST, or 6pm European time). Both commutes would be in darkness under whichever clock. On balance, I think (as most people who get up early) I would prefer earlier mornings for longer. There is some evidence (most of it dated) that lighter evenings reduce accidents. But work patterns and social habits have changed since most of the research on the subject was done; and recent research suggests that the decrease in evening energy use barely exceeds the increase in morning use.
Either way, it's irrelevant. The time is (or should be) based on the natural phenomenon of the solar cycle. Noon is the point at which the sun is highest in the sky. The idea that we are slaves to a machine, the clock, rather than the natural environment I find faintly disturbing. If workers want to get up long before dawn, to enjoy a lighter evening, people are free to set their day accordingly. Some people, for whom I have nothing but contempt, think it reasonable to start their working day at the slovenly and frankly disreputable time of 9am. I've heard some idle, slothful people start at 10am, though the only one I've actually met "worked" in advertising. Quite what such "people" want to do with the extra hours in bed, apart from extravagant masturbation, is beyond me.
Instead of a top-down imposition of a working day which suits some, allow people & businesses to set their working hours according to their individual needs. Leave the clock to be set by the natural phenomena, and let people, not Government decide their hours. We aren't at war and the Government shouldn't be telling me or anyone else what time to get up.
GMT all year round - the libertarian choice. BST (or worse CET): a monstrous instrument of tyranny.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Guest post By LB Mara.
"The Dawn Herald" is available on Kindle! At last! After five years of writing, rewriting, hair-tearing, nailbiting, absurd hope and crushing disappointment, "The Dawn Herald" is finished. Five years of carefully crafting submission letters and blurbs; formatting text, cold-calling, networking, hoping and praying. Five years of 'it's not for us, though it's very well written' and my favourite *ever* response to a pitch that took six hours to write: 'no thanks'. Five years of not having my work read; of having it returned crumpled and coffee-stained, ripped by too-tight rubber bands, of drawers full of rejection slips. Five years of near-hope as I have the book accepted, only to discover that the publishing house is an out-and-out scam; five years of 'waiting for my life to start' (a sentiment shared by writers and enneagram lovers, particularly Number 4s). And five years of rejecting the self-publishing option due to the all-pervasive snobbery surrounding it: if you 'do it yourself', you're not quite good enough/pandering to your own vanity/doomed to literary failure/won't be taken seriously. I've come to view the last sentiments as absolute rubbish.
The traditional publishing model is dying. Going the same way as vinyl and 8 tracks. Bookshops are becoming coffee shops lined with books. Digital media isn't the way forward: it's the status quo. While there will always be a place for the tangible book as opposed to its virtual cousin - the sumptuous coffee-table art book, the delectable cookbook, the weighty law tome, the lavishly illustrated children's book - people are becoming accustomed to carrying their literature with them in the form of bytes rather than print. It means that you can read what you like, when you like, without a literary snob squinting at the spine of the book you're reading and raising a derisive eyebrow. Accountants can read Harry Potter on the Tube; High Court judges can dive into the murky world of chick lit and Aga Sagas without being rumbled. Digital media is a great leveller, entirely democratic. It's available to all. Everyone can educate or entertain themselves wherever they happen to be for a few pounds. Access to literature is not a closed shop any more (excuse the pun). And today's writers are finding it equally freeing.
The typical publishing model means that a writer is tied into a contract for x-number of years with a whole host of caveats concerning what they can and can't do with their own work. They may have unknowingly sold the rights to their story in a particular format, which means they can't reissue their work in a different format, have it illustrated independently, or distribute it as they wish. If they're not careful, their characters may end up in cereal packets or as a Ready Meal toy or, in a case that incensed book lovers and nostalgia hounds the world round, Paddington Bear in an advertising campaign for Marmite. They have to fork over a hefty 70% of their royalties to the publishing house; advances are drying up; and there's no guarantee that their book won't be edited until it's unrecognisable, marketed in a way they find inappropriate, or illustrated in a way they hate.
Publishing to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple et al turns the publishing model on its head. You keep 70% of the profit. You choose your own artwork - I've used the best illustrators out there: Andy English, who is creating three exquisite woodcuts (one for each part of the novel) and Abi Daker who has produced a delicious map and a series of watercolours to illustrate the whole.You can amend your book whenever you wish, market it freely, and control what happens to it. So, although self-publishing is in one sense an absolute leap in the dark - I feel rather like a mother sending her child off on the first day of school and hoping said child doesn't get kicked or dumped in the litter bin. What if no-one likes it? - it's an awful lot more freeing. I know that I am the creator of my own success; the amount of effort I put into marketing The Dawn Herald will be commensurate with the number of people aware of it. Isn't it a hundred times more satisfying to know that you have earnt the proceeds of your hard labour? As Dale Carnegie said: 'The harder I work, the luckier I get.'
Monday, 24 October 2011
It's difficult to make predicitons, especially about the future. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to put Today's Parliamentary vote on whether or not to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, in context.
So... the vote: The Liberal Democrats, the only party to have a manifesto commitment to an in-out referendum, will vote against an in-out referendum. The Government will impose a 3-line whip on MPs, and there will be a significant Tory rebellion - but less than the predictions of the BBC who reckon 75 MPs will rebel, including some junior ministers. The actual rebellion will probably be more like 25 and NOT involve a resignation, the importance of which will therefore be played plausibly down by the Government.
As a result of this, UKIPers and the more Foam-flecked Tories will use the phrase "cast iron Dave" a lot. Ed Miliband's Labour, given an opportunity to rip the coalition asunder by smashing his MPs through IN FAVOUR of a referendum, won't; mainly because he lacks the gumption and cojones to do so, and without Labour, there is no hope of an 'Aye' vote. Liberal Democrats will please Nobody with their actions, again.
MPs will overwhelmingly NOT vote for a referendum on the EU, but the media will still try to revive the "greatest hits of the 90s" with a re-release of the Tory Splits on Europe story. Tedious Eurobores will write screeds about a missed opportunity and about how "cast Iron" Dave is going native and is really a Europhile in disguise, and how the Tory party isn't really Tory, but a wet amalgam of social-democracy who aren't going to change anything. But they do that anyway.
And as a Eurosceptic myself, I don't really care.
The Eurozone is marching off into the distance. In order to get through the crisis in which they find themselves (mainly as serious as it is because they didn't recapitalise their banks when they needed to - the UK did) they will need more (a lot more) fiscal union. The Greeks, in return for their bail-out will submit to the complete economic Government of the EU, as eventually will Italy, Spain, Portugal. Ireland seems to be making headway towards reducing its deficit and may get out with continued effort, chastened, but still won't be able to remain independent. Low corporation tax - that will go, for example. The Eurozone will forge on with "ever closer union". The rest, will see that perhaps the compromises necessary to get into the Euro aren't worth the benefits and will resist "ever closer union", with the UK in the lead of this group.
This leaves the Eurosceptic with a dilemma. Obviously not the kind of frothing ranter who desires a fight with "Europe" for its own sake, but the kind of Eurosceptic who accepts there is some good from the EU, and would rather like to keep things, like the free movement of people or the single market, while avoiding the cost of paying for French farmers to enjoy la vie rustique and somehow sidestepping the shit-storm of regulation from Brussels.
Thanks to the Eurozone crisis, this Europe-light may be on the cards for the Non-Eurozone countries. In any case, I am not persuaded that the middle of the existential crisis is the time to do anything about it. There are short-term costs to withdrawing from the EU. These may be outweighed by benefits later, but when we are running a 10% deficit, now is not the time to take risks. Now is the time to get the UK's budget balanced, start getting state spending down and deal with the legacy of 13 years of Labour, then, if necessary have a fight with Europe when both economies are recovering.
That said, I struggle to see why Cameron is putting a 3-line whip on when he could let his MPs vote as they wished, but get the result he wants without a fight thanks to the other parties. I suspect a fight with Europe is only really possible with a Tory majority government. Eurosceptics should wait. The intelligent ones on the Tory benches probably will. I predict the rebellion will be a damp squib of 25 or so plus some of Labour's MPs. The Government will therefore be able to ignore it. Any more than 75 Tory rebels, and the Government has problems.
Let's see what happens.
If you use the phrase "cast-iron Dave" or variants thereof, your comment will be deleted. It's not consistent or fair, but my blog, my rules.
According to the press, President Sarkozy has been crying more than his new born over Britain having a say in the EU bailout plan. Now this could be leaked to prop up Cameron over the latest Referendum vote – showing him as stronger than he is in order to fend off his back benchers. Fully agreed with his fellow European politicians who don’t want to deal with Britain buggering off on top of all their problems.
Alternatively it could actually be true. And a hissy fit on this scale portends a greater threat. The Vichy can be prickly at the best of times – Viz Sarkozy’s G20 gloating about “Les Anglo Saxons”. But to loose it in this way suggests he’s seen the real state of the French Banks balance sheets and is desperate. Their exposure to Greek debt is bad enough, but un grande hissy fit on this scale portends to even worse news round the corner. Their short term borrowing requirements are around 1.6Tn Euros. If you own shares in Soc Gen, Credit Agricole or BNP Paribas now may be a good time to cut your losses, ditto if you own French insurers.
Thursday, 20 October 2011
“The Greek civil war, and the bloody score-settling that followed, is a living memory for many Greeks. Any consideration of Greek nepotism or clientelism needs to be seen in that light”.
1/2 the Population are basically Extreme Lefties who fought to create a Commy utopia in the Greek Civil War. None of this 50% pay any tax and have state created non jobs in the public sector, are on welfare or benefit from the generational pensions the government has dished out like Nigerians dish out 419 Emails. Seriously, in Greece as a sibling you can collect the pension for somebody who is dead but worked for the government. Their idea of political discourse involves a glass bottle, a piece of rag and some petrol if they’re feeling generous, November 17th if they’re not. These civil servants jobs for life are, and are, to quote the economist “not a cultural quirk, in which Greek officials simply like coffee and backgammon too much to do any work. It is the end result of a brutal, multi-decade power struggle between the left and the right: a struggle that got people killed within living memory”. These pointless public sector jobs were created to give ½ the population that lost the Civil war and who support the PASOK (Greek Socialist Party) a way of integrating into the general economy and live middle class lives.
Obviously – and despite the Public Sector saying otherwise – these jobs are non-contributory to the economy in anything except a non definable way (e.g. Getting Cabin Boy 2nd Class Popodopolopolis back to work on his Oil Tanker after indulging in too much Ouzo by pumping his stomach out and providing a state bus to take him back to Port). The Public Sector doesn’t pay tax – it recycles tax taken from the private sector (again a concept that is actually Alien to the average Public Sector worker) so has a finite ability to be supported by the Private sector who have the ability to generate wealth. Naturally the Bubbles couldn’t afford to pay 50% of its own population to do feck all, even if the wages aren’t that great, so it joined the Euro where it could borrow all the money it needed to buy off its war losers at Bundesbank 0.37% rather than Greek Drachma 9-10%.
Now they couldn’t just go ahead and borrow money at 0.37% - they were paying 10% for a bloody good reason, as anybody who has seen the amount of zeros on an old Drachma Bubble bank note will attest. But the “Ve are all forward progressive Europeans together Ja?” crowd wanted the Greeks in so they could “rid Europe from the scourge of war” and claim a trip to their Holiday Villa under European Parliament expenses. So they did what the good folks at Enron and those packaging CDO’s did – they went off balance sheet. Not unique, Gordon Brown did it over here, but the scale of the maskirovka required real experts – so they shipped in Goldman Sachs to show them how to do it. Job Jobbed they fiddled the figures and entered the Euro in a way that made Bernie Madoff look like a rank amateur. Unfortunately you can’t defy Financial Gravity forever, although EU politicians are trying to do just that with endless and ever increasing bail outs.
The other half of the population are Extreme Rightists who supported the Colonels regime in the 1970’s and who – although winners in the Civil War were made to pay to secure the peace of the losers of said war. Their idea of political discourse would be a tap dance on a Trades Unionist set of testicles followed by exile to whatever barren windswept island doesn’t have drugged up European nightclubs on it. These people all have jobs in the private sector and can be divided in two – 25% of the Middle Classes who pay taxes and 25% who are rich enough to have offshore accounts and who pay no tax (nor to be fair use any Greek public services other than Roads and Air Traffic control that makes sure they don’t stick the nose of their Lear Jet into a hangar door). Greece isn’t going to persuade the Offshore 25% to bring their money back – just isn’t going to happen; forget about it. And furthermore Greece lack the international clout to force the countries where the 25% have their bank accounts to do so. After all they know where the money ends up – in the pockets of a Public Sector employee who doesn’t turn up for work because his job is so useless they don’t have a seat or a desk for him. So that leaves the poor 25% permanently fucked paying for jobs like a 50,000 Euro per year Public Sector Water Pourer for the Prime Minister and 779,999 of his ilk.
So what needs to happen? Because as the Spectator's graph shows, right now it isn't looking good. Well right now Greece’s GDP Per Capita is $30,400. This is not because the Greeks are $30k efficient, but down to subsidies and biblical levels of borrowing. Bulgaria’s GDP Per Capita is $14,000, Macedonia is $10,700. Basically they need a minimum 18% drop to match Portugal’s GDP per Capita or a 40% drop in standards of living to compete with its regional neighbours. It’s been done before Argentina did it. But it hurts like fuck and Argentina had the “advantage” that it had thrown their home grown Communists out of C-130’s over the Antarctic Ocean 20 years before, instead of letting them grow up to be the head of the local Trades Union branch or MP for Nikos Kazantzakis South.
There are a number of people, possibly even a majority of readers whose position is that Tory Euroscepticism is an Oxymoron, as the Tories are not promising immediate British withdrawal from the EU project. These people should indeed vote UKIP, and accept the consequences for the UK of more frequent Labour governments. Enjoy paying that lovely tax, UKIPERS, you voted for it.
If you believe the British relationship with Europe to be the sine qua non of political issues right now: an issue so pressing that, despite the labyrinthine complexity of disentangling the UK from the EU, it needs to be dealt with during the biggest financial crisis in nearly a century, while British forces are engaged in two (OK, one and a half) hot wars, then by all means flounce off to UKIP. The Tory party is better off without monomaniacs.
If you believe that leaving the EU would be without cost, or being in the EU is without benefit, then you're quite mad. So off you go to UKIP, where you will be welcome. The fact is, I, like most Conservatives would vote for substantial renegotiation and repatriation of powers, or for withdrawal, were a referendum granted. It won't be, not in this parliament for a great many good reasons. Clearing up the Augean stables after Labour's 13-year economic scat-party is the first priority. Education & NHS reforms are probably second.
I like most of the country, don't put British membership of the European union that high on my list of priorities, either way. The main reason for opposing an EU referendum NOW! is that Britain would (yes, it would) vote to stay in, ending the issue, probably for my life-time. Let Europe tear itself apart over the costs of monetary union, THEN secure a vote we Eurosceptics might win. I am a Eurosceptic, but I can wait.
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
I'm no left footer so don’t hold a torch for the Catholic Church; but this baby stealing in Spain is no different as mentioned to the actions of other Governments. It just happens that - like Ireland - the Government in essence was the Catholic Church. The Argies who didn’t have a Theocratic government did the same with the kids of their Political Prisoners, we shipped the sire of our underclass off to Australia to populate the colonies with the idea that making sure that the nation’s inferior genes crippled the Wallaby Scrum in perpetuity. The Swedes practiced Eugenics till 1975, Singapore till the early 1980's. Now I don't take Pope Pourri very seriously, but the Catholic Church's actions were no different at the time to Political Actions in other countries - including "right on" Socialists in Sweden et all. Actually at least the Catholic Church didn't kill the poor kids - unlike those the Socialists considered not part of the plan.
If anything the belief of the munificence of the state, and over reliance on it for an ever expanding list of "Rights" has made this more likely to happen in the future. Instead of critiquing the Catholic Church, we should critique the power of the state and its ability to steal children on Political grounds. There’s no way any state organ should be able to seize a child from its parents unless the parent is a drug addict or would abuse the child physically or sexually.
And as for the Catholic Church, I reckon that like X rated Video stores, they should have warning signs telling under 18’s that entry to this Church is against town Bylaws – like not being allowed to ride a Donkey through the Municipal Swimming Pool or being against the law to shoot any game other than Whales from a moving automobile. And another reason why I don’t take the Catholic Church too seriously is…to quote Denis Leary "I can't bring up my kids in a church whose authority system is entirely based on the size of fucking hats, okay? That's apparently how the Catholic church is run. The bigger the hat, the more important the guy, right? Priests have no hats, cardinals have those little red beanies, the pope has a collection of big hats...God must have a huge fucking sombrero up there in heaven! "Look at me, I'm GOD! Look at the size of my hat, who else would I be?" I don't know, lead singer of Los Lobos"?
Monday, 10 October 2011
Well, I reckon pretty much everybody saw it coming. It wasn’t pretty but there’s no disgrace to loose to the Vichy on the Rugby field every once in a while. France play brilliantly one day and shite the next, they played very well and England came up short again as they have done in every game this world cup. If you look at the stats then the Coach is only a percentage point or two from Brian Ashton in terms of percentage won; so I reckon he has to go. He’s had 3 years, and whilst England have looked OK in the 6 nations, and got the odd Southern Hemisphere scalp last year a 56% win rate just isn’t good enough with the embarrassment of riches England Rugby has. If the players were shite I wouldn’t be worried – you get peaks and troughs; but the England Rugby team hasn’t been playing to its potential.
To be fair its not only Martin Johnson’s fault. His attacking and scrimmaging coaches don’t seem to be doing their stuff. I’m sure Chris Aston – previous top scorer – wasn’t scoring them by accident. But a lot of this is down to his talent if you see him play for Northampton. Mike Tindall is too old this World Cup and the game has changed and I am staggered they went with him. And Nick Easter is excellent for unbeaten this season Harlequins but played poorly for England. So basically you have a bunch of coaches that aren’t allowing some players to play well, others that shine despite of rather than because of the system and some guys who are there through misguided loyalty. Time to bring in somebody like Jake White. I respect the hell out of Martin Johnson as a player but we need a new broom.
And on to the players. As I heard John Mcenroe say, he always gave it his all because he knew that the life of a professional sportsman was a good life; and his thoughts were with his fans on not very much money who paid to watch him. He felt he always owed them a good performance. This England team quite clearly didn’t give a flying fuck about this World Cup, so I’m almost glad they lost. Its not the 1970’s and you’re not Old Buggerhams 3rd XV Seniors team on a tour to Hamburg – squeezing in a couple of games against the German Police and what’s left of the BAOR in between Boots and trips to the Reeperbahn. You are England’s national team. Save the Dwarf tossing to the off season. If you’re going to be a bunch of dicks, at least be good dicks. David Campese for example – weapons grade Throbbing Bell End but superb at Rugby. Of course its better if you’re like Fitzpatrick, Pienaar, Johnson and Eales - great players and not cunts.
Anyhow, I guess I’ll have to pick another side to support. I’ll go with the Welsh although I don’t thing they have got the talent they’re the Home Nation team still in it. I can’t go for the Kiwis because they are a bunch of Selfish bastards who don’t care about world Rugby – and the World Cup competition they have held has been crap too. The Breadstealers are the same but I like the place and when they’re not talking about sport the Aussies can be very pleasant, and the French I won’t support on religious grounds. They are the enemies of our Blood. So here’s to an Aus V Wales final.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
In China the Growth is coming from deploying the enormous pool of cheap labour. If you're taking a peasant off the land, his productivity barely matters, it will still be an improvement. In the West, we don't have that vast pool of Labour, though perhaps redesigning our welfare states to make it a little less easy to claim benefits for life and a little less taxing to choose low-paid work might help.
This is why China and India can grow at 8-10% a year by deploying already developed techniques and technology to billions of people still currently using the ox-plough, which was cutting edge technology in Europe 700 years ago. In general, as Britain, Europe, North America, Much of the Pacific Rim are on the 'Technological frontier' there is no off-the-self technology to deploy to generate growth. We must instead do things ever better in order to generate productivity growth. Starting with spinning and weaving, leading to the Industrial revolution, doing things slightly more efficiently was an incremental process. There have been several technologies to change the world since then: the Steam engine for the first time freed productive energy from animal muscle (and in a few aplications, the water-wheel & windmill). Later the Internal combustion engine gave personal mobility to the masses. Air travel shrunk the world. The internet gave everyone the equivalent of British Library on their desks and later in their pocket.
I think we're on the cusp of another revolution in productivity. The driverless car. AutoNOMOS labs have trialled their car, 'Made in Germany', a VW Passat, on the public streets of Berlin. Google have also driven their driverless vehicle, a Prius round the streets of Nevada and California for hundreds of thousands of miles. This has been involved in just one accident, but it was being driven manually at the time. If you're looking long term, all those delivery drivers, taxi drivers and chauffeurs will lose their jobs to machines. Their Labour can then go and be used elsewhere, making society as a whole richer. But it's more than professional drivers. It's the commuter too. Imagine you can read, make phone calls or sleep while getting somewhere. With the UKs average commute at 45 minutes each way that's a lot of time freed up from doing a mentally taxing, boring, stressful and downright dangerous manual task. A machine WILL do it better, freeing you for work or leisure whilst travelling.
It is safe to assume that the driverless car will be safer than, say, an Italian or Frenchman driving at 80mph while texting his many mistresses. So there well be fewer road deaths, even in the UK where the standard of driving is reasonably high. There will be fewer accidents, meaning insurance will be cheaper, freeing that money up to be spent elsewhere. Fewer accidents means fewer people employed in the car insurance industry. The flow of traffic on arterial roads will become more laminar as fewer motorists over brake, change lanes and otherwise cause the stop-start traffic symptomatic of congestion. This will reduce stress, and reduce journey-times. The road's carrying capacity will be improved at a stroke meaning road maintenance & building gets more from existing infrastructure. It is likely that cars on motorways could safely drive bumper-to-bumper, saving enormously on fuel on long journeys further increasing capacity. Self-driving cars could drop you off in the town centre, park, then return when needed, freeing city centre land from car-parks to more productive or aesthetically pleasing uses and hopefully re-invigorating town centres.
But it's more than just better use of roads. Perhaps driverless cars will mean fewer people will bother owning one, freeing garage space for other uses. Instead perhaps fleets of cars will circulate before being summonsed by a phone call. Freed from the need to own and insure a car, people instead pay for journeys used. Each car is in use for a greater part of the day so capital currently employed sitting on drives and office car-parks for the vast majority of its useful life will be sweated more efficiently. Thus technological improvements lead to economic growth.
But in this case, it's more than economic growth. Commuting is an hour of a half of concentrated stress and misery for many people. A long commute is up there with divorce and bereavement for making people miserable. A short one is second only to a successful marriage in correlation with self-declared happiness, and way above riches. If cars can park themselves there will be fewer cars in a town centre at any one time, meaning towns can finally be built around people, not machines once more. Can the driverless car make us happier?
It will certainly represent a huge boon to those currently unable to drive. The old, epileptics, the Blind and those just simply incapable of driving (the French, for example). Or Maureen, who will finally be able to enjoy the freedom of door-to-door travel.
And as for the rest of us. Freed from the controls, we could relax, let our minds wander, read and arrive wherever it is we want to go, refreshed. If you're not driving you can travel without getting angsty that someone has slowed you down for 30 seconds. With no-one DRIVING their Audis or BMWs there will be fewer wankers (Cause or effect? I believe that these cars CAUSE people to become utter dicks while behind the wheel). I cannot see a single negative effect of this overdue technological development. Please don't tell me you ENJOY day-to-day driving? If you're a petrol-head, go to a race-track, where driving is as it should be -fun. There are plenty about.
You can think through other examples: an invention, an innovation, an improvement to an existing process, a time-saving device. Think of the knock on benefits in time or other resources saved, which can be used elsewhere. That is how our economy is going to grow. The current financial crisis is noise. The signal is the result of hundreds of years of freedom to come up with and develop ideas. And that has not stopped, nor will it, so long as we retain a capitalist, free-market economy and intellectual freedom which allows, celebrates and rewards those whose ideas make our lives a little better.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Lazy Viking Bastards. They sit around deciding whether they should give a Nobel prize for this and that when true Genius is staring at them like the moose 2 seconds before it crashes through their Volvo windscreen. Since these people are so fundamentally unaware of perspicacity let me point them in the right direction... http://hotstewardess.com/
Hot Stewardesses .Com Its like twinning Nazis and Zombies like they did in the film Dead Snow. It seems so blatantly obvious in hindsight, yet it takes laser like insight and ingenuity to develop the concept. Bravo Sir
I suspect the Air Iran outfits have changed a bit.
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
I don't usually comment on Murder trials but I will over this one. I suspect the Italians fucked up parts of their Police work, I also believe Amanda Knox with her "Better looking that your average Meth Head murderer" physical features actually made her defence first time a bit harder. But in the case of the poor Ms Kercher I also suspect her family won’t be searching for somebody else to prosecute. Forbes say “She will spend the rest of her life facing down rumours of her guilt and a tarnished reputation”. No she won't, she'll be a well paid media personality who will tell harrowing stories of her struggle against keeping the weight off due to the Prison Pasta- I'll bet Oprah has already cut her a downpayment cheque. So she’s a bit like OJ then. Maybe she can get some hints and tips from him.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
This morning, feebly groping for good news after a disastrous conference, Leicester MP Liz Kendall pointed to some You Gov data from June, which suggested that Labour enjoy a 19% lead on "party closest to women's voters & understands their views". This is the desperate data-mining which is common currency on the left, so I called both her and Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, who retweeted, on it.
is that the sound of a barrel being scraped? How far behind are Labour on the economy? How's Ed doing?They both responded. Chris Williamson MP
of course, Labour didn't then nor now have "a 19% lead amongst women". Their lead was smaller than it was for men, a FACT an MP like Williamson will have known. Liz Kendal too made the same, stupid, incorrect point.
@VeryBritishDude claims @leicesterliz & I are scraping the barrel for pointing out Labour has 13 point poll lead over Tories amongst women
First this is old data, and it's an occasional question. However EVEN AT THE TIME, the labour lead amongst women was SMALLER than it was amongst men. So the claim that the Tories, and by extension, me are not concerned by women's issues is ridiculous. Of course, Labour, the party of identity politics is going to have a lead amongst the kind of people for whom women's issues (which Labour probably think mean abortion and childcare, issues on which I'm probably closer to Labour than the Tories). However the Tories undeniably enjoy a stronger position amongst women than men, at the time, and now. So by women's OWN responses, the Tories better answer Women's concerns then they do for men.
@VeryBritishDude views & concerns of 50% of electorate 'scraping barrel'? Enough said...
This kind of 'pick a leading question which gives a Labour lead, extrapolate wildly and then suggest the Tories are anti this issue' is common on the left. Indeed Posts headlined 'polls suggest voters reject Tory cuts on ...." accounts for about half the posts on Liberal Conspiracy. Such "analysis" is fine when a hack like Sunny Hundal indulges himself in it. however this is a flagrant abuse of statistics, or to put it another way, lying.
I expect better from my elected representatives, even Labour ones, and wouldn't mind an apology from Mr Williamson and Ms Kendall, for suggesting that I'm sexist or Anti-women for suggesting that people, women included, think 'the economy' and the performance of a potential PM (which, unfortunately for Labour, Ed Miliband currently is) to be a more important a question right now than 'women's issues', about which YouGov can't even be bothered to ask regularly.
So. Which is it Chris & Liz, Lying or Ignorant?
Saturday, 1 October 2011
If you want one paragraph to sum up the unprincipled evil of Labour, This one on Labour-Uncut by Dan Hodges
"You begin by deciding where you want to position yourself politically. You then develop a policy framework to support that positioning. And finally you construct a philosophical and intellectual narrative to define your programme as you sell it to the electorate"... is it.
Friday, 30 September 2011
Right now, the EuroSceptics across Europe are enjoying a moral ascendancy. Peter Oborne was able to openly ridicule a Eurocrat on Newsnight to the extent that Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio stormed off, with Oborne receiving barely a ticking off from Paxman. The Germans are close to refusing to pay the bills, the Italians are reliant on the ECB for solvency and Ireland, Portugal and especially Greece have seen their economies destroyed by an inappropriate currency union. From his Spectator essay last week
Very rarely in political history has any faction or movement enjoyed such a complete and crushing victory as the Conservative Eurosceptics. The field is theirs. They were not merely right about the single currency, the greatest economic issue of our age — they were right for the right reasons. They foresaw with lucid, prophetic accuracy exactly how and why the euro would bring with it financial devastation and social collapseThis credibility was hard-won. The BBC, The FT, the CBI and even the Tory party were all infiltrated by extreme Euro-fanatics who painted those sceptical of the project as a Lunatic fringe. Fortunately, the Fleet-street Newspapers knew which way the British public felt. By the skin of our teeth, the UK was kept out of the Euro. For the UK the price was the credibility of the Tory party and 13 years of Labour idiocy. All reasonable people, even the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and at least one of their former leaders who argued strenuously for Britain to ditch the pound, are now on record as saying the Euro will not be suitable "for the foreseeable future". The sceptics have been utterly vindicated.
It would be unwise to dent this credibility by suggesting things as "inevitable" such as Greek withdrawal or a currency collapse, which aren't. The ECB, in common with other money-issuing central banks, can in final analysis, print enough money to meet any and all liabilities. The Eurozone as a whole is in considerably better fiscal shape than the USA or Japan. The UK despite the advantages of a long maturity debt profile is STILL running a 10% deficit, and is catching up fast with Germany & France's debt as a percentage of GDP. The question of whether the Eurozone stays together is ultimately one of political will. And there seems no chink in the Armour of the European political class's will to defy their people, people whom it should be remembered are not yet voting en mass for deeply Euro sceptic parties. Euro sceptics must remember that most people really don't think "Europe" a big issue. Not big enough to change their vote. Until they think it is, they will tend to vote for the Status Quo, or allow themselves to be led by the political class on an esoteric issue of which they have little understanding.
This is why I believe the Euro will survive this crisis, intact. Enough money will be printed to keep all the nations together, only Greece and then possibly Portugal & Ireland will default. Financial crises come around once every 10 years or so. The next one will probably not affect the EU, so at a guess, the Eurozone will not face another significant challenge for a couple of decades. In the mean-time, the growth-denying aspects of the way the Eurozone is structured will fuel Euro sceptic parties across the EU, who will have received a boost from this crisis. The next crisis may find traction in a more skeptical political class. Or it may not.
Rather than indulging in wishful thinking, by saying "the end of the EU is nigh", we have to CONTINUE to make the arguments. Events are not yet going to do it for us. The end of the disaster for economic growth and democracy that is the European Union is unfortunately some way off. We cannot pat ourselves on the back just yet.