All posts by John B

That dollar collapse

Excellent-but-unreadable economist Willem Buiter pretty much agrees with me on the inevitable collapse of the dollar – although his timeframe is 2-5 years rather than my best guess of six months to 2 years. This will see the $/£ exchange rate going back to somewhere around 1.65.

The interesting bit will be whether the changing $ value will create a perception of rising energy and commodity prices, or whether everyone will be sensible enough this time round to realise that it’s largely a mirage. The evidence from last time isn’t entirely heartening…

Very brief train post

I try and avoid these, because they’re insanely geektastic.

Nonetheless: a bunch of whining has gone on lately about failures on the trains, in the coldest and iciest week of the last 15 years. For most of today, the M1 was closed, for almost exactly the same reasons. Anyone who slates the former and not the latter is an ignorant moron.

Things break in this country [= England + lowland Scotland] when it’s terrifyingly cold, because it’s very seldom terrifyingly cold, so it’d be stupid to build them to deal with terrifying cold. These things include cars, trains, school boilers, and generally everything non-life-critical.

We can’t defeat the weather, no matter how hard we try. So chill out (haha), and if you live somewhere insanely remote then light a fire, climb into a warm bed, and deal with the fact that you can’t get into the office by car nor train (oh no! disaster! surely you’ll die!)

Update: Andrew Gilligan, the unthinking man’s ignorant moron, thoroughly jumps on the bandwagon.

Anyone who proposes a worse policy wins a prize

OK, so we appear to be in the early stages of a major recession, which may well go on for years. A whole load of people may well lose their jobs, pay rises will be a thing of the past for people who keep them, and overall incomes from working will fall substantially.

Meanwhile, inflation has fallen to pretty much nothing. Falling fuel and food prices are among the main drivers of the fall in inflation. Imported consumer goods, of the sort that kept inflation low during the boom, have risen in price due to the pound’s devaluation.

So let’s think about the people who’re left worst-off by this. Are they:
1) people living on fixed incomes (ie pensions or savings), who’re seeing their living standards remain pretty much flat, who have no chance of a catastrophic decline in incomes, and who spend disproportionately on heating;
2) people not living on fixed incomes, who’re seeing their living standards fall, who’re at risk of losing their jobs, and who’re much more likely to spend on imports, but who have relatively large savings to cushion the blow if anything bad happens;
3) people not living on fixed incomes, who’re seeing their living standards fall, who’re at risk of losing their jobs, and who’re much more likely to spend on imports, but who have debts to service that will utterly crucify them if bad things happen?

The answer, fairly obviously, is group 3. People with decent net savings are just fine: if they never had jobs, they’re insulated from anything bad happening anyway; if they have jobs now, then they can afford the time taken to find a new job if they lose the current one.

So the new Conservative party policy of punishing people in group 3 to reward people in group 1 [*] can only be viewed in two ways: either breathtaking, witless stupidity, or the intergenerational equivalent of class warfare, deliberately screwing over economically productive people even more than the recession will do anyway to give money to the elderly, who the recession won’t have any impact on. [***]

[*] in group 2, where I’m lucky enough to sit, we’ll gain slightly on the tax breaks but lose out from the spending cuts [**].

[**] To “they’ll be funded by cutting waste not productive spending”-ists, that’s not the point. If you’ve got a plan to cut waste, great – but you still need to explain why the benefits from that plan should accrue to people who’re doing fine, rather than something sensible like a rise in the income tax allowance to benefit the working poor.

[***] Of course, the working poor are busy either working or drinking themselves into a stupor to forget their miserable lives, whilst pensioners spend their time talking to Edna in the post office about absolutely nothing, and therefore voting rates for the latter group are far higher than the former. This is another reason why democracy is A Bit Pants, Even If It’s Better Than The Alternatives.

Created in Birmingham

I just voted for West Midlands creative networking blog Created In Birmingham as the Best UK Blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards, and I’d urge you to do the same.

No, I don’t particularly care about the Brummie creative arts world (much as I love Napalm Death and Jasper Carrott…), but they’re the entrant with the single best chance of beating evil bigot and certifiable lunatic Melanie Phillips to the top spot. View it as a kind-of Rickrolling For Good…

Oh, and congrats to Nosemonkey for his nomination. Sometimes you have to let the good suffer to avoid the evil, or similar items of cod philosophy.

Epic political theory WIN

Andrew at LC on bloggertarians:

Libertarians almost all seem to believe that they have achieved everything in life entirely by themselves, having struggled against mighty odds and overwhelming enemies to become moderately successful computer programmers, despite the horrible disadvantages of being born white, English-speaking heterosexual males in middle-class families.

I admit this is slightly unfair: some bloggertarians are gay, and some are from upper-class families.

Alternative sources

When citing rest-stop graffitti:

1. List the name of the rest area (if it has a name) in italics.
2. Name the state in which it was located.
3. Name the highway it abuts (with direction headed).
4. List the nearest mile marker.
5. List the date the graffitti was observed.

Example: “Head you wouldn’t believe, call 555-3278.” [The Ida C. Collins Memorial Rest Area, Wisconsin; Interstate 94 South (Mile Marker 218): May 14, 1997.]

And many more
. Via.

Infinite fighting with websites, all the time

For someone who isn’t a professional webmonkey, I seem to be spending scary amounts of time both in my job and at home being forced to deal with ridiculous amounts of web-based nonsense.

Ho hum. With more wood-touching than a tree fetishist in the Black Forest, it looks like I’ve got everything, both work-wise and home-wise, more or less sorted for now. Yay.

On learning from your mistakes

The Metropolitan Police and the CPS, yesterday:

The Metropolitan Police have apologised to Colin Stagg, who was wrongly accused and jailed for the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates said “mistakes were made” and added: “It is clear that he is completely innocent.”
The Crown Prosecution Service has also written to Mr Stagg expressing regret the case was brought against him.

The Cleveland (UK) Police and the CPS, yesterday:

“We are not reopening the investigation into Kyle Fisher’s death and we are not issuing an apology.”
“I am entirely satisfied that the Crown Prosecution Service and the police were wholly right in bringing this case to court for a second time.”

Note to debt doomsayers

When someone buys a country’s government bond, the government needs to pay it back on a specific date. If the government refuses to do so, there will be a total collapse in international confidence in the debt of the country and of all its banks, companies and residents, a currency crisis, and generally a wide range of Very Bad Consequences.

When someone works for a country’s government and is told they’ll get a nice fat pension, the government can decide to not pay it. This will upset the person who works for the government quite a lot, and might be perceived as somewhat unfair. However, the consequences for the country’s ability to borrow, invest and trade in international markets are non-existent.

Therefore, anyone who counts public sector pensions as a liability faced by the UK government in the context of the current financial crisis (generally as a way of saying ‘ooh, we’re nearly as bad as Iceland’ – Nadeem Walayat, this means you) either doesn’t understand what they’re talking about, or is trying to mislead their audience into thinking things are much worse than they really are.