Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

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.”

‘None of the above’

Mark Wadsworth highlights a new political survey called Take The Quiz. Along the lines of the utterly pointless Political Compass, but slightly more worthwhile [*], it takes (paraphrases of) manifesto commitments and other policy statements from the major UK-wide [**] political parties, and asks you to pick the one you most like / least dislike on a given topic.

Oddly enough, I’ve turned out 63% Labour, despite opposing many if not most of their actions. I think this is primarily because the other parties are even more ridiculous on economic/tax issues, which were the ones I flagged as ‘most important’.

For example, on question 4, ‘what should we do about university fees’, Labour is the only party who’s answer isn’t about abolishing the eminently sensible principle of making people pay a small contribution towards the education that massively enriches them (whilst still retaining a large government subsidy for said education, more than reflecting its benefits to society). For Question 6, ‘how should Britain tax its workers?’, all the options are moronic:

1) Britain should phase out VAT and instead introduce eco-taxes.
2) We should replace council tax with a local income tax. This will be fairer and help pensioners.
3) Our tax system is the 2nd most complicated in the world. Introduce a simple flat tax system instead, which would take 4½ million people out of tax altogether. No tax on minimum wage.
4) We should cut council tax for pensioners and boost pension savings.
5) We should keep the current tax system as it makes public expenditure more affordable.

2 is the most stupid idea ever, and almost in itself stops me voting Lib Dem – at the moment, income is taxed too much and wealth too little; council tax (along with inheritance tax) is a very half-hearted but at least positive step to redress the balance. The core assertion in 3 is almost certainly a lie, and while simplifying taxes would be a good idea, a flat tax is a really quite grossly blatant piece of letting off the rich (equally, having a system of two or three marginal tax rates administered by PAYE that kick in at income thresholds would be no more complex than having one – in both cases, all you need to do is feed your total net pay into a computer and it can work it out. It’s the credits, exceptions, top-ups, and suchlike that cause the complexity). 4 is also stupid, given that the current generation of pensioners are the best-off generation of people ever to have lived (and most likely who ever will), as they were the ones lucky enough to live to an average age of 80 with a guaranteed pension system based on an average life expectancy of 65.

1 isn’t a terrible plan in theory, but it’d be impossible to implement (domestically you can raise the price of CO2 permits, but you can’t sanely assess the carbon footprint of every imported product without destroying trade). 5 is almost completely incoherent, and is presumably Labour policy, but manages to be the least ridiculous of the alternatives available.

The picture is similar across the other questions. Probably the stupidest options of all are for Question 16, ‘Should the age of retirement be increased?’:

* Yes – retiring at 65 isn’t sustainable. The retirement age should eventually rise to 70.
* No – 70 is too old to continue working in full time employment.
* People should have the choice whether or not to continue working if their health is good enough.

This is akin to a man with his hair on fire asking the question ‘should my hair be on fire?’ – perhaps in an ideal world it wouldn’t be, but it is, and there’s no real room for debate. A pensions system can only work when the age of pay-out is the median age of death. Raising the pensions age to 70 might help, but we’d also need to raise rates of smoking, alcoholism, obesity and dangerous sport among our seniors in order to get life expectancy back down to sustainable levels…

So yeah. If you wonder why people don’t vote, if you wonder why I laugh at anyone who suggest there’s innate value to democracy (I support representative democracy because it’s empirically less bad in the medium term than everything else we’ve tried, but the suggestion that it has any moral worth in itself is just bizarre), and most importantly if you wonder why some people still hold their noses and vote Labour despite its obvious ineptitude, corruption and nannyism, then this look at the reality of UK parties’ policies will both help and utterly depress you.

[*] the best ever such survey was conducted by the late Chris Lightfoot, who used empirical data to determine which attitudes are *actually* correlated among members of the public, rather than taking an undergraduate political philosophy framework and pretending that it correlates to real people’s real beliefs. He discovered that the Political Compass is, indeed, nonsense – the most important set of correlated beliefs are “we should hang ‘n’ flog people, politicians are crooked bastards, screw Europe, the poor and immigrants, and cut taxes” (and their opposites, obviously), mirroring stereotypical left-right splits completely. The only other set of correlations with any significance were “we should have free markets, less tax, be more like America, and invade Iraq” (this was in 2004), I guess reflecting the Economist vs Jacques Chirac…

[**] well, GB-wide.

Always follow the Herring Convention

Richard Herring has come up with an excellent solution to the problem of ‘person in your way, what to do?’, and backed it up with impeccable Science and Logic. In short – go left, and slate anyone who doesn’t, and all will be mathematically fine.

Now, if Mr Herring can also solve the issue of corrievorrie, he’ll be elected a god amongst men. Relatedly – blimey, you can get the entire Meaning of Liff online. This is the best thing ever (except for sellers of books to keep in one’s toilet, who’ll presumably lose out slightly. And John Lloyd, but I’m fairly sure his invention of QI is keeping him fairly sorted in the lavatorial book market…)