* Posts by I ain't Spartacus

4258 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

And on that bombshell: Top Gear's Clarkson to reappear on Amazon

I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Small potatoes?

I wouldn't imagine they've have signed up if Amazon weren't promising them a decent budget. After all, Wilman is the original producer, so knows exactly what he can do for what amounts of money.

For Amazon it's a big ticket item that might win them lots of susbscribers and viewers. And even at a few million an episode is still pretty cheap in terms of the the marketing money they'd have to spend for the amount of global headlines it'll get them.

And if the worst comes to the worst, they can just do what the BBC made loadsa money doing and sell the rights to various TV stations around the world.

One thing you can safely say about Amazon is that they're willing to invest/risk large chunks of money on something that they don't expect to make them money for several years.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: non-compete

I think non-competes are now a bit of a legal minefield.

Case law over recent years has made employment contracts an awful lot less enforceable, in terms of notice periods and non-competes. Although the higher the pay and position, the less likely you can get out of it.

But Clarkson and Wilman at least were owners of the production company, and sold it to the Beeb only a few years ago, so there may have been terms in that sale contract. Or it might be in their BBC series contract. And it may just be that they're not allowed to work on car shows on other channels, rather than all shows.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Good news for us all !

I don't recall ever finding anything I saw on Top Gear particularly offensive. Actually I do, watching him lear pathetically at some 19 year old actress who was driving the reasonably priced car was very uncomfortable. There was lots of stuff that wasn't funny - and some stupid stuff on their various road trips. But it always struck me that most of his critics were looking for something to be offended by, so they could have a moan about a show and/or presenter that they didn't like anyway.

I also thought that the show had run its course, it was starting to seriously repeat itself, and they were going further and further in creating 'funny' accidents that they could then pretend to react spontaneously to. So stopping was probably a good thing.

But obviously you don't have to like all the jokes to enjoy a particular show, or no-one would watch any comedy/entertainment at all. And it's not been a show that I've gone out of my way to watch for years now. But still has some good bits.

The thing that shocked me was that so many people were willing to sign a petition to save Clarkson when he'd punched one of the junior staff. That's just unacceptable - and sacking is the only reasonable response.

Obviously I had no objection when he punched Piers Morgan though...

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue dictionary definition: Countryside - Killing Piers Morgan.

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Windows 10 in head-on crash with Nvidia drivers as world watches launch

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Devil

Re: Update Clash

Everyone screws up updates. Let's hope MS have planned for dealing with this - although they already do tens of millions at once, so they must have. I still think it's better for ordinary users to risk that, than for them to risk virus infection. I've never had a Windows update screw up my PC in 17 years of running 98, Vista, 7 and 8 - nor any of the company PCs I support, or had to fix one for a friend. So automatic updating is a small risk I'm personally willing to take for the extra security.

I do agree it should be possible to disable. Perhaps only on powershell, so ordinary users can't do it by accident.

Perhaps they can scan user comment forums for people who are rude about them, trace back the IP address (or just cross reference with the typing logs they can download from everyone's PCs) - and make them the guinea pigs to get updates before everyone else does...

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Mage Update Clash

boltar,

What do you mean? MS aren't writing those drivers, they're only pushing out Nvidia's own updates. If Nvidia have given stuff to Microsoft that is buggy or updating the wrong kit, then again - that's Nvidias stupid fault.

Also, the article states that Nvidia's own update software was downgrading the drivers in use to whatever they'd last downloaded, and creating the problem. They've had months to adjust that update software, knowing what Win 10 was going to do.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Update Clash

I remember this with Vista. Which apart from being slow, and a bit ugly, was mostly OK. It was much more secure and less crash happy than XP. But as I recall a of its early problems, and crashes, were down the new driver model - and the vendors not keeping up.

From memory MS had public alpha code around in at least Jan/Feb (I assume earlier for their hardware partners), and the public beta started in late March, with code complete in August for business launch September and the consumer launch being actually after Christmas. So MS gave plenty of notice. But I remember getting a new PC in May with a Creative sound card and the drivers weren't even ready until 3 weeks after I'd bought the PC - so my 5.1 card could only do stereo on the shipped drivers. So while MS changed a lot, they gave plenty of notice and plenty of warning, and you've got to say the hardware vendors deserve plenty of the blame.

Cut to this. MS have made no major changes in the underlying OS, it's still basically Windows 7. There's been a public beta kicking around for 5-6 months, and there was a fully public alpha too. They said updates would be automatic ages ago. And yet in all that time Nvidia didn't think to make a simple update to their driver software to make it compatible with the new Windows version?

And somehow this is Microsoft's fault?

There's a perfectly fine argument to say that techies should be able to override OS settings if they want to. But given that most users are totally clueless, Microsoft are right to make updates compulsory, and surely we should be blaming incompetent vendors for screw-ups like this!

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Hurrah! Uber does work (in the broadest sense of the word) after all

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Captain Underpants,

I do agree with you that Uber are breaking the law. If it waddles like a taxi service, and quacks like a taxi service, then it's clearly... A duck.

So if they've come in and ignored the regulators, they deserve everything they get.

It's one of those difficult areas. London black cabs are generally well regulated, but you can't get one after about 11 o'clock at night. So they tell you how wonderful they are, but won't give a service at a time when security checked drivers are vitally needed. One of the scariest drives I've ever done was in a minicab at 4am. I didn't know it was possible to do 100mph down the Westway until that point - and it's a good job I had plenty of alcohol to cushion my system...

I've been reading lots about European business, since the Eurocrisis. And there's plenty of examples of rent seeking, where the taxi drivers in Rome can sell their licences for several hundred thousand Euro when they retire, due to artificial scarcity. Hence you get silly prices, and I'm sure lots of them never actually drive their cabs, just rent their licence.

Or rules that Greek supermarkets can't sell bread, to artificially protect local bakers. A rule the Troika are making them change. But on the other hand, Greek pharmacies are similar, only small and local ones and limited numbers of licences. But on the other hand, they're local, give medical advice to those who can't afford to pay the extra bribes/blackmail fees that the doctors charge - and they apparently give credit and even free drugs to those they know who're struggling. That social good may well be worth the restrictive practises.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Actually works

Excuse my ignorance, but is taxi despatching what has the licence? Or is it the individual drivers?

Surely we don't care who the despatchers are. They can be rapists, murders or whatever, just so long as the drivers aren't and the cars are maintained - that doesn't actually matter to the passengers.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: @Spartacus

Captain Underpants,

Thanks for saving me some typing. I agree with Nick. Oh sorry, wrong meeting...

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I ain't Spartacus
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Terminator

Re: @Dropbear

And, of course, it's always possible that both Uber and existing taxi regulators are being collosal bellends in their approach...

Yup. That's about the size of it.

You probably do need a bit of scarcity. You can't reasonably enforce standards if everyone can run a taxi for a £5 charge, or nobody will make enough money to pay for the nicer cabs, less criminal drivers and regularly servicing of the brakes that we all want to see.

I guess the economic phrase is "regulatory capture". Since the licensing authoritites spend all their time talking to the owners of the medallions, they start caring about keeping them happy, and sod the customers.

Government by robots anyone?

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I ain't Spartacus
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Captain Underpants,

That's the whole point of the article really. The regulation generally doesn't work. Taxi licensing makes sense, in order to avoid robberies and rapes and promote use of safe and accessible vehicles.

But a small group of people have managed in many places to get hold of a bunch of licenses, and then pursuade the regulators not to issue any more. Suddenly their licenses become artificially scarce, and so they can charge stupid amounts of money. So in places like New York or Rome, that licence is worth insane amounts like a million - and you don't actually need to drive your cab - and then suddenly it's just an economically inefficient rip-off, and no one's even bothering to enforce the standards the licensing system was supposed to be there for in the first place.

But the entrenched group of drivers will all scream, go on strike, and tell the papers you're in favour of women getting raped. So as a politician, it's too much trouble to do anything about it. Then Uber come along with their astonishingly dishonest claims about not being a taxi firm. But everyone looks at the current system and goes, well Uber may be horrible, but this system is a pile of shit. Let's do something. So Uber may end up being a socially useful catalyst.

Of course, in France, doing something means to prosecute Uber and protect the special interests...

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Moto fires BROADSIDE into the flagship phone's waterline with X Play and Style

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I might have made a mistake. Bought a Lumia 735 last month. It's a nice phone, and I like Win Phone. But Andrew O's preview of Windows mobile 10 didn't make very happy reading. Mine has 1GB of RAM, so will upgrade, if I don't avoid it like the plague.

Was tempted by the Moto G, but it was the year old model, and you know with Android that you have to get them when they're as up-to-date as possible, as you'll never see an upgrade. You'll be lucky if you even get the odd patch...

But these do look tasty, and resistant is an excellent idea for a phone.

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Thought YOU'd had rude service in France? Ce n'était RIEN, M'sieu Pantalons Malodorants

I ain't Spartacus
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Happy

Re: Help / Support Desks ?

I wonder if we should start making requests to El Reg to see what notes they've got on us in their forum moderation software.

I used to be Eadon, and would every much like to see his my file.

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Voyager's Golden Record now free to download

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Happy

Re: Stylus not required

The problem is that encounters with aliens equipped with lasers never turn out well.

The literature is much less clear about meetings with aliens armed with good phonographic equipment though...

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Let kids delete their online rants, demand campaigners

I ain't Spartacus
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Happy

Unfortunately for you, the Wayback machine has already indexed your content. And just deleting it will do you no good. To quote:

I like big goats all smothered in whipped cream

I like it when my goats run headlong into my arms

In summary: I like big butts and I cannot lie.

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So what the BLINKING BONKERS has gone wrong in the eurozone?

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Oops! My apologies for incompetence. Twice I described the fiscal multiplier as a percentage, 0.9-1.5% for example. When that should be 0.9 - 1.5.

Expressed as a percentage that would be 90-150%.

Did a quick check, and there doesn't seem to be an authoritative estimate of the UK's foscal multiplier. The ONS working estimate in 2010 was 0.5. The IMF thought that might be too low later on though.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: Rescue the banks or the bankers

DougS,

That's why we have Central Banks. Banks, by definition, are illiquid. Their economic role is to perform liquidity transformation after all. So Central Banks should always be willing to lend to them, at a profit, so long as the bank is solvent. And as their regulator, the central bank should be in the best position to determine that they actually are solvent.

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There must be some logic behind it other than "I hate tories, pass the credit card".

I'd say, the UK isn't Greece. We've cut spending, but not by such huge amounts as Spain, Ireland or Greece had to do. Or even Italy. But all of that gets lumped together as "austerity" - which gives it a bad name.

Think about one piece of economics. The fiscal multiplier. For every pound of government spending we cut (or £1 of tax we raise), how much does the economy shrink?

The IMF worked this out for Greece in 2013. As between 0.9% and 1.5%. This was when they pretty much admitted that the 2010 and 2012 bail-outs had been failures. Particularly if it's greater than 1. Let's split the difference and call it 1.2. This means that every time the Greek government cuts spending by €1 billion, the economy shrinks by €1.2 billion. And this is why the massive cuts in Greek spending, 25% of GDP over 4 years (the largest peacetime spending cuts in modern economic history), spectacularly failed! And the economy shrank by 26%. Making the debt even more unpayable.

Of course the private sector is also expanding/contracting, and we can't run an experiment where they don't. So knowing the multiplier is near impossible. But what is it in the UK? This would give Osborne a much better idea of what to do. Our economy has been growing, while government has been cutting, so it's likely that the multiplier is less than 1.

However, now reverse your thinking. Don't apply the multiplier to cuts, but to extra spending. Let's say it's 1.2% in Greece and 0.5% in the UK.

So if Greece spends an extra €1 billion, their economy should grow by at least €1.2 bn. That means that it would be best for Greece to spend extra, to grow the economy - and so the Eurozone creditors' best way of getting paid back the maximum amount of cash would be to support Greece to spend a bit more, and start growing its economy. That would then give a larger tax base to pay back more of the existing debt.

In the UK our multiplier is less so we might only gain £500m of economic activity for every £1bn spent. Which makes extra spending look less attractive.

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I ain't Spartacus
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Re: The 1930s

Charlie Clark,

As you say, you haven't done a takedown of Worstall's article, understandably as that's a bit of effort. But you haven't pointed out any of his supposed straw men either. And you've even agreed that the Euro doesn't work - or as you say is, "unfinished business". Which surely was what the article was about.

I agree that economics and politics are intertwined. And that economics is a bad guide in a lot of cases, so because economics doesn't give you definitive, scientific answers, it's easy to just go with whatever your political prejudices are anyway, then find an economic rationalisation for them. Which can make sensible discussions very hard to have.

All the historical comparisons with the Great Depression, Hitler's rise to power, etc. can be illuminating but are necessarily simplistic. The 1930s were extremely unstable across Europe

I'd say this is also a pretty unstable time across Europe. Politics may effect economics, but the effect goes both ways. So Greece are now governed by a party that didn't exist 10 years ago, and only got something like 12% of the vote 6 years ago. The 3rd and 5th parties in the Greek Parliament are equally new. Pasok were in government in 2010, and now are on 7% of the vote. IN Spain 2nd place in the polls last year went to a less than 2 year old party (Podemos), who admittedly only came 3rd in the regional elections, but that performance is still amazing. They could still end up in coalition this year. Ciudadamos (even newer) are also doing well.

In Ireland Sinn Fein were second in the opinion polls last year - having never really been a major political force in the South. In Italy the 5 Star movement (4 years old), the Northern League and Forza Italia are now all calling for a referendum on Euro membership.

Populist and anti-EU, but right wing, parties are doing better than ever in the UK, France, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Sweden.

That's very unstable. If we allow economics to break politics, we'll regret it. In Greece the Troika deliberately punished Pasok for their attempt to have a referendum on the bail-out, they then did exactly the same to Syriza. Pasok are destroyed as a political force, if the Troika manage to deliberately destroy Syriza as well, who do they expect to govern Greece? New Democracy were the corrupt people in charge when Greece were borrowing 10% of GDP, but claiming it was only 3%. And they wouldn't survive being forced to implement this agreement either. If you destroy all the centrist political parties, you'll only be left with extremists. And that's a lesson worth learning from the 30s.

If the debate is allowed to become a choice between the Euro and democracy, then people will eventually choose democracy, and it will destroy the Euro. Or it will end up breaking democracy. Greece is dangerously close to a situation where nobody can form a legitimate government. Surely the greatest achievement of the EU was helping Spain, Portugal and Greece to cement democracy after the dictatorships fell in the 70s - and supporting Eastern Europe after the Iron Curtain fell.

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Re: https://projects.propublica.org/bailout/

FFS, are you blind? Its already happening. Have you not noticed the upgrades to "managed motorway" status on the M1, M6, M60, M62 and elsewhere that have been going on for the last few years? The various other road projects which got the go-ahead mid-depression?

x 7,

None of this was organised to be part of stimulus though. Some projects just happen to coincide with depression (like the Olympics) as they were already approved. The difference is that unlike private projects, they don't have to get cancelled for lack of funds - the government can almost always borrow. I did a quick survey in June 2008 of projects for one of our customers - and 30% of all the outstanding contracts they had quoted on were now on hold due to lack of funding. An unspecified amount were in "value engineering" - i.e. cutting corners to cut costs. Industries don't do well when 30% of their order book suddenly disappears over a 4 month period - especially not ones that have to work on such long timescales as construction. That's what makes it such a boom and bust business.

Also, ordering a new motorway extension is too late when the bust has happened. Then you've got to wait for architects and engineers to design it, and do all the planning stuff. The serious money doesn't get spent until the recession is already over.

Finally the government might want to try and be counter-cyclical. So construction will be zooming ahead in the boom anyway - and doesn't need more government work. So do less in the boom, and save the work to the bust - when you can buy it cheaper. The downside is this is very hard to organise. Getting the planning consent for example. And if you're going to do compulsary purchase of property - it's a bit cruel to hang the sword of damocles over people's head untilt the recession.

Darling made a misake by cutting capital spending, as the easiest cut he could achieve before the election. As it didn't involve sacking people, just not starting new projects. Osborne made the same mistake, by not reversing that decision. Although it's easy to say that now, from the comfortable position of hindsight - because we didn't have a government debt crisis in the UK. They didn't know that at the time.

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Re: https://projects.propublica.org/bailout/

DougS,

That's what pissed me off so much about Ed Balls. I don't happen to be a Keynsian, but his theories make perfect sense - and it's undeniable that government spending extra in recessions is a good thing for boosting the economy.

But it's bloody easy to be a Keynsian in a recession - particularly when you aren't in government watching every gilt auction and praying that demand doesn't suddenly drop and create a self-fulfilling debt crisis. Much harder to be a Keynsian in a boom, when that means less government spending and/or more tax - and less ability to give sweeties to the electorate to win easy popularity.

And the fact that Ed Balls was at the treasury during that easy boom, and getting it completely fucking wrong, for those years before, didn't make his smug, self-satisfied face any less punchable.

Actually, to be fair, he did get one thing right. He didn't want us to join the Euro. So credit where it's due.

But I've been thinking about this Keynsian lark. It's very hard to do. It's hard to predict what the right dose of intervention in the economy is, so you might take out so much tax, that you cause the very recession you're preparing for. It's the problem of the planned economy. Decent economic data tends to take 3 months to arrive - so anything you do is on information that's already way behind. But worse, the levers of power also have a time-lag, so the full effects of interest rate changes are said to take about 2 years to fully go through the economy. So that's a horrendous time-lag from actual events to the full effect of the policy response.

Being in the construction industry, which took a massive hit in this recession, I can say that our bacon was saved by the Olympics. Just as the recession hit, all the Olympic projects were in full swing, and it stopped a very nasty downturn from becoming an absolute rout - with bankruptcies all over the place. There were an awful lot of companies who survived on no margins for 5 years, and without the Olympics, one or two of the big boys would have probably gone pop, taking hundreds of their sub-contractors with them. It was good for the haulage industry too. Every delivery we made to the Olympic sites had a £60 surcharge for the security paperwork...

But it made me think. Could we do the planning for some road / rail schemes, maybe a few new school / hospital buildings. All that nice infrastructure that needs renewing / replacing or new build. But save it until there's a recession. Then commission a bunch of jobs that have been kept on hold for a few years. With recessions every 10 years or so, it wouldn't be that long to wait, and urgent stuff would get done as needed. Then we could buy them at a time when building costs are at their lowest, do it with debt in good conscience and be helping the economy.

Or would the government just end up buggering it all up?

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Re: https://projects.propublica.org/bailout/

Ken Hagan,

We're broke because we've had a recession since 2007. There are several factors to include in this:

Recessions means wages drop and unemployment rises. People retire early to avoid being unemployed too. Plus companies make less profit and pay less tax. In a global downturn you can't eaily grow exports to counter some of the worst effects. All this means we're paying out more benefits and taking in fewer taxes.

This is what's loosely called the automatic stabilisers. Government keeps on spending, and even increases spending, even though tax collections drop. But this keeps demand in the economy, and stops a recession turning into a depression. The government borrows, and waits until the benefits bills drops and the tax take rises again.

It's also the cyclical deficit. i.e. caused by the economic cycle.

Now we have the harder problems. The structural deficit. That which will still be there, even when the economic cycle has turned, and we're back to boom time again. This is a lot harder to measure, and allows for most shennanigans of producing figures to suit certain political arguments.

1. We've just had a nasty financial crisis. The City was paying something like 10-15% of our total tax bill at the height of the madness in 2007. That's not going to be happening again for a while, nor is it really desireable, given the risk of that sector to our economy. So that's many billions wiped off the tax take.

2. We were also having a property and construction boom. Construction was one of the biggest areas of collapse, and still hasn't recovered. That's another wodge of tax not coming in for many years.

3. Between 2002-2007 Labour ran deficits of between £30-£50 billion each year. These weren't catastrophic by any means, and probably would have been easy enough to solve had we only had a "normal" recession in 2008. But it was an extra deep one, with a side-order of banking crisis. So suddenly a government that might be spending say £60 bn on the automatic stabilisers has this extra wodge of say £40 billlion on top of that, plus the tax loss from construction and banking. Suddenly a manageable deficit is starting to look quite a lot more scary. When you're piling £150bn a year on a total national debt of £600bn - it starts to add up, and make people nervous.

4. North Sea oil output has been dropping by 1% of GDP per year for ten years now. Without that constant drop in GDP we'd have recovered much faster. There's never even have been talk of a double-dip recession.

5. Finally debt interest payments went from £20bn-odd to £50bn-odd now. That's another £30bn a year onto the government deficit.

Estimates in 2008 put the structural deficit at between £60-£90bn. So even when the recession was over, and all the jobs, benefits payments and taxes were back to normal the government would still be running a pretty fat annual deficit. The Conservatives decided that it wasn't worth the risk of doing nothing about this until the recession was over - as that might lose us market confidence, and so make interest payments higher, or even make it impossible for the government to borrow over £100bn a year - and force really sudden cuts. The counter-factual is impossible of course, we'll never know if they were right or wrong. But we've probably now got a better idea of what the structural deficit really is.

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Re: HOW IT WORKS *

Rolo Tamasi,

No. Exactly the opposite.

The casino farmers are the ones who wait until they've harvested their crops, before selling them. That can net them the highest profit, if yields are low, but can leave them with less if it's a bumper harvest.

The more cautious types sell their crops early - and let the speculators take the risk. They can sell for a guaranteed price, that covers their costs and leaves some profit margin - at the cost of missing otu on possible extra profit later.

If you hear interviews with farmers, this is something that they agonise about, then have sleepless nights about once they make their decision.

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Lloyds are now mostly sold. At a profit. I believe at the current rate the shares will all be gone by February. Assuming they don't sell much over the Summer holidays and Christmas. Quicker if they do.

HBOS are on the way to being sold. RBS, who knows? They've now accepted that they aren't going to stay an investment bank, and are now pruning that bit down drastically - as they just can't fix it. So now reality has set in with the board, it could be time to sell them off quite soon. Although we'll probably make a loss on them. But it still looks like we'll break even or make a profit on all the banks combined. And the Bank of England charged interest on the emergency loans, now all paid back, so that also made money.

And I suspect that QE won't be totally unwound, and that we'll write off at least a few tens of billions of government debt in 5 years time. You can't make a habit of this, or trust breaks down, but as a one off this will have no (or few) downsides.

The banks didn't have turnovers larger than GDP though. It was the size of their loan books that were so huge. And that's been drastically pruned.

The new banking regulation system isn't fully formed yet. Changes may still be made. But what we currently have is an extra tax on profits. This was a change in the last budget, as previously it wa a tax on the size of their assets, but this was felt to penalise Standard Chartered and HSBC - who do most of their retail business abroad. Remember that neither of those two had to be bailed out, and that the UK taxpayer isn't on the hook for their depositors abroad. Though it is a risk if they go pop, as we'd want to bail-out our bits. But Standard Chartered don't have a retail bank here. Anyway, that's sort of their insurance payment, to compensate us for the risk of having to bail them out again in 50-70 years time.

We also have the ring-fence rules. This means that the retail arm of these banks must have separate accounts, and separate assets. So if a bank like RBS needs help again, the government can just let it fall over, but rescue the retail bits like NatWest - and carry on running them as a going concern. This is one reason why RBS are giving up on investment banking. They can no longer use the resources of their retail bank to "invest" with (so called proprietry trading). Thus they have to borrow the money they need for the most profitable trading, rather than use their retail assets - which makes them a good deal less profitable. At this point, it may well not be worth the extra layers of management to try and have joint investment/retail banks anymore, and we may get a natural split, without having to legislate for it.

To be honest, this is still a bit pie-in-the-sky. After the massive shock that Lehman Brothers collapse wrought on the financial system, no one was going to kill a bank as complex as RBS investment arm. The counter-party risk and chaos involved would be too much. But it could be bailed out and wound down under control, with the retail arm easily sliced off and run as a going concern by the government - hopefully with minimal panic and disruption.

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Re: Rescue the banks or the bankers

A real profit or a "we bought Northern Rock for £1, wrote off a £Bn of bad debt and sold it to that Branson chap for £1m" sort of profit?

Even the "bad bank" bit of Northern Rock, that we didn't sell to Branson, is making a profit. Last time I looked, that loan book was something like 3% in arrears/default, so 97% were paying as scheduled. A lot of the CDOs that mortgages were packaged up as supposedly "guaranteed" a 95% repayment rate - and many (most?) of the UK ones seem to have made that. So they weren't worthless after all, it's just that no-one trusted the banks who'd stitched them together. And for good reason.

Ironically this could be a bad thing. If Northern Rock could be broken up for a profit, that means it wasn't bankrupt, and maybe its shareholders can sue the government for compensation - for winding it up when it was actually solvent but illiquid.

On the other hand RBS may well have actually been bankrupt (not just illiquid), but got bailed out anyway, because they were too important to let go bust. Their investment banking arm was so complex that their board thought it could be turned around and saved, up until last year. Now they recognise that it's just a big pile of poo, dragging the rest of the bank down.

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That's all very well, but in the middle of the last decade, when the German economy was only growing very slowly, Eurozone interest rates were kept low to help the German economy to grow. This meant that the Irish and Spanish had problems with inflation, which led to real estate bubbles and banking crisis. It also led German banks to lend too much money abroad, as they were exporting well, but had fewer domestic investment opportunities.

Now the situation has turned around. Now the Eurozone periphery are crying out for a bit of inflation to help their economies, but oh no! Germany is doing quite well thankyouverymuch - and why should poor Germans have to suffer from unwanted inflation just to help other people in the Eurozone?

This is what's so infuriating about the Germans, their politicians and most of their commentators (and seemingly from opinion polls) their public. I've no problem with not wanting to bail out the Greeks. After all, Greece's crisis is Greece's own fault. But Spain and Ireland were running budget surpluses at the height of the boom. They just weren't enough to counteract the fact they had the wrong monetary policy. So they took the hit to support Germany then, where the hell is German support for them now?

And also, although the financial crisis was Greece's fault, they were given a bail-out that was piss-poorly designed by Germany, the ECB, and the Commission. The IMF technical department said it wouldn't work in 2010 - but got overruled by the French director Strauss Kahn. So actaully Germany are just as responsible for the current state of the Greek economy as the Greek government. Since they incompetently designed the Greek bail-out to get the Italians, Eastern Europeans (and Greeks) to subsidise the bail-out of their own banks. So they should fucking pay to help sort it out!

Plus, morality aside, Greece can't pay. It can probably pay half that debt back. 5 years ago, it could probably have managed two thirds. That difference is the cost of delaying the inevitable for so long. In a year's time, it'll be none. Those are the practical choices Germany has.

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Re: Germany really doesn't believe the last 60 years

Chairo,

15 years ago, when the Euro came in and I was living in Belgium, it was actaully cheaper for me to move money from my bank account in England to my Belgian one (including exchange rate costs) - than it was to transfer money to a friend in Germany. Even though Germany was supposedly sharing the same currency as me.

For some strange reason this wasn't considered important when they created the Euro, and was only fixed by the Commission jumping up and down on the banks in about 2002.

As you say, I couldn't have a UK style credit card either. I had a debit card, which took money straight out of my account, or a "credit card" which didn't take the money out of my account until the last day of the month - and then had to be paid in full, or I lost it.

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Re: HOW IT WORKS *

For the price of a few hundred billion in support, Merkel gave them time to disentangle themselves (at least, sufficiently to survive a Grexit). Now the banks are clear, the Greeks can go swivel.

Chris Miller,

An interesting point here Krugman (who I personally find too partisan), but is making a good point here.

Edited highlights by me:

As one German economist put it to Jared Bernstein, “How do you think the people of Manhattan would like bailing out Texas?” Fair point, and a non-trivial challenge, for sure.

Ahem. As it happens, the people of Manhattan did bail out Texas, big time. The savings and loan crisis, which was very costly to taxpayers, was mainly a Texas affair:

The cleanup from that crisis cost taxpayers about $125 billion, back when that was real money. As best I can tell, around 60 percent of the losses were in Texas. So that’s around $75 billion in aid — not loans, outright transfer.

Texas GDP was about $300 billion in 1987. So this was equivalent to giving — not lending, not even taking an equity stake — Spain 25 percent of its GDP to bail out its banks.

But of course Manhattan was never asked to bail out Texas; we had a national system of deposit insurance, and the big Lone Star bailout was automatic.

In as much as RBOS and HBOS are genuinely Scottish (probably not really as they'd move South if Scotland ever leaves the UK) - we did the same here. We bailed them out, because we're in a monetary union and it was the sensible thing to do. Obviously, being in a political union makes that much easier. But for a monetary union to work properly, banking needs to work properly.

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Amazon threatens UK with James Blunt, muscles into music streaming

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Re: Long way from usable

Is that a bit like where you sign up to Prime Video and it gives you this huge list of stuff to watch. It's only when you click on the picture that you notice that this isn't actually on the streaming service you signed up for, it's just an advert for something you can buy from Amazon. And there's no filter option for just showing you the stuff you've already paid for.

That was a free trial that ended in swearing. Took it up at Christmas, not only was it not compatible with my Gooogle Chromecast, but they'd even deliberately blocked the workaround, using the Chrome browser on the PC. And I could barely find any content. I lost a lot of customer loyalty to Amazon that day.

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Martin Summers,

I think if you pay upfront, then it's just slightly cheaper than going monthly.

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At last we know for sure. Blighty's 'best mobile network' is ...

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Re: Last on customer service?

Ah, billing performance. Well EE are tops here. Not that we've used 3. But Vodafone managed to overcharge us one month by £2,500 (on a £230 contract). Basically they forgot we had a data allowance, and so charged us pay-as-you-go rates.

Whereas O2 forgot to bill us for 4 months, despite the fact that I'd had to call them after setting up the service as they'd taken one direct debit, then stopped. Then they double billed us the next month, as they put our service back on the billing system, then re-created the account again from scratch...

O2's call centre lose on grounds of utter cluelessness though - and one department not being able to talk to another.

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Boffins' audacious plan to blow up aircraft foiled by bomb-proof bag

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Devil

Only so long as the airlines promise not to pack us so tight that just sneezing causes one to join the mile high club...

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YOU! DEGRASSE! It's time to make Pluto a proper planet again, says NASA boffin

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Re: IANAA, but...

No. It can be a mad planet though. That will only change if we discover gold, platinum or diamonds there. Only once you're rich, do you qualify as eccentric...

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NASA: 'Closest thing yet to ANOTHER EARTH' - FOUND

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Re: Bank of glarhgx

You only want to borrow money from people who live at a constant 2 gravities, if you're really, really, really sure you can pay it back.

Otherwise you're liable to meet Ron from collections. He's only 5' tall, but he's 7' wide and weighs 20 stone of pure muscle. And he's only the accountant...

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BREAKING NEWS: Apple makes money

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Syriza were ahead of Troika budget targets, and running a primary surplus, up to June. The capital controls will probably have buggered that up, but they're as much the fault of the Troika as Syriza, and the ECB cutting off their banks was arguably illegal.

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SpaceX's blast shock delays world's MOST POWERFUL ROCKET

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Re: Reuse and price

Mars is different to the Moon though. The ship's just going to be too big to send on one rocket. You'll need more people, more shielding, more accommodation, more storage, more fuel, several landing craft etc.

I'd have thought the best method in the end will be to build some sort of ISS like truss (but stronger ovbiously), with an engine bolted to one end, and crew accommodation and whatever mission stuff you needed strapped along it. Then you could test it by going to visit an asteroid - or a mission to fix some of those useful satellites in L1 - and strap different payload to it for a trip to Mars. i assume we can find something worth visiting that's a quicker trip than Mars, to test out shielding, isolation, and the like.

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Re: A reality check

SpaceX doesn't have problems. Their first mission rocket has exploded. No-one else has a better safety record though. So as long as they don't make a habit of it, they have secure work from NASA and the airforce for years. Plus they appear to be cheaper than the competition, and have a strategy to become cheaper still, which still leaves them ahead for a few years, even if reusabiliy fails. They just need to win a bit more commercial satellite work. The Russians are having worse problems.

I don't know enough about Tesla to have an opinion.

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Re: Re-Use

The solid rocket boosters got parachuted into sea water every launch. Which is horrible for re-use, but the thing was supposed to be a shuttle, so they did it.

As they were also woefully under-powered, the shuttle main engines regularly got run up to 115% of power, every launch. Which can't have been good for longevity.

I also can't believe that metallurgy hasn't vastly improved since the shuttle designs were done in the 60s, in combination with SpaceX landing under power, on legs, on dry land, they ought to be able to save some cash. However, even if the engines aren't saving much cash, they're also recycling the rocket body, plus electronics. And if they can survive one launch, they should be reuseable for several.

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Being common is tragic, but the tragedy of the commons is still true

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Re: Logical management?

The Chinese government aren't long term thinkers. Sure they have a reasonable leadership strategy, of changing the top echelons every ten years, so they don't ossify. And they have five year plans.

But they based their whole development model on mercantilism. Which is known not to work long term. They repressed internal demand in the ecnomy, partly for political reasons I suspect, as they were worried about an assertive middle class wanting more power. This was done by artificially lowering exchange rates. In the short term this was great, as they could artificially boost their export industries, keep the economy growing fast and outcompete Western factories.

But, this isn't a viable long term strategy. Because you start buidling up huge profits. And you can't use them in your own economy, because you don't want the currency to rise, or the workers' wages to become uncompetitive. So you invest that money abroad, recycled back to the countries that are buying your stuff. Which you need to do, because you're running huge trade surpluses with them, and you're repressing your internal demand, so not buying their stuff from them, so they haven't got the money to buy your stuff from you.

So they borrow massively. And they borrow your profits. But eventually this comes to an end, with them having huge asset bubbles that pop, and recessions due to lack of demand, as many of their jobs have migrated to your economy. But you're now sad, as you've loaned them loads of money they may not be able to pay back. And now you've got a huge export industry with no-one to sell to, as you've helped crater their economies, but your internal market is under-developed. So you get deflation at home and abroad, and a financial crisis. See also the North-South divide in the Eurozone.

The Chinese have been scrabbling to deal with that clearly foreseeable crisis since 2008 - same as the rest of us.

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Your gadget batteries endanger planes, says Boeing

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Happy

I thought it was already illegal to carry LiON batteries

Sir, I am impressed at your technological advancement. My lion runs off the mains...

My coat you say? Why it's the one with the extension lead in the pocket.

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German police ARREST SQUIRREL for stalking woman

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No, humans are unlikely. Someone had been drinking the Caffreys...

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Ashley Madison hack: Site for people who can't be trusted can't be trusted

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Re: What's on the telly tonight love?

A friend of mine (hmmm, now there's a convincing way to start a story in this context...) had a bit of a car crash. At a classic car race, which is his hobby. He was then photographed grinning like a loon, next to his upside-down car.

I guess the adrenaline was still flowing. As he ended up as a rather fetching full page picture in Autosport.

One week later...

"Darling, have you seen this week's copy of Autosport?"

"Oh, sorry dear, it hasn't come." [quickly hides behind papers]

"OK, I'll pick it up from the newsagents on my way back from the shops."

"Erm. Oh. Erm. No don't do that dear. I'm afraid they erm haven't published it this week. Erm, they had a flood fire at the printing works you erm see."

Ooops.

Is this why racing drivers wear balaclavas?

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Re: "including users' sexual fantasies"

My management fansasies are of going to a meeting that only lasts 15 minutes, where everyone agrees on the objectives and helps each other to achieve them. Then has a nice drink afterwards - and fully cooperates as a team for the next 6 months. After which another 15 minute meeting is convened, if the project hasn't already been finished.

OK. I admit it. I'm a pervert!

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Re: Using words too lightly

Just Enough,

Quite. The self-righeousness on this thread is a bit sickening.

You might not approve of adultery. I don't. But it's not unusual. Over a third of marriages break up in this country, and one of the biggest causes is people having affairs. Ordinary people, who manage to screw up their lives or the lives of those around them. Then have a terrible time for a few years. This isn't some exotic sub-group, I doubt there's many people here who don't have a close friend who's had an affair - and it happens for various complicated (and all too human reasons).

This is painful enough for people to sort out, without some internet low-lifes sticking their oar in, and screwing things up even more.

What an absolute fucking mess. It's a shame people don't look at security beforehand, when they're holding this kind of sensitive data.

"latest among many companies to have been attacked, despite investing in the latest privacy and security technologies."

Who's betting they're now frantically looking for the receipt for their copy of Norton Antivirus, so they can take it back to the shop for a refund...

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Fragmented Android development creating greater security risks

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Megaphone

Re: Who cares

To answer your question the security reasearchers/companies/fear-mongerers care. That's why they constantly bombard these sites with press releases which say nothing of interest.

I saw a stat the other day that something like 20-30% of UK online banking activity is now done through mobile devices.

Google appear not to give a flying fuck about the security of their users, just so long as they keep getting the advertising revenue. At least when Microsoft released XP, mass use of the internet and mass virus outbreaks were relatively new to the world. And they started to respond reasonably quickly, with SP1, automatic updates, checks to make sure you were running anti-virus and the like. Then gave up on the whizzy updates to XP they were working on to re-write the whole shebang in a more secure manner. Vista was that disappointing for a reason...

This Android updates problem has been around for a very long time now. And I'm not talking about not getting latest shinies, but missing out on security patches for brand new handsets. And Google would appear to have done the square root of bugger-all about it!

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Bitcoin fixes a Greek problem – but not the Greek debt problem

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Re: QE

Chris 48,

A lot of those mortgage backed securities are in fact still operating at the less than 5% default rate specified. Most in the UK. The US may have had more of the crap ones.

There have been several funds making an absolute killing by buying them at hugely discounted rates, then paying a bonus to the mortgage holders to bugger off and remortgage with someone else, then using the money to buy more of the same - and go round again.

Northern Rock, who were doing a lot of the 125%, buy-to-let and self-cert mortgages, almost certainly shouldn't have been wound up. Not only is the bit sold to Virgin profitable, but so is the "bad bank" bit the government kept. When the final calculations are done in a few years time, they'll probably have been illiquid but solvent, and RBS insolvent - although you can't really blame the government for bailing out RBS anyway, given what happened with Lehman brothers.

One of the main problems was the banks dishonesty. Because they'd been packaging up some crap with some good stuff, and the instruments were so complicated, and trust in them had broken down - no-one had a clue what any of this stuff was worth. And no-one was willing to trust even those bankers who had good numbers to prove their packaged mortgages were still performing.

The problem with mark-to-market is that financial institutions get destroyed by temporary market panics. They're then forced to sell into a market crash in order to comply with regulations, that then makes the market crash worse and crystalises their losses.

The problem with mark-to-value is that the bankers are currently untrustworthy. And as an industry seem to have learnt very little from the recent crisis.

There's truth in the Central Banks pretending some bust institutions were only illiquid. Partly this is because the relationships between banks and regulators seem to have broken down. I suspect they just didn't have a "feel" for where all the banks were, and there was no time to find out. Just get them saved, and sort it out later. RBS was way too complicated, and even they don't seem to have understood just how fucked their investment banking arm was until last year. But on the other hand, panic is self-fulfilling. The stress-tests should give sensible Central Banks a much better idea of what their banks are up to. Except the ECB ones, which keep finding banks are OK - then watching them go pop a few months later. But I suspect they're scared of what they'll find, given the Eurozone still doesn't have a working banking resolution system.

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Re: QE

Tom 13,

QE isn't printing money. There's an important technical difference.

The economy is improving. We're in our 3rd year of decent growth. The U.S. longer. And that's better than the non-QE Eurozone. People are going to work. Unemployment is falling. In the UK we have the highest number of people in work ever. I believe that's not true in the U.S. though, where labour participation rates are still down.

There is no inflation. It's at 0% here. And low in the States. It never went all that high, and much of that was oil and food prices, not QE. Anyway, savers may whine at low interest rates, but the alternative was losing their principal.

The government are not fiddling the figures. I've seen no credible suggestion of that. If you disagree, then back it up with figures. Put up, or shut up.

We might go back into recession. There are still lots of global economic risks. However, not doing QE would have made the recession worse, and made bailing out the banks riskier and more expensive. It was the best of a bad bunch of options. And although it does have its downsides, many of the objections to it I've seen, have been economically illiterate.

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DaveDaveDave,

The answer is Target2. All inter-country transfers within the Eurosystem go via Target2 at the ECB. So any time any government steps out of line, the ECB can effectively turn off their access to the international payment network. Greece imports most of its food.

This is an even bigger step than cutting off Central Bank funding to the banks. It may even be illegal, as it amounts to kicking a country out of the Euro. But the European Court of Justice is notorious for backing the EU institutions, and the Treaties pretty much make the ECB accountable to no one.

On the other hand Greek ex Finance Minister Varoufakis wanted to fight. He said the Euro was unworkable. But for Greece to leave now was worse than staying in. He also, correctly, has said that this current bail-out will fail for the same reason the first two did.

His idea was to print Greek government IOUs, in the way California did temporarily a few years ago. This would keep the banks solvent, when the ECB tried to collapse them. They could also then default on their debts, but re-capitalise and nationalise the banks, while staying in the Euro. Then there would be time to negotiate, without artificial deadlines, and the groundwork would be progressively laid to re-create the Drachma, if they got no deal. Plus lots of court cases at the ECJ. Syriza rejected this as too confrontational.

I don't believe he planned to print Euros though. As that would be unarguably illegal. His plan was to let the ECB and Troika keep breaking the treaties, and hope the ECJ would finally stop them. Cutting off ELA to solvent Greek banks is a clear breach of the Treaties, by any sane reading if them. It's a Central Bank's primary job to maintain the financial system. Deliberately collapsing solvent banks definitely fails that test.

It would have been an unholy mess. There's no legal mechanism to leave the Euro. Let alone get chucked out. And default is not illegal. Bail-outs are, but they've had three of those already! Seems pointless to me. Those months of chaos would be better spent on introducing a new currency. To be fair to Syriza, they had no good choices. The Greek electorate won't leave the Euro, the Eurozone leadership won't offer a sane deal, that might actually work. So they'll have to implement policies that will make the 1930s depression look like a picnic, and hope the Troika wake up and realise what fucktards they're being.

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Re: QE

That, and exactly that is the problem. And you know what? Germany is trapped in this system just like all other countries as well. The effective income in Germany stagnated after the introduction of the euro while it went up nearly everywhere else.

Chairo,

This is true. But this was a German political choice. Haartz IV. They held down wages to boost exports. In a fixed currency system there's a name for this. It's called Mercantilism. And it's against Eurozone rules. By suppressing wages, the Germans boosted the competitiveness of their exports, while also restricting domestic demand within Germany. The downside of this is that capital builds up in German banks, but there's nowhere to spend it, as demand is low.

The banks had to pay interest on those savings. So they had to lend it to someone. There was insufficient appetite for borrowing in Germany, so the German banks recycled this money across the Eurosystem as loans to Spain, Greece, Italy etc.

But now Germany would like its money back. Understandably. But those countries can't pay Germany back, because Germany won't buy their goods, because Germany likes to run huge trade surpluses. The Eurozone solution to this has been to cause deep recessions in Southern Europe, thus massively pushing up unemployment and forcing wages down. This has destroyed internal demand, so now the Eurozone has a large trade surplus with the rest of the world - and those trade surpluses can be used to pay back debts within the Eurosystem.

Of course this causes deflation all across the world, as the Eurozone and China both push policies to repress internal demand and boost exports. The better policy would be a bit of inflation to help reckless debtors a bit and punish reckless lenders (but only a bit) - and allow wages in Germany to rise faster than those in the Eurozone periphery. Also structural reforms to make their economies more competitive. Although breaking up the Euro in an orderly manner would be the best policy choice of all.

If the Germans had stuck to the Eurozone rules, they wouldn't have done this internal devaluation. They also wouldn't have broken the Growth and Stability Pact in 2003 (without penalties). And they'd have been taking action to reduce their trade surplus once it topped 6% of GDP 6 years ago (also in breach of Eurozone rules). Now who was it who called the Eurozone "a rules based organisation"? Ah yes, it was Merkel. Repeatedly. And Schaeuble too. Repeatedly. And rather smugly. And I suggest, incredibly hypocritically.

This is one reason why Italy entered the Euro with a trade surplus with Germany, and now has a deficit.

Also it's causing the increase of inequality in Germany. As workers aren't getting the benefits of the export boom, it all goes to profit.

Separate currencies are great for dealing with this problem. Making people take wage cuts is difficult and painful. Wages tend to be sticky. It takes unemployment to push them down. But a currency devaluation does this to everyone for imports, but doesn't effect internal trade so much. So can cushion the effect.

Oh, one more thing - if you want to see what happens to a developed nation that overuses QE, look to Japan.

It's too early to tell. Japan's problem was allowing deflation to take hold in the early 90s. Their economy has stagnated ever since. This is what the Eurozone and ECB were allowing, until they finally announced QE this year.

Although they have allowed deflation to take hold in Italy, Spain and (most disastrously) Greece. And QE was designed to exclude Greece, who need it most.

Whether Abenomics will work, who knows. But Japan now has both growth and inflation, for the first time in 20 years. If they can get the economy to keep growing, then their debt is sustainable. If not, it won't be. Rather like Italy's. If the Eurozone can't meet its own targets, and give Italy 2% inflation a year, along with some growth, then Italian government debt will have to be written-down. Given that all the major Italian opposition parties are now calling for a Euro referendum, they may solve their problem by leaving. Unless the Eurozone start pursuing policies that work for everyone, not just the core.

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and then northern European countries ask their people whether to write off debts?

It doesn't bloody well matter what other Eurozone voters want. Or what they vote for. Greece can't pay its debts

The Greeks have just experienced what happens when you have a referedum on a matter your government has no power over. Although at least the Greek referendum (and government) was actually asking for something that was possible.

They couldn't pay in 2010 when the first bail-out was created. But rather than Germany and France re-capitalise their incompetent banks, who'd lent something like €160 billion to Greece between them - it was decided to "bail-out" Greece even though that was illegal under Eurozone rules. Using everyones tax payers. What this means is that Germany only had to lend something like €60bn to Greece, rather than €100bn to its banks (France's bail-out pretty much matched its bank exposure). The remaining €40bn was covered by the rest of Europe, although seemingly mostly by Italian taxpayers, as their banks hadn't lent much to Greece. The Italian banks incompetence was restricted to loaning money to Eastern European and Spanish banks that couldn't pay them back either...

This is the same model that was used in Ireland. Where Irish taxpayers were put on the hook for their banks, with the threat of Ireland being chucked out of the Euro if they didn't. Co-incidentally that was mostly German banks that got bailed out too. Obviously it's illegal to chuck a member out of the Euro, but the ECB told Ireland it would cut off funding to its banking sector, causing it to collapse, and forcing them to print their own currency to save them. The ECB used the same threat against Cyprus and Greece, except we can see they actually carried it out in Greece.

This bail-out failed in Greece. It broke the IMF lending rules, as it patently couldn't work. But the IMF made a new rule to allow it, to save the Euro. Probably a legitimate reason at the time, although I'm sure it didn't influence things that their managing director was French.

So in 2012 there was a second bail-out. This one was notinally sustainable. It was a fiction, as it required Greece to be paying back something like 4.5% of GDP per year for a decade. Also the last bail-out, having made the Greek government cut spending by 10% was only going to shrink the ecoomy by 5%. That caused a 10% drop instead. The 2012 bail-out did the same again, with the same result. The fictional forecast was wrong, and it resulted in a total loss of 25% of Greek GDP, 25% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment. Plus a massive spike in emigration. Oh and the debt to GDP ratio went from something around 130% of GDP to 175%.

Basically the Troika cooked the books in 2010 for sane reasons. Greece took one for the team, which given their cooking the books beforehand is fair enough. Then they came back to the deal in 2012, but still fiddled the figures. They had less excuse this time, and the IMF none. That bail-out was designed to fail, given the knowledge gained from the 2010 one. The IMF admitted so in 2013, when they admitted to miscalculating the Greek fiscal multiplier.

And here we are. Replaying the 1930s. It's the Fisher Paradox. The more the creditors demand that the debtor repay, the less they'll get back. As they destroy the debtor's economy, out of greed and stupidity.

And the Germans have the least excuse of any nation on earth for failing to learn the lessons of the Versailles war reparations and the deflation, depression and instability that this caused.

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