Re: Light FIXTURE will affect the sound!
Only if it's set up with a timer, so I can have this song played whenever the fridge is opened after bedtime.
5125 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
No. No. No. What a stupid idea! I don't think you've understood this internet of things malarkey at all!
You need to create lightbulb microwave which you can shine on anything you want to destroy, and then connect it to the internet. Then random teenagers all over the world will be able to burn your house down.
Right, now to pick some random letters out of a scrabble bag to come up with my company name. Not forgetting to remove most of the vowels first of course.
I think the icon to use is obvious...
The difference I noticed when we moved to 4G wasn't so much the extra speed, as pages seem to take similar times to load. It was the massive improvement in upload speed, to send out your requests. It still doesn't feel as fast as on a wired connection though, even when it's notionally much faster.
My Mum has celebrated her 76th year by joining into the smartphone gang. But there are still some holdouts. I've still got a few friends who refuse to upgrade from ancient candybar phones - and I know a couple who don't even own mobiles.
I don't understand it. They're so useful. I've had a mobile since as soon as they were sanely affordable, in the early/mid-90s. I stayed out of smartphones too long, until the company forced my hand. But now I wouldn't be without access to my diary/address book/phone/sat-nav/public transport/weather app/shopping list - and I also use email and a bit of light browsing.
I still think it's horses for courses. I think the ultimate computing experience is sat at a desktop, where you can have the keyboard and screen set up ergonomically. And have access to a keyboard. As a touch-typist all other input methods are hugely frustrating due to their slowness and inaccuracy. I guess it's probaby different if you're not - as they're probably equally bad.
I hate laptops with a passion, due to the horrible closeness of keyboard to screen. Also I've got fat hands, the keyboards are often a few percent smaller than standard, and I keep knocking the touchpad and losing the cursor. Why can't they implement palm detection and/or have an off-switch? My old HP swivel tablet (TX2000) had a little off switch on the touchpad, along with other thoughtful features, although sadly also Vista and a deeply rubbish fingerprint scanner.
If I read El Reg, it's skiving at work on the desktop, or at home on the tablet - on the sofa. Tablets are great for t'intertubes. I can't imagine why anyone would choose to use a laptop on the sofa, when they have a tablet. Except for typing of course. Sadly I love pen input, but I'm in a minority.
Phones are too small for me. But that's mostly due to dodgy eyesight, so I have to have the text too big. I browse on there when I need to know something, when out and about. Otherwise it's the tablet.
As to "other", are people using smart TVs or smart watches?
Me it's probably half desktop / half tablet for personal stuff. The smartphone is only a tool.
That would be an embarrassing way to discover the secret orbital weapons capability that's been fitted to the ISS for a few years now...
Still, you've got to go eventually. So why not impress your friends with your originality.
I just don't get hangovers.
I do sometimes drink non-alcoholic drinks during the evening, but only half the time, and that seems to make little difference. In order not to wake up thirsty, and with a horrible taste in my mouth, I drink as much as I can before going to bed. Which does substitute the waking up needing the loo problem, but I think that's preferable - and stops you over-sleeping.
To make myself totally tip-top, I then have some fruit juice, bacon sarnie (or bacon and eggs) and a shower. I've never got hangovers, so the only problem for me is when I drink so much, or get so little time to sleep, that I'm still steaming drunk when I get up. Which isn't that nice.
Sorry if that annoys the afflicted.
Interesting. I'd not thought about it, but of course you must be right, smaller barrel, faster ageing. Proportionately more of the alcohol will evaporate (boo!) - and it'll take on more flavours from the wood.
The only thing is that for £40 I can have a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood - which is one of my favourites. Or the 15 year old when it's on special offer. So I'm less likely to want to try the Japanese ones. But I must give them a go, just out of interest. There are still far too many whiskies that I haven't tasted. Must try harder.
I predict that a slightly smaller than usual amount of space piss will be making its way into the space toilet, after a few months - and instead will be deposited in the nice wooden casks so thoughtfully provided.
They should be a little dehydrated afterwards, so it should be about the right colour. And then the research will just show that the conditions in space are not favourable for the maturation process.
You can get Suntory 10 year old in Sainsbury's. I've heard that it's very nice - but I seem to remember that it's £40 a bottle, and I can get a nice 15 year old for that, so haven't bothered to try it yet.
There's also an English Whisky Company, I saw a bottle of their 10 year old in Morrisons. Just imagine the horror if they were to win an award...
I did a survey once, got picked off the street to a local building which they used to use for lots of market research things. I had happy memories of that building, my Mum doing a test on tinned spaghetti when I was 4 or 5. My favourite at the time. While she was answering the questions, I polished off all the samples in sight. Yummy. My vote was for all of them. This time I got a voucher for my troubles.
It was on behalf of ITV, and they gave me a bunch of cards with TV program ideas, and I had to rate them in order of likelihood I'd watch and enjoy.
Some of them were obviously real programs, so there was a description of the Bill and London's Burning (or programs very like them). And then in the comedy ideas I found "a sitcom about the holocaust, set in a concentration camp". I'd love to know if someone genuinely wanted to make this program, and it was being market tested, or if the researchers were actually testing my reactions.
Obviously I rated it as more fun than Emerdale Farm...
This is where you loudly declare your scottish heritage, and come in wearing your kilt.
Things like chilled beams help as well, because you don't have to have cold air blowing on people - which is one of the things that makes them uncomfortable.
One of the problems with the building services industry, is the insane way that procurement happens. As a client you order a nice building - and you get it designed by a consulting engineer. But then you put the job out to tender to the lowest bidder, who is usually the contractor who will often work out how much it will cost to build at zero profit (or even a slight loss). They will then expect to make their profit on saving money on the specified equipment. Some in discounts on original quoted price, but if they've been aggressive in tendering for the job, then they'll substitue for the cheapest crap they can get away with.
The clients know this, and yet still pick the lowest bidder. Then wonder why all their plant keeps breaking down.
The trend is even worse now. Often, to save costs, the project will be design and build. So you pay peanuts to the consulting engineer to give you a 'reference spec', which they don't care about andjust throw together. This should provide the minimum that the contractor must produce, but the consulting engineers are often not paid to defend the spec during the building process. You're then entirely relying on the honesty and solvency of the contractor that you choose. While paying them the minimum amount you can get away with. One doesn't need to be an expert in psychology to work out how this often ends up...
Yes. It infuriates me the amount of people who don't understand how a thermostat works. Set it to the temperature you want, not as high/low as it will go. It won't work any faster.
I work in an engineering company - and still can't get people to do this. Then they leave the heater on for an hour, and then open a window because the office is too hot! Aaaaarrrrggghhhh!!!!
If I murder them, but promise to compost the bodies, can I use the climate change act as my defence in court?
But they knuckled down to it, and were soon finished off...
You can't. It's only for hardened drinkers...
Unexpected item in the bagging area!
*My mom taught me that there's no such thing as blue, fuzzy food.
Sad. If you've never had smurf en croute, you've never lived...
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
Thanks for saving me some typing. I agree with Nick. Oh sorry, wrong meeting...
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?
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I think if you pay upfront, then it's just slightly cheaper than going monthly.
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.
Only so long as the airlines promise not to pack us so tight that just sneezing causes one to join the mile high club...
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...