2641 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
Re: Fingers crossed...
It may be that the 20,000 number includes Katyusha rockets, possibly without reloads - in which case the numbers get far less scary. But it takes time to finish off an artillery piece, and they get to fire once every few seconds until you stop them, they move or they run out of ammo. If they can get off something like half a million shells in the first 5-10 minutes then we're talking a barrage that would make the Battle of the Somme look like a riverside picnic. And I can't see anything short of a pre-emptive strike with multiple tactical nukes doing much to dent it fast enough.
Assuming that the South Koreans had perfect intel on where all the artillery pieces were (unlikely), and that they were never moved (very unlikely), and that they weren't entrenched (amazingly unlikely) you could line up lots of missiles to take them out. But that's easier said than done. You'd probably need lots and lots and lots of MLRS, or thousands of expensive cruise missiles. I don't think short range stuff like Hellfire would do the job, as the artillery is probably too far away, and they tend to need guidance (laser or wire) which is unlikely to be possible.
Re: You'd be surprised
The KGB were apparently telling the Politburo, as late as the 1980s, that the US and UK were actively planning an unprovoked nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union. I don't know whether these reports were taken totally seriously - but given the KGB had access to the odd spy, plus all the information you can get in the press about Western governments that's still pretty surprising.
I haven't seen convincing evidence either way as to whether this was just a system going through the motions of justifying it's own existence. Or whether the propaganda of 50 years meant that it was seriously believed, and groupthink overruled all the contrary intelligence. After all Western governments are pretty transparent, you can read an awful lot in the newspapers, and get even more information just by knowing a few of the right people. Then add some spies, and the fact that the Soviet Union by that point was a far more open society than North Korea ever has been and they should have had an extremely accurate picture of high level NATO political and military thinking.
Even if North Korea has the best spies in the world, and the best intelligence analysts, the people who report to government are all party hacks. And they're more likely to report what's expected of them than not, unless they want to end up in a camp. Which might also be the fate of the general who says "I couldn't capture Seoul with double the number of troops, unless you give me some weapons younger than I am..."
That's what makes dealing with regimes like this so difficult. We've got so little political intelligence that we don't even know who the people in power actually are some of the time, let alone if they're rational or well informed. It may of course be that the South Koreans and US have better information on what's going on inside the North's government than they're letting on to the public. But even if we assume they're totally rational, unless we know what aims they're trying to achieve, that still isn't totally helpful.
Re: Fingers crossed...
North Korea has some stupidly large number like 20,000 artillery tubes pointed at Seoul. Although it would be interesting to see where that oft-quoted number came from, and how much maintenance gets done as in a normal army you'd expect to need over 100,000 troops to run 20,000 artillery pieces and that would be a tenth of their army after mobilisation, so a ridiculous chunk of the regular army. Anyway, you don't need much command and control to fire that lot, and basically wipe Seoul off the map. Even with communications buggered up, it would be very difficult to stop the junior commanders on the ground from firing that lot off, and killing a million or so people.
It's an interesting point whether the only possible defence against that is tactical nukes. You're not going to be able to do enough damage, quickly enough, with conventional weapons. Although first-use of nukes is a no-no, if it's a choice between that and massive casualties, what is the right thing to do?
It's a particularly nasty situation for the South Korean and US staffs to work on. Stopping North Korea from getting far into South Korean territory is probably easy. Weakening the North from the air, ditto. Attacking into the North on the ground, with lots of bunkers and difficult terrain would be extremely hard. Moving armoured formations and conducting mobile warfare yes, but taking and holding ground would lead to very heavy casualties.
Unless you get plenty of warning of war, you can't evacuate a place the size of Seoul in time, and even if you did, it's a shame to get your capital city blown up.
Re: Topic? What's a topic?
We don't need peasants like you in The Silver Badge Club. You're also not allowed in our treehouse. Nyer-nyer.
But your Silver Badge Clubtreehouse smells of poo, and no-one wants to go in there. We've got Golden-Badgers and we're not sharing...
The initial Facebook Home phone (FaceMob? SocialSlab?)
We could try: FaceFone
or PhacePhone, PhaceFone, FacePhone...
Or if you prefer slab, then it should be SlaveSlab.
Re: well yes
I'm in the emergent alchemist class according to the BBC. But I was only 5% out on my lowbrow culture knowledge - or I could have been in the saucy slappers class. At least I can still aspire to some social mobility! Now where did I leave my copy of Heat...
Wasn't MtGox hacked last year though? Or was it the year before? Hopefully it's more secure now, but I doubt they've got the resources to be all that well locked down.
Can you walk into a Tescos, Asda, Lidl or Aldis and pick-up some Milk and a Head of Lettuce with a Gold bar or a Picasso?
Easily. Walk up to me in a supermarket armed with a gold bar, and I'll buy the lettuce for you, and take the gold bar. On the very high chance that it's just shiny-painted lead, it'll make a good doorstop and a great story. And lettuce is cheap. I'd do the same for any convincing copy of a Picasso too.
I'm not clear here, are you complaining that Japan doesn't censor it's pornography? Or is the problem that it does?
Re: it's simple
You're right. It does tell you all you need to know. The Swedish are unable to break their own laws and provide an illegal guarantee. The politicians aren't allowed to interfere in judicial process, and the judiciary have no law on which to base such a guarantee.
Re: Actually, no
It's clear you have little understanding of how law works. Not that I claim to be any expert in Swedish constitutional law, but if their constitution guarantees judicial independence specifically, or the separation of powers then no such law could be made. Parliaments can pass laws, but only in accordance with the constitution.
As for your unrelated point about UK tax law, 'mens rea' is a pretty standard concept in criminal law. You have to prove that the defendant intended to commit a crime for certain offences. That's little different to the case of tax law. If you create a special purpose vehicle to do some sort of business that's fine, but if it's only to evade tax then you're committing a crime. The crime is the intention to avoid paying your taxes. I've not looked at the specifics of the law you mention, but as described it's perfectly reasonable.
No Need: The Lisbon Treaty re-established the death penalty within the EU and the European Arrest Warrant can be used get people fast-track extradited by one country to be prosecuted for alleged illegal activities, even activities that are not illegal in their own country.
The countries are "EU countries" but somehow includes places like Morocco ....
No it didn't. The EU treaties specifically ban the death penalty. Lisbon made no change to that.
And no, the EAW doesn't apply to Morocco, or any other country outside the EU. And the High Court in London ruled that all the offences on the Swedish charge sheet were all also offences in the UK.
I still think the EAW is a crap idea, and personally would like to see a bit less integration within the EU, and much fewer pretensions to statehood. But there's been no injustice here, and Assange would equally have been extradited to Sweden under the old system, as the High Court said in their judgement.
I believe he could be charged with a crime that carries the death penalty, but in order to secure extradition from an EU state the courts would have to guarantee that the death penalty can't be applied in that case.
From what I've read, the charge the US prosecutors would like to go for would be espionage. Not publishing the stuff itself, but directing Manning in getting the info off the servers it lived on. The allegation being he was giving instructions over IRC. I don't know the law, but I'd have thought that they'd have to prove he was running Manning as an agent (which seems pretty unlikely), not just helping with the hacking - otherwise they'd only be able to charge him with conspiracy as part of the hacking itself.
Given that Manning hasn't been found guilty, and even if he is it'll be a military court that does (which has already admitted he was mistreated in prison) - it's going to be a real struggle to get any charges that'll stand up out of that process. Remember this is extradition, not a European Arrest Warrant, so they'd have to produce evidence that a Swedish court will accept as admissible and then hope the US court system would agree. I can't see any prosecution even getting off the ground, and it would probably end up in the European Court before extradition had even happened. Plus on the way there it would have to go through both the Swedish and British Supreme Courts. Great for the lawyers I suppose...
Re: I'm intrigued by the 'Tolkein inspired menu' in the tea room..
Topically, there's our Rohan 'special' lasagna...
Smaugasbord - for a sandwich that can't be topped
If it's chilli you like, then you can destroy your ring with our snacks of Doom. They're so hot we were nearly closed down by elf and safety.
You can have a ploughman's lunch, with dwarf bread, cheese, pickle and an orc pie.
After your meal, like any true adventurer, you can enjoy a pipe in our smoking room. Be careful, tobacco can be hobbit forming.
I'd best get my coat. My pun-generator appears to have malfunctioned.
Re: Nice Brand you have there, Squire...
At least the .xxx domain wasn't too bad. Sure you had to pay them cashola so as not to tarnish your brand, but they let you do a one-off payment. so that yourdomain.xxx could never again be registered. It wasn't that much more than a registration fee, and means no further work required.
At least until they change the system in 10 years time to get some more cash out of you...
Re: Can someone enlighten me
I keep all my files on the desktop in a big jumbly pile. That way I have instant access to any file I can find.
What are these folder things of which you speak?
Re: As if any reminder was needed...
Oh, I don't know about that. Some people would pay good money for a bit of correction from a strong, dominant hausfrau such as herself...
Re: As if any reminder was needed...
All hail Gordon Brown! He may have been a crap Chancellor and a rubbish Prime Minister, but he stopped Blair from getting us into the Euro. And a pre-Iraq Blair might well have been able to persuade people to join. He had the magic touch with the voters.
Will there be public statues to Gordon Brown in the future for this?
Perhaps we could move the Eurostar terminal back to Waterloo station. And we could have statues of Lloyd-George and Churchill in front of a giant picture of Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup in 1966 - plus a statue of a Gordon Brown looking grumpy...
I used to play EVE online. That's exactly what Bitcoin has always reminded me of.
I think even the banks that weren't run as frauds from the beginning eventually collapsed. After several years of what must be quite hard real work, you're sitting on a pile of in game cash that can be worth thousands of real pounds. Perhaps you're bored of the game anyway? Why not take the money?
I seem to recall there was one person who had a hard disk die, and lost a bunch of data as to whose money was whose. Then just thought sod it, and so stole the lot.
Re: In troubled times...
Sadly only one upvote available from me, for such a nice summary.
It's now a toss-up as to whether the Euro is safer than Bitcoins. Which given my very low opinion of the Bitcoin system is a shocking indictment of the piss-poor, verging on insane, actions of the Eurogroup recently.
So far as I can see, the collapse of the Euro is pretty much inevitable at this point. Like the Gold Standard in the 1930s Depression. It could still be saved, but because the politicians in the creditor countries have spent the last couple of years pandering to their voters' prejudices - rather than trying to persuade them that things need to change, I don't see it as politically possible. There are several easy (but expensive ways) to solve the problem - but they're all going to be expensive, require co-operation and require the people with the money to lose lots of it, and the people who need the money to hand over control of their economies to the loud-mouthed ones with the cash (who've spent the last 3 years telling them what lazy good-for-nothing wankers they are.
The only thing that keeps things going, is that no-one can believe it's going to go wrong. No-one's scared enough to do what needs to be done to save the Euro. By the time they are, it'll be too late. But because they're not yet scared enough, they still buy government bonds from Italy or Spain, and they leave their money in the bank.
You also have to ask, how safe is a Germany bank if you're Spanish? Sure, theoretically you keep the lovely Euros, or get new D Marks. But if Spain defaults, what's to stop Germany from simply converting all Spanish depositor's cash to their new currency and keeping the profits to offset against their huge losses from the default?
If I was Cyprus I'd default at this point. Russia won't save them, and the Eurozone are making it worse. The very terms they're forcing on them with this bail-out will destroy the Cypriot banking system. In a controlled manner, rather than default I guess. But it looks deliberate. That'll collapse the Cypriot economy, and they'll go into a Greek-style death spiral. Hence needing another bail-out in 2 years. So even though they'd only lose 10% of their deposits now (better than leaving the Euro destroying 50%), they'll lose it all later anyway.
So default on all foreign debtors. Leave the Euro and devalue. Issue government debt to your own banks in your new currency, to keep them solvent - default on the rest. Basically do an Iceland, but you have to create a currency to do it at the same time, so it'll be worse. It'll be horrible, but the threat of it might bring the Eurogroup to their senses, and if not, it's almost certainly better than what's just happened to Greece. Give them the same ultimatum they gave Cyprus last weekend, go into a meeting on Saturday saying, 'we default on Monday' unless you give us a deal tonight. The Germans spent the first 6 months of 2012 saying fuck Greece, we're going to push them out of the Euro. They didn't dare when it came to it. I doubt they would here.
Edit: Sorry for the rant. I think this is the angriest I've ever been at a political issue, certainly that I can remember. It's the childishness and stupidity of the Germans in particular that pisses me off. They seem to think they can piss all over Southern Europe without suffering themselves. I don't blame them for not wanting to bail anyone out. That's totally understandable. But they won't leave the Euro, they've blocked all possible solutions, but they won't be honest and just walk away themselves. I've no problems with people acting in their own self-interest, and us getting defeated in EU votes. Annoying, but not to get angry about. But this whole ya-boo-sucks to you scroungers has destroyed Greece, will probably do the same to Spain, is doing it to Cyprus. And it's self defeating. If you lend people money, it's in your own interests to help them pay it back. Fuck them over enough, and they'll tell you to get stuffed. Then you destroy your own economy too.
Re: Good budget I thought
Something is worth what it costs to make.
Go and study some economics old chap. By that logic nothing would get made - with no profit why would anyone work except to grow their own food?
Price is there in order to manage scarcity. There will always be scarcity. In our lemons example, the price would remain high, until more lemon trees were planted, and then had grown to maturity, to start producing more lemons. Then the price would drop again. In the intervening period, lemon growers would make big profits and people would use fewer lemons, and pay more for them.
If lemons were free everyone would want loads of them. Even if they ended up throwing most away. But it wouldn't be worth the cost of picking them.
If they only cost exactly the costs of production plus transport, then no-one would ever plant any more orchards. It wouldn't be worth the effort, as the money put into it, would never be repaid. So as the lemon trees dies off, supply would drop, price would rise, and lemons would become scarce.
In the same example, there'd never be an iPhone. Why spend a few billion on research, and setting up production lines for no profit?
Re: Good budget I thought
Conservative policy was to relax the planning laws, it even went into the coalition agreement. But NIMBYs have votes too, and many of the Tory right (Telegraph, Mail, Conservative Home) are as NIMBY as anyone. If you read the Torygraph it's enough to make you despair. They supposedly believe in free markets, but constantly want the government to stimulate the economy, protect the greenbelt and restrict building plus prop up house prices.
Remember though, the Lib Dems are in the coalition, so it's going to be hard to get both lots to agree on planning reform. Also we don't actually want an immediate 50% drop in house prices, as that would massively weaken the banks, and screw the economy even more. What we need is house prices to rise less than inflation for the next few decades.
Also, more jobs Ooop North. If we can get people to move/stay up there, it would take the pressure off
the over-crowded South East, and stop the bonkers price rises.
Finally, I'm also worried about the government mortgage schemes. Several of the places I looked at (including the one I bought, and one of the ones that fell through) were on these part-buy-part rent schemes. When prices fall, they're a negotiation nightmare. The ones who sold me mine, made a huge loss, and yet had to keep up mortgage repayments for an extra year - because the government side wouldn't accept that the place was now worth 30% less. They only took my offer after a whole year after rejecting the same from someone else. That's a nice £5-£10k of wasted mortgage payments thanks...
Plus, in the case of the 2 I looked at, they'd been built at the height of the madness. 2006/7. Both were waaay over-priced. But because everything else was expensive, and you could only get this finance on new builds, the house builders could jack their prices up stupidly - leaving all those poor sods in negative equity, when they were often the poorest to start with - and so were already close to 100% mortgages. Buying a new build seems to be like buying a new car. As soon as you take the keys, the value drops by 10%. At least the new schemes are no longer restricted to new builds.
Re: but, George, this is UK, not Cyprus, right?
Inflation is not high, by any historical measure. You don't get owt for nowt. There is a risk to any investment. If you want to make a profit from your money you have to risk it. The higher the risk, the higher the return - so long as it doesn't go wrong of course. At the moment the banks are being massively risk averse with their deposits, which is what people (and the government) want.
Of course, we have negative real interest rates. Because everyone wants their money safe, and that's one of the reasons for the economy stagnating. The alternative would be worse - and still wouldn't lead to savings making a safe profit.
People remember the good old days 20-30 years ago, when you could regularly get 6-10% on savings accounts. But at the time, that was still close to (or sometimes less than) the level of inflation. Ordinary, safe savings will just about protect your capital, rarely much more. And this is because the banks have to make a profit, and mortgage rates are low.
There never is a guaranteed protection from inflation. To do it, you have to use your money in some way, and thus accept risk. This is what the Bitcoin loonies talk about. How their lovely coins appreciate in value, rather than suffering the evils of inflation. And what happens? People hoard them, in the hopes of making future profits, so they fail as a currency. Any economy run solely on Bitcoins would collapse.
Remember every saver needs a borrower. Neither is more virtuous than the other. If nobody will borrow, then no-one can save. If too many people save, and won't invest or spend, then the economy will collapse. This is one of the roots of the Eurozone crisis.
Re: Who'd have thunk it?
>>If GDP grows by 2%, and inflation is also 2% then your economy has got 4% bigger<<
That is exactly the kind of thinking that has got us into the state that we are in - and it's nonsense. On that basis, the Weimar Republic had an economic growth in excess of 1 million percent.
Sorry, I didn't put that very clearly. What I was trying to say is that government debt has a fixed face value. A combination of economic growth and inflation increases the nominal size of the economy, whereas debt stays the same size. Inflation of around 2% is perfectly healthy - having inflation lower than that can actually be risky.
Obviously this is why there is interest on government (and all) debt, in order to cover the loss due to inflation, as well as make a profit. Deflation turns debt into a crippling burden, see Greece (and to some extent Japan) for details. If the nominal size of your economy falls, your debt burden becomes an increasing percentage of this, which is why the Eurozone are completely insane in the way they've destroyed the Greek economy, and are now moving on to do the same to Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus. With control of the currency, the UK government is able to make some cuts, while making sure we don't tip into deflation, and as long as nominal GDP doesn't fall the current stock of debt remains manageable. At least so long as we can slowly halt the growth of our debt, due to current deficits.
It's a careful juggling act, between reality, confidence, psychology, politics and economics. It's all fun, until someone loses an eye...
The coalition got close to 60% of the vote. I've not got the exact figures to hand to check. That's a majority in anyone's book.
Admittedly not an absolute majority of all voters. But if people can't be arsed to vote once every 4 years, they've no excuse to complain if they get a government they don't want.
Re: Who'd have thunk it?
It's a bit too easy to blame the politicians though. If you keep voting for more spending than taxes, you can't complain when you run out of money.
There's an argument for forcing balanced budgets, but then you can end up with deadlock, like this year in the US, and sudden massive cuts in spending, or rises in taxes. The Fiscal Cliff + the new Eurozone crisis might be enough to plunge the world back into recession this year.
The difference between us and Greece is that the government there hid its deficit spending last decade. Very few people seem to have noticed, partly because they don't have the financial analysts and think tanks we do in London. There are a lot more people involved in politics here. So the electorate knew we were over-spending, but apparently approved. Perhaps we'll learn a lesson from that, and maybe not vote for people who can't count in future...
I worry about changing the law to stop democracy from working. Unless we have to conclude that democracy can't be made to work. I'm not that pessimistic.
You've voted Liberal all your life. So for your whole life you've supported a party that believes in electoral reform that they expect to mean regular coalition governments. Partly because they believe the current system of winner-takes-all is undemocratic (which in some ways it is). Also partly because some believe that coalitions lead to more consensus and better long-term behaviour from governments.
For the first time in 40 years there's a hung Parliament. The party that believes coalition government is a good thing goes into coalition.
They choose to ally with the party that won. By a massively clear margin. The alternative being a coalition with a party who'd lost, and still wouldn't have quite enough votes for an overall majority, and were led by a man who'd been PM without winning an election, and had now got his party's worst result in 80 years.
What the fuck else was Clegg supposed to do!
To not go into coalition would mean the Lib Dems should just wind the party up, and give up. That they didn't really believe in their own politics and should just re-join Labour. They said before the election they'd try to form a coalition with the winner (whoever it was), they did so. There's nothing wrong, dishonest or inconsistent about it.
If you can't work out what the party you say you've always supported was going to do, even though they told you, put it in their manifesto, and it chimes with everything they've said they believed in since their formation, then you should consider not voting again, as it's possibly too complicated.
Sorry to be rude, but that argument about the Lib Dems really pisses me off. I don't like them as a party, but the hysterical criticism of politicians can get wildly unfair, and how can we have democracy if people won't use their fucking brains? The Lib Dems have done exactly what they've been saying they believe in for 30 years. If politicians compromise and try to get on with things, they've got no principals. If they stick to their guns, and do what they believe in it's because they can't rise above narrow party advantage and act in the national interest. As an electorate we need to grow up.
Re: John Maynard Keynes
Er, the government is cutting spending by 1% of GDP a year. Or trying to. That's not slashing. It's nothing close to the madness the Eurozone are pursuing, even though we've now got a worse budget deficit than Greece!
Learn some economics. Keynes (who was a genius) said you had to pay down debt in the boom, in order to keep the economy more stable, and to build up a reserve to deficit spend in the recession. The ones who forgot Keynes were Labour. Now they talk as if he was a genius, when it's easy. When he was in government they ignored him.
There might have been a collapse in confidence in the UK economy if there had not been any cuts. There's no way of knowing. The result of having little growth, but no drop either is not that bad, considering the alternative. Look at the Eurozone for what can go wrong, and just how fast and badly.
Could the government have done better. Always. By the way it was Labour who cut the capital spending, Osborne confirmed the decision already taken by Darling. That looks to have been an error both parties made.
In an ideal world you'd design and set up a bunch of big capital spending projects, and only do them when a recession hits. That way the government could get them cheap, and boost the economy at crucial times Hard to organise though.
Re: but, George, this is UK, not Cyprus, right?
What high inflation!?!?!
CPI is under 3%, RPI just over. That's not even close to being high! What are you talking about! It's over target, but it's not ridiculous, nor high, and certainly not hyper. It doesn't even appear to be out-of-control.
Just because people keep talking about high inflation, doesn't mean we actually have it.
Re: Who'd have thunk it?
Except the 'you need people to lend to you' line is bollocks.
The BoE have spent nearly £400 billion - look it up - on QE. Where did that money come from?
Answer: nowhere. It appeared magically out of thin air when it was needed. Literally. With no exaggeration.
Basically the BoE makes up some electronic cash and hands it to banks cash in return for worthless paper 'assets.' Then the banks invest the cash in more worthless paper, and make profits from it.
And then you've got all the other usual boring 1% stuff...
You don't really quite QE. Mostly it's been used to buy government gilts, so the banks aren't making money with that lot - although the other lot has probably lead to some of the spike in the stock market. Supposedly the government will pay this money back, or it'll be sold to the markets at a time when we're not in such a financial mess that this is possible. However doing this has its costs. QE has been one of the major causes of the currency devaluation, which means the pound in your pocket is worth less. However it's allowed us to cushion the financial shock - which otherwise would have lead to chaos. At some point, I'd imagine some of this debt will be sold, and some cancelled. But you can't keep on magicking the money up, eventually you have to stop, or get dangerous levels of inflation.
The point of austerity is that we currently spend more than we tax. To the tune of well north of £100 billion. Some of that is good deficit spending. Money on unemployment benefit, redundancy pay-outs, special help for times of recession helps to make recessions less painful. This is sometimes called the automatic stabilisers, and is temporary. When the recession goes away and unemployment drops, this kind of spending also drops.
Sadly we also have a very large structural deficit. That's the damage to our tax base from not getting quite so much cash from the financial services industry - basically because a lot of that boom profit wasn't really real. It would be interesting to see our real economic output for that time, with the bizarre not-real-profits that caused the crash taken out (but probably impossible to work out). Anyway there's that, plus the £30-odd billion of unfunded spending that Gordon and Tony bequeathed us. That's government spending they gave us, but were too dishonest to raise the taxes for.
You simply can't spend £60 billion a year more than you tax for eternity. You can't keep printing money to save the day, QE is an emergency measure only. Otherwise it's hyper-inflation-a-gogo.
Finally, your little graph from Paul Krugman is interesting. And rather dishonest. Don't know how good an economist he is, I've only studied it for a few years, but I have noticed him being very flexible with the facts in his public pronouncements, so Nobel prize or not, I've little faith in the man. He talks about how low UK debt was by historical standards - and yet even if George Osborne's plans had worked perfectly debt to GDP would be expected to go well over 100% by 2015. So just by filling in the projections on that graph things would have looked a lot less like a little bump at the end.
Finally, look at the 1930s depression. That gave us a spike in debt to GDP of only 25%, and it was paid off / grown off again in 5 years! So the debt to GDP rise in the great depression was less than the 'little insignificant' one on the right of the graph he was talking about, even not including for the trajectory meaning that it would be doubling again. The huge spikes on that graph were caused by Britain paying for 2 world wars (3 if you count the Napoleonic). So his graph shows us that debt was rising at the same rate as World War I or II, but that was no reason to be worried. What a genius! Or possibly not...
Re: Who'd have thunk it?
You don't necessarily need to pay off the national debt. Having some is even useful, as long as the interest payments aren't too high, it allows people to be able to buy safe bonds, with predictable (if low) returns. Although at the moment they're not looking quite so safe.
If you can balance the budget, and grow the economy - then the level of debt becomes less-and-less important, as the economy gets bigger. If GDP grows by 2%, and inflation is also 2%, then your economy has got 4% bigger and your national debt has stayed the same. It doesn't take many years of that for the national debt to become less of an issue. You can even pay some off if you're feeling rich.
Italy's problem is that it's been holding national debt above 100% of GDP for years. But now the population is stagnant (it may be dropping now), and joining the Euro buggered up their economy. So there were doubts about their debt when they were only growing slowly, the damage in the recession means their economy is the same size as it was in 1998, but with an extra 15 years of debt (although inflation makes that slightly less bad). Which is why they're going to either need to leave the Euro, massively restructure their economy, accept a million immigrants or default. Or some combination of those. Plus inflation, but being in the Euro they don't get to make that call.
Re: To fix the problem
all the major political parties at the moment are unappealing!
Well of course they are. There's no infinite supplies of money for doing nice things. Plus the major priority has to be the economy, so all they can really do is argue about who'd manage it best - and spout on about depressing economics.
Cameron and Osborne lost the last election by being honest in January 2010. They were sitting on a solid 42-44% in the polls, and had been for over a year. Then they started a campaign to talk about what they'd cut in order to get the deficit down while not cutting health or education. Osborne said if they didn't do this, they'd have no mandate for cuts. After 2 weeks of that their poll rating had crashed to around 36%, so they stopped, and went back to being non-specific. Their polling never really shifted again.
Have we as voters taught our politicians a valuable lesson here? Be Blair and Brown, massively raise spending in 2002, but don't say you will in the preceding election. Don't raise tax all that much though. Hope for the best. Keep on winning and being popular for ages. Or, tell the truth about the economy as you see it, and what's required in order to protect the most popular areas of spending (health / education), lost nearly 10% of your support. Perhaps the voters get the politicians they deserve?
Due to the oddities of our electoral system, had Labour won an election with 36% of the vote to the Conservatives 29%, they'd have got a landslide. Because it was the other way round, we got a hung Parliament. As I recall the figures, Blair only got 37% in 2005, against a Conservative 35%, and still got a majority of 60.
Interestingly the Lib Dems decided to sulk and veto the Tory constituency redrawing, and pretty much guaranteed they won't be in government for a while. Labour are looking to be the most likely winners of the next election, as if they can recover up to say 35% of the vote (polling in the 40s it should be easy), and the Conservatives get about the same (or even a few percent more), the current system is likely to give Labour an absolute majority. So no room for Lib Dems in coalition unless Labour do really, really badly.
This oddity is because of the way the boundaries are drawn. Labour tend to represent constituencies with fewer voters. So they don't need as many votes to win an election. Of course, PR has it's own oddities. In Greece and Italy, parties with well under 30% of the vote got topped up to an absolute majority in the lower house of Parliament, in an attempt to give more stable governments...
Re: Who'd have thunk it?
Now is a great time to borrow. Except when no-one will lend to you. See Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, for details... Remember the Eurozone are doing QE, they're just funnelling it through the banks and calling it LTRO. Otherwise Spain and Italy would already be in default.
Of course, people will currently lend to us. And it's possible that we could have spent some more, and still got low government interest rates. But no-one knows how much more. All this is psychological. Will the current Eurozone fuck-up in Cyprus cause bank-runs and destroy the Euro, or will people just see it as a small case not worth worrying about? No-one knows. No-one can know until you do it, and no-one can know if the alternative would have worked if you don't.
As you rightly point out, if we'd not been borrowing £30 billion a year since 2002, we'd have had lower debt when the crisis hit, and not been employing 100,000 odd public service workers more than we could pay for. Even to balance the books without a recession would have been painful, but if you're going to deficit spend it really helps not to have a huge structural deficit as well, that you've no idea how to pay for.
Basically the (probably) permanent damage done to the financial services industry by their own incompetence, plus the chronic government overspending left a structural deficit of £50-£90 billion per year. Depending on how Eyeore-ish the economist you asked. Quite hard to convince people to lend the extra £100 billion a year we were borrowing at the time, when even once everything was over we'd still be guzzling down the cash at say £60 billion a year...
Having our main trading partners committing a protracted and bizarre eurocide isn't exactly helping either.
As Jim Hacker said, Chancellor is an awful job. You're always responsible for taxes, and recession. Much better to go straight to being Prime Minister. I wonder if Gordon Brown would agree with him...
Hooray for our heroic hacks! Undaunted by even the toughest of challenges - they will seek the news without fear or favour.
Re: Submitting posts failing - Reg reply
I've not had the problem in a week. When it happened before, it was In groups. Usually any attempted post would result in multiple failures over an hour or so. Mashing back then submit would eventually fix it. I'll certainly post here if it happens again..
Re: Technical Matter
I don't believe that's correct. Certainly the British government has had to pay out before, and salvage law is pretty standard.
Re: Not allowed to criticize a Reg author?
Thanks for the response. I guess if you can be bothered to go back through a bunch of their articles and say they were wrong here, here and here all about the same company, then you can make a polite accusation of bias with evidence. Obviously, everyone's got their biases anyway, it's just a matter of how successful they are at keeping it out of what they write. I've seen plenty of other posters say it about Reg writers, so I've no idea why you got your posts nixed though...
Also, a quick scan through your posting history doesn't show any deleted comments. Are you sure you weren't posting on Andrew Orlowski's articles, where all posts are usually delayed for moderator approval - and they're now up there? Or have you changed username?
I guess it's also hard to say what's bias, and what's a legitimate opinion. For example Andrew O gets accused of anti-Google bias, but then he's got a valid (even if it's not correct it's defensible) criticism of the big G. So just because he mentions that in relevant articles, does that make him biased against them, or is he just doing his job? I happen to agree with quite a lot of what he says about them, so it may be he's the most biased anti-Googler in the world except for me...
If you'd had a post modded for it once, then I can imagine all the next ones getting the same treatment, if they're close together in time. But they normally let that sort of thing go, if polite, so I've no idea what the problem was.
Re: Not allowed to criticize a Reg author?
Despite what you may think, it is not actually polite to accuse a journalist of being biased. So if you've done so in a comment, that comment was not polite, by any reasonable definition. Just saying things without swearing does not politeness make...
Of course there's nothing stopping you commenting on why you think an article was wrong. Also, I'm not accusing you of this as I've not seen your posts, but just because a commentator disagrees with someone, that doesn't necessarily make them a shill, or biased, or an idiot. Too many commentards seem to find it impossible to comprehend the idea that other people have different opinions.
The El Reg House Rules are here. In them they state something like, please don't insult our writers or accuse them of being shills. Then go on to say, it's our house so our rules - in the same context. So if they see something as an attack on the writer, rather than the article, their mods can delete it. That's reasonable, as they say, it's their forum.
Finally, expect inconsistency. Mods are human (despite what users say), and see lots of posts. I think the Reg ones are also their sub-editors, so they've got a real job to do first, modding second. They'll make mistakes. They don't have a 'punitive' modding system, so I guess it's a pretty quick decision to just hit delete on a post, rather than spending too much time with a process. Having done it myself, on a million user forum, I can tell you that modding can be incredibly time-consuming.
However if you accuse their writers of bias on their site, you've no right to complain if they don't let you. Especially as the Reg are very tolerant of criticism on here, I've done it plenty of times and never had a post nixed.
Re: Be nice, folks =)
I'm sure there must be a gag in there about Ed Balls, but I'll leave that to your fertile imagination...
Re: I have a plan
I'm sure Osborne's got a grasp of basic economics. The correct answer to the current mess is unknown, as there's not really been a crisis like this. The 1930s Depression was different, for various important reasons.
It's obviously easy for Ed Balls to say that if he'd been in charge things would have been different. But without access to a time machine, or the correct parallel universe, it's impossible to know for certain.
Although one thing that I find constantly amazing is just how many Keynesians we've got kicking around now the world economy is in the toilet, who entirely failed to be Keynesian during the boom (i.e. spending cuts in the boom to limit bubbles - allowing for large borrowing during busts). Were Keynes around today I'm sure he'd make some great suggestions, as he seemed to be a genius, but I'm also sure he'd have been doing a lot of re-writing of his theories, given the experience of the last 50 years.
Seriously though, how much paperwork actually exists inside a government these days? Enquiring minds need to know...
Ministers all still have red boxes, and get their homework put in them to do each night. See all the gags in Yes Minister about it for details.
So I'd imagine they're mostly on paper reports. Given the amount, and varied nature, of the information that ministers have to absorb, paper is probably the most efficient way to deal with it. Obviously they have to have a large support staff to make this work, but top ministers have so much information to go through that single person, that it would be impossible for them to manage the infomation flow themselves.
Seems an odd decision to join Twitter on the day of the budget (which isn't likely to be a 'nice' one with juicy, popular tax cuts). It'll just be full of abuse. Or they'll have to employ 10 extra people to delete it all.
Unless the Chancellor wants to perch on the front bench with his phone and tweet abuse at the leader of the opposition as he gives the budget response. Perhaps one of those apps that makes him sound like he's on helium?
The Treasury have got a really advanced visualisation machine. They've got a model of the British economy done in plumbing. You open and close different valves, to show the effect of tax/spending changes and see what happens.
Quick Wikipedia link (it came up first) here. Sadly looks like the Treasury don't have one, I'm sure they still did in the 90s, but there's one in the Science Museum.
In reality I'm sure the Chancellor doesn't get to play with the spreadsheets / models. He just gets fat reports with predictions of what effects changes will have.
Re: Fire drill
I did a school trip to Sellafield. And was very impressed by the loud noises and attention that you get when someone accidentally sets off a radiation alarm.
Alarm was the appropriate word for my state of mind at the time too...
Re: Can any tablet+keyboard combo be used with portrait screen?
I don't know about the Windows 8 ones, but I very much doubt it. Where you've got the laptop-with-detachable-keyboard type, then its going to have special hinges and fit together like a laptop.
If you want to do this, then you're stuck with the Bluetooth keyboards as tablet accessories. For example, I've got the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for my iPad 3. This has got a magnetic connector so it can be used as a cover, which looks like a laptop when closed, but in all other ways is a completely separate keyboard, In fact, it's pretty much pointless being able to clip it onto the iPad, as you'd never use them clipped together, the only reason is for neatness and protection when bunging them in a bag.
What the Logitech has got is a groove across the end of the keyboard, so you can stand your iPad up in it. It's pretty robust. You can use it on your lap reasonably safely with the iPad in landscape mode. In portrait mode it's a bit more top-heavy, with less contact area, and so I wouldn't be happy using it on anything other than a table.
Obviously if you're not going the iPad route, then this post is no help to you whatsoever...
I wouldn't be surprised if the porn industry haven't been pouring large amounts of dosh into the R&D...
Why? Are brick-fetishists that big a market...
One major success that's not been mentioned in the comments
An area where Apple need to get suing Samsung for copying them...
The publicity from this has been brilliant. It was reported on several different radio stations this morning, and last night, plus getting prominently into the papers. In the news sections, not the tech sections. This is the kind of free publicity that only really Apple have been getting on phones. The Galaxy S3.got a little bit of this treatment last year, but nothing in comparison.
So even if the event was a bit cringeworthy, it's served it's purpose well. What's the mainstream coverage been like in the US?
Re: Dumbo Reg Hack
How's he supposed to mention call quality? He hasn't seen it, he's reporting on the launch.
I thought North Korea were using Red Star Linux, so should be relatively safe from the internet's usual nasties. On which subject, have they released the source for that, or should we send in Richard Stallman?
Let's just hope this doesn't give anonymous any ideas, or they might manage to start their first war.
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