March 2008

Yes, This is Your Money They\’re Spending

Dr. Rant:

it turns out that it didn\’t occur to the DoH boffins that hospitals might need to replace some of the doctors part way through the year.

Yes, incredibly the Big Brains failed to consider that some doctors get sick, get pregnant, or (if they have any sense) emigrate and that they do this throughout the year. Under the New MMC system, these doctors can\’t be replaced until the next round of madness up to a year later.

My brain hurts. Can we hang them all, please?

My Thoughts Exactly

The Fed may also be inflating to reduce the real size of mortgages. If it can be proven that Ben is explicitly doing this, I’ll petition to have him canonized.

I\’m not sure about the canonization but it would indeed be a way out of the housing slump. A decent burst of inflation (say, 10-15% total over a couple of years) alongside negative real interest rates would indeed solve the problem.

Yes indeed, it\’ll screw all sorts of people as well: but then what\’s worse, inflation or deflation?

(This isn\’t a policy recommendation from me: I don\’t do macro and no one would be foolish enough to listen to me anyway. But it has occured to me that this might indeed be what the plan is.)

Mind Bogglingly Stupid Answers to Simple Questions

So, erm, books are being pirated on the net. The Society of Authors proposes that:

She suggested four possible sources of income at an industry discussion on copyright law last week: the Government, business, rich patrons and the public. Government funding could take the form of an “academy” of salaried writers.

Seriously? Bureaucrats paid to write books? Jebus wept!

You can tell what would happen, can\’t you? Those with the connections will get the salaries: stand by for yet more novels of occasional adultery in Hampstead.

How about an elegant technological solution? Perhaps some form of Google Adsense that can be incorporated into a .pdf file, the means by which the digital books are distributed?

Hell, why not a PayPal button. "If you enjoyed this book why not send £1 to the author?"

That\’s about what nett royalties are anyway…..


Nazi-Style Sex Orgy

Sounds, erm, different:

Max Mosley, one of the most powerful men in world sport, was under pressure to resign as boss of Formula One’s governing body last night after he was exposed enjoying a Nazi-style orgy with five prostitutes.

Jewish groups condemned the behaviour of Mosley, 67, whose father, Sir Oswald, was the leader of the British Union of Fascists and a friend of Adolf Hitler.

Mr Mosley was caught on video by the News of the World with five women in an underground “torture chamber” in Chelsea, where he spent several hours allegedly indulging in sado-masochistic sex.

Then again, as PJ O\’Rouke has pointed out, absolutely no one has ever fantasised about being tied up and ravished by a liberal.

Ms. Ashley on Politics

Brown has a reasonable number of intelligent women in his cabinet,

He does?

OK, allow me to be a little less sexist. Does Gordon Brown have a reasonable number of intelligent people in his Cabinet?

OK, I\’ll wait…..

Blogworld is the future, and it will not be resisted; but at this stage in its development, it seems dominated by rightwing male individualists and libertarians.

Indeed, and Hurrah, Hurrah!

But the interesting question is why? Allow the truth of the statement, that the mainstream media is more socially authoritarian, more economically illiberal, than us shouting out here in cyberspace.

OK, now, who is reflecting most accurately the real tenor of the times? Those working in commercial structures, those with careers to protect by following the party line? Or the individuals ploughing their own furrow and attracting (or not) audiences thereby?

Could it be the individualists and libertarians?

Glorious Green Energy!


A German town is subsiding after authorities drilled underground to harness "green" energy.

Staufen, in the Black Forest, was proud of its innovative geothermal power plan that was supposed to provide environmentally-friendly heating.

But only two weeks after contractors drilled down 460ft to extract heat, large cracks have appeared in buildings as the town centre has subsided about a third of an inch (8mm).

Perhaps the drilling made Gaia itch?

POD Publishing.

Those bloggers who have or were thinking of doing a POD book (myself included).

Looks like life just got a little more complicated.

It used to be that you could use any (rather, many) of the various POD publishing housaes and still end up in the Amazon catalogue.

Amazon seems to be flexing some market power: use Booksurge and be on Amazon, use anyone else and don\’t be on Amazon.

Their right to do this of course, but it does make the decision making process a little more complicated, no?


Arms Dealing

Alex picks up on a fun story involving the flogging of very dodgy ammunition by a bunch of 20 year olds to the Pentagon\’s client forces.

What makes it all the more fun for me is that my buddy was the underbidder on that contract. Several times in fact. Clearly too expensive as he intended (and priced accordingly) to deliver in date useful stuff.

A lot of people are wondering how this little company got that contract.

Mobile Phones and Brain Cancer Woo Woo

Over in the Independent.

Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded.

Wow! Gosh, how could that happen?

It draws on growing evidence – exclusively reported in the IoS in October – that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer.

OK, what\’s the incidence of brain cancer? Maybe 20 cases per 100,000 people per year.

Professor Khurana, who told the IoS his assessment is partly based on the fact that three billion people now use the phones worldwide, three times as many as smoke.

So the increased incidence would be 3 billion/ 100,000 x 20 then, yes? Umm, 600,000 deaths a year then, yes (assuming that everyone who gets the cancer dies of it)?

Smoking kills some five million worldwide each year, and exposure to asbestos is responsible for as many deaths in Britain as road accidents.

So even if he\’s right, that\’s one tenth (ish) the number of deaths from smoking.

Do journalists actually check numbers in articles or not?

Creating Jobs is a Cost not a Benefit

I\’ve been muttering this to all and sundry for some time now. Of course, I find that someone said it before me, and said it better too:

A certain amount of public spending is necessary to perform essential government functions. A certain amount of public works — of streets and roads and bridges and tunnels, of armories and navy yards, of buildings to house legislatures, police and fire departments—is necessary to supply essential public services. With such public works, necessary for their own sake, and defended on that ground alone, I am not here concerned. I am here concerned with public works considered as a means of “providing employment” or of adding wealth to the community that it would not otherwise have had.

A bridge is built. Ifit is built to meet an insistent public demand, if it solves a traffic problem or a transportation problem otherwise insoluble, if, in short, it is even more necessary to the taxpayers collectively than the things for which they would have individually spent their money had it had not been taxed away from them, there can be no objection. But a bridge built primarily “to provide employment” is a different kind of bridge. When providing employment becomes the end, need becomes a subordinate consideration. “Projects” have to be invented. Instead of thinking only of where bridges must be built the government spenders begin to ask themselves where bridges can be built. Can they think of plausible reasons why an additional bridge should connect Easton and Weston? It soon becomes absolutely essential. Those who doubt the necessity are dismissed as obstructionists and reactionaries.

Two arguments are put forward for the bridge, one of which is mainly heard before it is built, the other of which is mainly heard after it has been completed. The first argument is that it will provide employment. It will provide, say, 500 jobs for a year. The implication is that these are jobs that would not otherwise have come into existence.

This is what is immediately seen. But if we have trained ourselves to look beyond immediate to secondary consequences, and beyond those who are directly benefited by a government project to others who are indirectly affected, a different picture presents itself. It is true that a particular group of bridgeworkers may receive more employment than otherwise. But the bridge has to be paid for out of taxes. For every dollar that is spent on the bridge a dollar will be taken away from taxpayers. If the bridge costs $10 million the taxpayers will lose $10 million. They will have that much taken away from them which they would otherwise have spent on the things they needed most.

Therefore, for every public job created by the bridge project a private job has been destroyed somewhere else. We can see the men employed on the bridge. We can watch them at work. The employment argument of the government spenders becomes vivid, and probably for most people convincing. But there are other things that we do not see, because, alas, they have never been permitted to come into existence. They are the jobs destroyed by the $10 million taken from the taxpayers. All that has happened, at best, is that there has been a diversion of jobs because of the project. More bridge builders; fewer automobile workers, television technicians, clothing workers, farmers.

But then we come to the second argument. The bridge exists. It is, let us suppose, a beautiful and not an ugly bridge. It has come into being through the magic of government spending. Where would it have been if the obstructionists and the reactionaries had had their way? There would have been no bridge. The country would have been just that much poorer. Here again the government spenders have the better of the argument with all those who cannot see beyond the immediate range of their physical eyes. They can see the bridge. But if they have taught themselves to look for indirect as well as direct consequences they can once more see in the eye of imagination the possibilities that have never been allowed to come into existence. They can see the unbuilt homes, the unmade cars and washing machines, the unmade dresses and coats, perhaps the ungrown and unsold foodstuffs. To see these uncreated things requires a kind of imagination that not many people have. We can think of these nonexistent objects once, perhaps, but we cannot keep them before our minds as we can the bridge that we pass every working day. What has happened is merely that one thing has been created instead of others.


Hello! Mr. Adams,
Mr. Adams I just want to tell you that I don’t really appreciate you making a mockery of my faith. I used to think that your comic strip was funny, now I think it is very disgusting and not funny at all. I have found your last comics strips in reference to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ very offensive. There is a place for everything and there is a place for humor and humor has its limits, especially when it comes to those things and issues that some of us hold as sacred. I will pray for you and that some day you may come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Otherwise you will find Him some day as your judge, and He will justly judge you for your sins and whether or not you believe in Hell that day you will believe and you will repent when you see Him face to face, but then it will be too late. Repent from your wicked ways and stop making fun of my Savior.

Thanks for your time.

Pastor (name deleted).

My response…

Thank you for taking time out from feeding the poor to complain about comic strips. I know Jesus would have played it the same way.


Umm, Depleted Uranium is, Umm, Depleted, You Know?

Via, we get this.

Absolutely stunning stuff.

Now if 64 kg of uranium can poison seventy thousand people. How many people will two thousand tons kill? The numbers are staggering, that’s more than twenty eight thousand Hiroshima’s. Forty percent of the Gulf War veterans are on “Gulf War Syndrome” disability from uranium poisoning. Seventy Three thousand of them have already died.

Every time that U.S troops (and “coalition soldiers) fires depleted uranium against “enemy targets” in Iraq, they are also being exposed to radiation poisoning that is much more intense than the radioactive by-products associated with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima to end World War II in the Pacific.


Depleted uranium is depleted, twit.

On Those Hedgies


What\’s really going on? What\’s going on is that perhaps $6T of mortgages with a duration of a decade that had been priced at a 1% per year chance of default (with a 1/3 value haircut in the event of default) are now being priced at a 4% per year chance of default. That\’s a loss of $600B in market value–and if your share of that $600B is greater than your capital, or is thought to be greater than your capital and so impedes your operations, you are gone.

But truth be told it is a zero-sum game–not a real destruction of wealth. The real rates at which cash flows of constant risk are being discounted haven\’t changed much: there hasn\’t been a big redistribution of wealth between the present and the future. What has happened was that a bunch of people believed that the default risk was 1% when it was actually 2% and reported gains of $200B (of which they took 2-and-20 on the hedge fund slice, perhaps $20B, for themselves), and that now a bunch of people believe that the default risk is 4% when it is actually still 2% (unless, of course, the assembled central banks of the world fail and unemployment heads rapidly upward). So in aggregate hedge fund partners have gained $20B, hedge fund investors have paid$20B to their money managers for the privilege of losing another $200B that they never had, and there are $400B of transitory paper losses that will turn into real losses for those overleveraged and caught by the credit crunch and so forced into fire sales, and into real gains for those with steel nerves and liquidity.

Unless, of course, Ben Bernanke and company fail to contain the crisis, and we wind up in a severe depression. But then we would have much, much bigger things to worry about than $600B of missing paper mortgage value. 4 years x 3 percent excess unemployment x Okun\’s Law coefficient of 2 x $13T economy means a $3.1T cumulative Okun gap in lost real wages, salaries, and profits. That\’s the thing to worry about.