Upper Class Twit of the Year: Thoroughbred

Multi-millionaire banker Howard Flight, is making a late charge:

“We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there is every incentive, well that’s not very sensible.”

You have to love it when these twits come out and say what they really think. The honesty is somewhat refreshing, just wish they wouldn’t spoil it by apologising. It’s just not dignified!

England: it’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

Rule of 72

The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest

— Albert Einstein

Compound interest motherfuckers… do you get it?!

<cough>

The impetus for this outburst is an article in the completely fucking clueless Daily Telegraph. It would be pointless to expect much else, but that doesn’t seem to stop me from needing to rant.

Figures released last week showed that the Japanese economy grew last quarter, albeit by just 0.9pc. But few expect the nascent recovery to last. Most economists expect the economy to contract in the current quarter as the strong yen damages Japan’s crucial export sector. Japan’s long struggle with deflation continues.

The pinhead that penned this drivel doesn’t seem to understand that an economy growing at ~1% a year will double in size in ~70 years. That’s what the ‘rule of 72‘ means.

In case it has escaped your notice Japan is pretty crowded. Some people might even opine that the over-crowding the big cities is the cause of the decline in birth rate. The dimwits at the Telegraph are still living in a victorian “world of infinite possibilities” … a deluded concept if ever there was one. Thus far we have, as a race, been too stupid to formulate a plan for living sustainably. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to overcome our limitations (Greed?) and give up trying.

[Yes, you could argue that Tokugawa Japan, which kept Japan isolated from the rest of the world, living sustainable(?) for ~400 years is one counter-example… but i’m not sure it’s a model that can be replicated in this age of world trade… perhaps when the last of the cheap oil is gone?]

Don’t misunderstand me: Japan is an abysmally governed country. The ruling class would struggle to organise a kindergarten, and are about as mature. This, however, does not mean that what Japan needs is growth Growth GROWTH! In fact the last thing that Japan needs is growth. Growth is the one thing that hides the incompetence of governments better than war, or a perpetual state of fear!

Given that the prospects of growth around the world are … limited in the face of a massive wall of debt, and it could well be decades before the west (minus Japan) works through all this debt, the idea of adding to population seems to be akin to societal suicide to me. What are those new bodies going to do? Is it going to be productive? The UK is on schedule to be the most populous nation in Europe within in 50 years. At least the Japanese (and, for that matter, the Germans, also with a declining population) are still running a trade surplus, and seem capable of producing goods that the rest of the world wants to buy!

Oh, and while we’re hating, i fucking hate that cliched picture at the top of the Telegraph piece. What mindless crap.

What a Surprise. Next!

What a shocker:

The announcement of the potential €90bn international bailout for debt-laden Ireland – of which the UK could contribute up to £10bn – offered only a temporary respite to nervous markets.

By tonight, concerns that Portugal and even Spain might also need their own rescue packages were rising and sent the euro and shares falling while the risk of holding the debt of potentially vulnerable countries rose alarmingly.

It turns out that €90bn isn’t even enough to keep the dogs at bay for 24hrs! You’d think that someone might step forward and say that this obviously wasn’t working, and adding additional debt just to keep the bondholders happy wasn’t really helping. Eventually it’s going to be clear that ignoring the base fraud and negligence just results in a bigger and bigger can to kick down the road. One day soon that can is just going to be to big to kick…

Oh, and now there’s going to be an election, i’ll keep my fingers crossed for my Green party hero in the previous post!

New hero!

“With all due respect…” oh, yes, with all the respect that is due. Chuckled for an age, the very idea of something like this happening in the UK Parliament… oh, it would be a wonderful day.

I’ve voted in exactly one election in my lifetime (concluded many years ago that it would only encourage them), a european election (maybe this one). Obviously the green candidate got my vote.

Edit: in case it wasn’t obvious the above was in reference to the Irish bailout. Seems to me that the game will now move on to the next of the PIIGS. My guess is Portugal. As long as it’s guaranteed that bond holders will be made whole this is going to rumble on and on.

Looking at Ireland, a country with too much debt, to which has just been added ~$30k per capita (~$70k, if you count only privately paid workers), it’s hard to see how yet more debt is going to do much more than postpone the inevitable. Yes, of course there would hardship if Ireland defaulted. Yes, the repercussions in  Europe would be horrendous. Yes, it would probably bankrupt other countries. …but where does this end? Can the Irish (let alone the Greeks) really pay off all this debt? Really?!

Somewhere down the line one of these countries is going to grow a pair and do an Iceland. Then maybe we’ll start to see some progress in actually writing down / off the debt, rather than the continuing delusion of it being paid back.

The bond holders took a risk, for which they may be rewarded. Or they might lose everything. Take away one side of that transaction and you’re well on the road to modern capitalism – aka a clusterfuck of epic proportions.

Exporting Out of Trouble? Er, no.

In the FT, on the Ireland issues:

Few people would deny that helping Ireland is in the national interest. After all, Britain exports more to Ireland than to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.

That’s a stunning statistic!

Really, what does it say about the state of the UK economy? Even with the pound devalued by 25% over the last few years, exports to a minor market like Ireland still eclipses the combined exports to most of the BRICS! It doesn’t really inspire much confidence in the idea that the UK can export it’s way out of recession. Nor does it give you much hope for a future recovery as a meaningful secondary economy.

It makes me wonder what can replace all those lost manufacturing / factory jobs? The current long-term unemployed aren’t likely candidates for financial services industry (except perhaps as robo-signers?)… where are they all going to work? With the eastern europeans leaving in droves, and the weak pound forcing up the cost of food imports, perhaps it’s time to get back to fields?

What a long strange trip this industrial revolution has been…

Rebels without Revolution?

Hold on to your hats: i’m going to say something nice about a segment of american society!

The backlash against the TSA backscatter scanners (also known as ‘pornscanner’, etc) is really most lovely to see. Despite the dubious rallying calls (‘touch my junk and i’ll have you arrested!’) there are some pretty serious reasons for taking a stand against the imposition of these machines in the current security theatre.

In my mind the biggest of these is the legitimate concerns over the effects of ionising radiation. As highlighted by UCSF research staff, there are classes of people who should do what they can to avoid additional source of radiation, but perhaps more importantly, the long term effects of these machines is unknown. This is obvious, because they haven’t been studied over a long period of time.

If the process was being proposed in a truly civil usage (the TSA acts like it is conducting a counter-insurgency  operation against the flying public) it’s unlikely that it would be approved for widespread use with such limited information. It probably helps that the suppliers of the machines are well connected.

However, and perhaps more worrying than any of the above, is the idea that unless these machines are extremely well maintained – to medical standards, they run the risk of delivering arbitrary doses of radiation. Imagine the lawsuits… actually, i think this line of reasoning is one of the problems with american society – if an individual sues a government agency it really doesn’t matter if they lose. The fine is paid out of government revenue (taxes), and in the event that an entity like Rapiscan is successfully sued, the profits will already have been disbursed to individuals, who can hide behind the corporate identity, never having to admit wrong-doing. In short, suing the government, or corporations, provides little incentive for individuals to behave well!

Despite the furor, the american public is still generally cowed and more afraid of taking a stand than they are of terror. Polling data says that some 80% are favour the use of the machines and think they make them safer. It seems unlikely that as the message about the safety of the machines, and the ineffectuality of all this ‘security theatre’ spreads the TSA will be forced to backdown. But at least there will have been some protest.

The UK is a much sadder case: an equivalent poll showed 90% support for scanning of all passengers. There is no opt out to request a pat down, and there was, apart for a few muslim women opting not to fly, no protest. Guilty, as i am, for lambasting american society for silently accepting the prosecuting of wars, removal of rights, imposition of pointless and degrading laws, we british really don’t have a right to preach!

Powerdeath and buy your soul
With pennies in the god machine
Rebels without revolution
Fake messiah scheme
On the back of dead religion looking at me
Falsify the words of wisdom
There’s no wild tribe

Back to the crow back to the stoneage
See crowbaby
Back to the crow back to the stoneage
See crowbaby fly

— The March Violets, Crow Baby

The End of Summer

Have been trying to get in one last wetsuit dive for the year, and therefore put off facing up to the fact that my regular trips to Izu are coming to an end. Normally by this time of year i’d be back in a drysuit, all closed off from the water and sweating profusely.

However, this year, in mid-November, the water temperature is still above 20ºC. That’s just about my cut-off my point for comfort. While i’m pretty sure things would be survivable down to something like 16ºC, 20ºC is a nice round number. It turns out that the only problem with colder water (in a wetsuit) is the feeling that you’ve been put through a mangle – i’m covered in bruises, but despite a degree of scrabbling around under rocks (for on that in a moment) it wasn’t a particularly rough day. Body temperature wise i’d go as far as to say it is pretty close to the perfect for a 5mm suit.

Two dives, first one in blue, second in orange. Target for the first was an unusual seahorse (オオウミウマ) living on a outcrop of soft-corals in the sands, down at 35m. Not exactly the easiest thing in the world to find in ~5m visibility, and i’m pretty sure we over swam it by quite a way. Anyway, we found it… which is actually fairly unusual in itself! Normally all our adventures to deep places for tiny creatures are more about the journey than the destination – if you see what i mean.

Second dive was backwards route out to ichi-no-ne, on to kue-ana, and round kame-iwa (found Pikachu – first one of the season!). On the way back we swam through the channel on top of ichi-no-ne, which i don’t think i’ve done for years.

IOP is crawling with frogfish at the moment. A count at the end of the day said we’d found eight, three different species (ベニ、イロ、オオモン).  The  missing one (クマドリ) was supposed to be around, but 20 minutes of searching, over two dives, didn’t find it. It was fun – for the first time in ages i’d dragged my light along for the ride, and was in full on search mode.

The little statues at the top of this post have recently turned up in a little cave on ichi-no-ne. Nobody seems to know who put them there… or they’re not saying.

Last night, on the shinkansen home,  i was reflecting that i’m really going to miss my regular opportunities to dive. All of which led to me building lists of things that i will and won’t miss about Tokyo. The lists will make good posts at some point.Did nothing to change my impression that shinkansen are a most melancholic form of transportation.

As Huxley said “Speed provides the one genuinely modern pleasure”, but the shinkansen robs you of that pleasure by extracting ever ounce of excitement and sensation from the experience!