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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ministry of morons

Much as we changed the name of the "Ministry of War" to the "Ministry of Defence" in 1964, I think we should change the name of the "Department for Education" the "Department for Stupidity" to reflect the new reality. The increase in stupidity is inexorable. There was an article in New Scientist a few weeks ago that said that we are losing, on average, about 0.8 IQ points per generation because stupid people are having more children than clever people. The burgeoning underclass in the UK is testament to this and there's no solution in sight: the welfare state incentivises the production of children while uncontrolled mass immigration further adds to the population. Fortunately, some of the immigrants can read and write, thus providing a basic workforce, but the long-term trend is not encouraging. If you don't believe me, watch the Jeremy Kyle show or read a national tabloid newspaper.

One way to measure the decline in national intelligence might be to find a benchmark. Here's an interesting suggestion: use television quiz shows.

“Who is the head of the Ismaili community?” was one question, to which the correct reply was the Aga Khan. Another asked which British politician had bought shares in the Suez canal. Disraeli, it turned out.

[From Think Britain hasn't dumbed down? Just watch Bullseye - Telegraph]

This gives me an idea for an independent measure of national stupidity, free from political interference or distortion by the vested interests at the Ministry of Edukashun. Perhaps some academics could construct an index that simultaneously measures how much easier the questions are on the top-rated prime time quiz show, University Challenge.

Brain of Britain, on Radio 4, seems mercifully unaffected by the collapsing national intelligence so that could serve as a reference point. Then all we have to do is persuade the government to announce the national stupidity level each year and hopefully they will then try to manage it down. If national stupidity goes up, then I will expect the Minister to write a suitably apologetic letter to the Prime MInister and then resign. Although I suppose making the Bank of England write a letter apologising for the inflation figures doesn't seem to have improved them.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, October 17, 2011

Taking a stand

A friend of a friend, a chap I've know for a few years, is a bankster: that is, he works at a bank that is "too big to fail". To be precise, he works on the fixed income desk for one of the big banks in the UK. His job, for many years, has been arranging syndicate loans for, primarily, PIGS. Basically, the governments run out of money, come to a bank for a few billion euros, that bank arranges a syndicate who each put up a few hundred million. The lead bank gets a few extra points for arranging the syndicate. This adds up. The bank makes a ton of money, my friend makes a ton of money -- enough to buy a very big house in the country near Woking and to send both of his kids to one of the most expensive private schools in the country -- and UK plc gets tax revenue.

Germany is pushing behind the scenes for a "hard" default in Greece with losses of up to 60pc for banks and pension funds

[From German push for Greek default risks EMU-wide 'snowball' - Telegraph]

So here's my question. Since the loans that my bankster friend arranged are about to go tits up, will he have to pay back 60% of the cash he earned? No, of course, not. And if his bank is going to go tits up because it was stupid enough to loan the money itself instead of palming the dodgy deals off on to syndicate partners, then the bank will go bankrupt, but my friend will still keep his cash. And of course, since the government won't let the bank to go down, the taxpayer (i.e., me) will end up paying.

Now, as a capitalist, I used to think that my friend deserved his bank balance because he was smarter than me or worked harder than me. But now I understand the actual dynamic --- which is that he was simply a lottery winner, having almost randomly chosen that line of work -- I'm outraged and my faith in "the system" is undermined. I've a good mind to go an join the Occupy Wall Street chaps, but unlike them, I know what I want. My demands will be for some actual capitalism in the city instead of the debased corporatism that has allowed the few to loot from the many.

And as I have previously noted, radical concentration of wealth actually destroys capitalism, turning it instead into socialism for the rich.

[From Guest Post: Extreme Inequality Helped Cause Both the Great Depression and the Current Economic Crisis « naked capitalism]

We need to stand firm against all forms of socialism, whether National (as in Germany), International (as in the Soviet Union), Bonkers (as in North Korea) or Tailored (as in Wall Street).

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Audio boo

Here's a +1 to Starbucks: the wifi is now free in the UK (finally) so you don't have to remember your loyalty card username and password any more. Great stuff. Personally, I prefer the coffee at Costa, but they don't have wifi so Starbucks will be getting my business again for the time being.

Here's a -1 to Starbucks: the music is too loud. I have my iPhone with me, so if I want to listen to music while I work, then I'll sort that out for myself thanks. Right now, I'm listening to Paul Jones BBC2 Rhythm & Blues Hour from a couple of weeks ago, and really enjoying, but I have to turn it up quite loud to block out what sounds like Jazz Odyssey in the background. So, Starbucks: if I want to listen to the two girls sitting next to me discussing who got with who at the party last night I can't hear them because of your music and if I don't then I can't hear my music because of your music. Loud music in coffee shops is so last century. Please turn it down.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]