July 30, 2011

What time is it?

Via Maritime Compass a simple diagram for converting the time into a ship's watches and the number of bells.

July 27, 2011


Just a quick note on the latest Anonymous protest against PayPal. This one appears to much better than their last attacks as they are simply trying to get out a viral campaign to get people to close their PayPal accounts using the Twitter #OpPayPay hash tag. Which is great, they are exercising their free speech to make their point, without unconvincing anybody that is not persuaded by their arguments. Good on them, and it shows a level of maturity that the likes of UKUncut could never hope to achieve. It has also had some significant short term effects (again more than the lefty boot boys of UKUncut can claim).

So is there anything that I would do related to #OpPayPal? Absolutely, I would buy as much PayPal stock as I could. They haven't really changed the fundamental thing that PayPal is still the most ubiquitous payment system on the web. Those that actually used PayPal will get new accounts eventually oncethey have forgetten the protest. Those that didn't won't, but then from PayPal's point of view that doesn't really matter since they were not getting any money from them anyway. This storm will pass and I doubt it will have any noticeable effect to PayPal's profits. All Anonymous as done is cause a panic which will temporarily depress the stock value, so if I had some spare cash I would grab what I could and wait for the stock to rebound.

July 14, 2011

So long and thanks for (killing) all the fish

The EU finally looks like it will get rid of its idiotic rules that force fishermen to dump perfectly good fish back into the sea dead. Well that only took 30 years for the message to get home. The BBC is of course reporting this in the most fawning terms, rather a more truthful account of how it was the EU's stupid rules and power grabs that created the awful situation that we find ourselves in with the  North sea as a text book example of a tragedy of the commons.

There are two ways of dealing with a Tragedy of the Commons, you can either privatise it or you can socialise it. The EU tried to socialise the North Sea fishing grounds when the UK joined, because at the time all the best North Sea fishing grounds belonged to the UK. It has been a disaster. Since socialising the North Sea through the CFP has been so bad those opposed to the CFP often suggest trying out the other option and privatising it, like Iceland sucessfully did. 

When this comes up knee jerk EU-philes who cannot bear admitting that there might be something wrong with the EU will whine that fish swim and therefore the sea cannot possibly be drived up into areas that are owned by individuals, obviously never having heard of the term 'fishing ground'. 

Fish do swim, but they swim to stay in the same areas: the areas with the best conditions for their particular species. If you are looking for a fish that likes sandy bottoms there is no point looking in an area with rock at the bottom because they will not be there. It is well known that lots of speices love wreaks, so much so that ships have been deliberately scuttled to create interesting drive areas. Recent research shows that Cod, for example, do not just love wreaks, they find a particular wreak that they especially like and stay there. Then you get to the other point that anti-privatisation folk don't seem to get: the sea is really big. When the UK joined the EU it gave away the rights to an area of sea equal to its entire land area. Divided between the few thousand active fishermen left in the country the sea areas that are being talked about are not the size of farmer's fields on land, they are the size of cities. It would take days of swimming for the fish to move between them, if they wanted to, and most of the time they won't want to because were they are provides the enviroment that they need.

July 12, 2011

Why are some countries rich?

July 11, 2011

Pirates ... Yar!

Due to the piracy problem around Somalia the government is floating the idea of advising British shipping companies to put armed guards on their vessels, since the Royal Navy is no longer up to the task of defending the shipping lanes after 60 years of neglect. This is not as far fetched as it may seem as there are armed merchantmen sailing the world's oceans today, when nuclear fuel is shipped from the reprocessing plant at Sellafield it goes on a pair of ships, so that they can help to defend each other, each of which is armed. Perhaps we are about to see a return to the days of the East India Company with armed flotillas of merchant ships duelling pirates out on the high seas, and knee breeches. Or maybe not.

At the moment the piracy business, and it is a business, will be quite an attractive one for any Somali old enough to pick up a Cutlass. The potential rewards are huge, but the risks are little more than that would face a legitament fisherman. Getting a prosecution for piracy in a court is to difficult that what normally happens is that they are taken back to Somali waters and release. If they are picked up by the navy of a particularly soft country, like the UK, there is the danger they could even demand asylum and so get themselves a life in the west sponging off the welfare state.

The targets are generally not the ship's either, what they are after are the crews so that they can be held to ransom. This is a very old business model, and one that was used a lot on the Barbary coasts. The European powers of the time that were the pirate's prey tried many methods of getting rid of them such as simply paying protection money only to find that once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane. In the end the solution was to take the battle to the pirates by blockading bombarding their home ports which turned the risk/reward equation decisively against further pirate activities. But a return to that is a even less likely than a return of knee breeches as it would require a political establishment with balls.

July 10, 2011

The consequences of a Fiat Currency

July 08, 2011

Libertarianism and Somalia

One of the more annoying arguments against Libertarianism, or any reduction in government, is that somehow it is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to no government at all which would mean a lawless society where might is right. So not just the slippery slope fallacy you’ve got the slippery slope and a strawman.

Government is in no danger of withering away, if anything it has a continuous tendency to expand gobbling up more and more of civil society as it does. When fighting as hard as she could all Margret Thatcher could do was hold the state’s size the same. Even back in the victorian period Mikhail Bakunin pointed that out to Marx when he insisted that after the dictatorship of the Proletariat the state would whither away. Marx might not have lived to see it but he got his communist revolution and the state certainly did not whither away, it just got bigger as it tried to continue itself; just as was predicted.

Then there is the strawman that libertarians and those that want a small state actually want no state. Fine, point out the problems with having no state at all and the danger that without the state with its monopoly on violence you will get lots of competing violent factions seeking to tax everybody else. I don’t think that many Libertarians would have a problem with that. This is why they do not want to completely get rid of the state, but want it reduced so that all it does is stop the rise of competing warlords.

Though perhaps it would be good to look at one of the few places in the world that is completely without a government and is always brought up as if it was a model for Libertarians, Somalia. Somalia is a poverty-stricken, war torn, shit hole, but then it was still a poverty-stricken, war torn shit hole when it had a government. However despite having no government they do have the rule of law, they do have property rights, and by many measures life has actually improved for most people since the descent into anarchy when compared to how things were when there was a government. Hardly a slam dunk for the statists, even if it was not an enormous straw man.

July 07, 2011

Socialism makes people unethical

Socialism makes people more unethical - fact.

The Euro deathwish

The struggling economies of the Euro Area periphery need an interest rate rise like a hole in the head. So what does the European Central Bank give them? An interest rate rise. Greece will default, and the sooner the better for the Greeks, the question now are the other PIIGS. Portugal's debt has been downgraded to junk, much to the whining annoyance of the Chairman of the ECB, because that is what it is. The ECB has decided to ignore reality and keep on accepting Portuguese debt as collateral and I expect that there will be many banks eager to take up the ECB's offer of taking the junk off their hands. But even junk has some worth, the next stage is for the Portuguese government to be pushed into the same position as Greece and have to default at which point the debt will be worthless. The ECB seems as determined to drive itself into bankruptcy as it is to bankrupt the states that use its currency.