Semi-political junkie, considered a left wing greenie by my right wing friends, and right wing extremist by my left wing friends. Creator of fakemarkarbib,
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BEANO: Brexit Existing As Name Only

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27th September 2016

Today the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, gave a speech about the WTO.

In this speech, he says:

The UK is a full and founding member of the WTO.

We have our own schedules that we currently share with the rest of the EU.

These set out our national commitments in the international trading system.

The UK will continue to uphold these commitments when we leave the European Union.

(There is a great fisking of this speech by Ian Dunt here.)

This speech follows the recent statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that EU funding will be guaranteed until 2020.

Could it be that the United Kingdom is not heading for a Hard Brexit or a Soft Brexit, but a Brexit existing as a name only?

Could there  be a BEANO Brexit?

**

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oliverzip
1170 days ago
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Brexit means (not) Brexit
Sydney, Balmain, Hornsby.
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The self-driving car is old enough to drink and drive

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RCAdriverlessTwenty-one years ago, when we were shooting Triumph of the Nerds, the director, Paul Sen, introduced me to his cousin who was working at the time on a big Department of Transportation research program to build self-driving cars. Twenty-one years ago! Yet what goes around comes around and today there is nothing fresher than autonomous cars, artificial intelligence. You know, old stuff.

As you can see from this picture, driverless cars were tested by RCA and General Motors decades earlier, back in the 1950s.

What changed from 1995 until today in my view comes down to three major things: 1) 21 years of cumulative automotive research; 2) demographic changes that might — just might — make us a little more willing to give up our cars, and the big one; 3) Moore’s Law finally making possible cars that might be safe to drive themselves on city streets. But if this is, as it seems to be, the Summer of Love for autonomous vehicles. none of those are the real reason for all the recent action. The real reason is greed.

Back in 1995 the goals for self-driving cars were more modest than they are today. They weren’t called autonomous, but self-driving. And there was no plan to have cars drive themselves on city streets, just on freeways and highways — on the Interstate. The plan was to bury cables in the pavement over which all the cars would drive and communicate with each other and with the road, itself. The goal was to fill the road with cars driving at the speed limit, spaced precisely one meter apart. Ironically that simple system, which we could implement cheaply today, would achieve most of the economic and societal goals being pointed to today to support autonomous cars. We’re told they will be safer, make more efficient use of public roads, and use less energy. And it’s all true. Why, then, are we so eager to perform the much harder job of building truly autonomous cars that can pick the kids up at school? Greed again.

I really got into this concept back in 1995. Hand-driven cars filled at most 15 percent of the roadway while self-driving cars could fill 85 percent.That one-meter spacing was key, too: if there were only two cars headed south on the same remote stretch of Interstate the system would still put them one meter apart. That’s because a 70 mph rear-ender with only 39.37 inches to accelerate barely dents your bumper, designing completely out of the system more than half of all highway accidents.

Cars one meter apart draft each other just like NASCAR racers, reducing total aerodynamic drag and fuel consumption. And instead of each driver raggedly accelerating from a stop at his own rate and own sweet time, every car would start at exactly the same time and acceleration rate just like they are being driven by, well, a computer.

None of this sounds like the autonomous cars of today, though. Nobody is talking about a system where cars scream down the road at high speed and in such close proximity because the idea is scary and because the design philosophy of today’s self-driving cars is different. They are autonomous, which means they operate independently. They also aren’t supposed to scare us even if the scary part is actually the safer part.

Now we get to the greed. If most of the benefit could be obtained with cheaper self-driving cars, why do we now want autonomous cars? Because cars could be upgraded to self-driving through aftermarket upgrades, which is how they did it in 1995. Truly autonomous cars, though, you have to build those babies from scratch.

So everyone is going to need a new car.

Mandatory replacement is a glorious thing for manufacturers. It’s like that box of baking soda in the back of your refrigerator that you are supposed to throw away every 30 days. The golden era of the record business was when vinyl gave way to CDs and we all paid again to buy the same stuff we already owned. It happened again when we converted our VHS tape libraries to DVDs and to so some extent when we gave up physical media for iTunes.

It’s a glorious thing, the prospect of selling 200 million brand new cars and trucks over a 2-3 year period. And it’s coming, it’s absolutely coming.

Ford says it will have a self-driving taxi without a steering wheel in service by 2021. That’s a key data point because there’s no way Ford can afford the liability of putting those truly driverless cars on the road if they’ll be mixing it up with me in my 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee that still smells faintly of mice.

For autonomous cars to be successful they will have to totally dominate, which will require new laws, getting old cars off the roads. This is the part they couldn’t do back in 1995. The banks will have to lend lots of money (with federal guarantees, I’m sure), old cars like mine will have to be melted down. It will be a huge endeavor that will also involve a serious increase in electric vehicles.

And it will happen. Shit, we all know there’s a recession coming after the election, followed by Japanese-style deflation unless we can find a way to really juice the economy. George W. Bush used a housing bubble for that after 9/11 but those tricks have been all used-up. And there’s no more room for the Fed to drop interest rates.

So autonomous cars it must be.

Appealing to both sides of the aisle, car factories will soon be running three shifts, infrastructure will be rebuilt at the same time, and even global warming will be quietly addressed if not accepted on the right — all while saving lives and increasing elderly mobility.

Heck of a deal. I’ll just whistle for my car like Roy Rogers summoning Trigger.

But will I have to also give up my Bugeye Sprite? Probably, unless Sundays are made non-autonomous car days.

I’m not saying this is entirely a bad thing or even mainly a bad thing. It’s just a thing we’ll have to deal with. And I thought it was only fair to tell you it’s coming.








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oliverzip
1204 days ago
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Notice is given on your old car. Be prepared to have to buy a new one, fully electric and self driving.
Sydney, Balmain, Hornsby.
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SQL Server 2016 available June 1st!

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Woo hoo!  Microsoft has announced that SQL Server 2016 will be generally available on June 1st.  On that date all four versions of SQL Server 2016 will be available to all users, including brand new ones, MSDN subscribers, and existing customers.

Here is a quick overview of the tons of new features, broken out by edition (click for larger view):

sql2016-a

and here is another view on the features available for each edition (click for larger view):

sql2016-b

In addition to the on-premises release, Microsoft will also have a virtual machine available on June 1st through its Azure cloud platform to make it real easy for companies to deploy SQL Server 2016 in the cloud.  So start planning today!

More info:

Get ready, SQL Server 2016 coming on June 1st

Microsoft SQL Server 2016 will be generally available June 1

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oliverzip
1298 days ago
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Need excitement
Sydney, Balmain, Hornsby.
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Getting back to full employment: reconfiguring monetary and fiscal policy: Part One.

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growth

This chart is for the UK though the graph for the whole of the developed countries looks similar. If updated for the most recent times it would be gradually trending up by now, but not in any danger of returning to anywhere near the pre-crisis trendline.

The developed world is moving towards its eighth year of constant under-performance, though in both the US and the UK, a sufficient part of the hit has been in the form of lower than otherwise income growth (except for those at the top) enabling unemployment to fall to tolerably low levels. But everywhere the hit to income has been huge. And growth remains sluggish with governments committed not to expanding budgets but to repairing them and to repairing their legacy – government debt. Meanwhile monetary policy sits with overnight cash rates with central banks at or near zero. (Note, this post is not about Australia’s situation because our interest rates are positive. To avoid zero interest rates official macro-economic policy makers are pursuing a doctrine that targets higher unemployment. As I observed here, it’s a new idea that this could be the best we can do. Of course it could be. But call me old fashioned, but I thought that was to be demonstrated – you know with coherent economic models and that kind of thing – but then I’m not even invited into the Qantas Captain’s Club, so what would I know?).

Meanwhile central banks havetried one innovation - quantitative easing (QE). The hard money cranksthink it’s a terrible idea. But plenty of thoughtful people are worried too. This argument is often put by people who think that – as Lady Bracknell said of statistics – markets are sent for our guidance. It’s hard not to see it as a theory that financial markets don’t really work. Ironically the ‘left’ Keynesian Hyman Minsky argued that too much prosperity eventually undermined itself as it fed the gradual infection of the market with speculation and more and more elaborate financial engineering and deception – what J.K. Galbraith referred to as the ‘bezzle‘. Meanwhile many scolds of keeping cash rates low argue that toolittle prosperity – too depressed a money market – leads to the same thing via the search for yield. Each seems to be arguing that private financial markets are pretty unstable things that are ill-adapted to promoting the common good.

Even without this, QE does seem to have some nasty bugs. It’s inefficient. If investment is being held down by depressed ‘animal spirits’ then lowering interest rates – including longer term interest rates which is what QE targets – can only address that very indirectly. Investment is usually depressed in recessions and depressions because of a lack of demand for final outputs – addressing that would be the direct way to get investment returning to a more normal share of economic activity. Meanwhile QE is funded by central banks creating money with which they support the price of assets owned by wealthy people and if the central bank is successful, one presumes it sells back the assets at lower prices – as growth resumes, interest rates return to more ‘normal’ higher levels and so the price of the assets falls. The public has used the money it’s manufactured to buy high and sell low! (This wouldn’t follow if QE involved buying shares which might well rise in such circumstances, but QE has hitherto involved the central bank purchase of high quality income bearing assets.) So QE unfair and inefficient – exactly the opposite of what we’re after here at Club Troppo.

The alternative is ‘helicopter money’ in which the central bank manufactures money – as it does with QE – but lavishes it on the ‘real’ not the financial economy. It could do it directly itself – sending out cheques (or in Milton Friedman’s original example dropping notes from a helicopter) – or more usually via the government – by funding some government outlay or a tax holiday. It’s always seemed to me that QE has been restricted to asset markets for the essentially arbitrary reason that it makes more sense given the historical development of central banking rather than because that restriction makes economic sense. The central bank is seeking to inject money into the system which state of affairs it believes will be temporary. But doing it through asset purchases is sufficiently indirect a way to act on the economy that the ‘temporary’ nature of QE could last an awfully long time (as we are discovering). Money created and directly spent in the economy seems much more likely to get things going.

Still if that’s the case, there’s a bug as I explained elsewhere:

In normal times it seems that ‘traditional’ ways of thinking of budget deficits might operate quite neatly to encapsulate the constraints on governments trying to optimise economic management. So printing more money might get you out of a recession, but then, once a recovery gets underway, you’ve got a lot of extra money sloshing around which you need to withdraw from the system – which you’d do by taxing more and/or reducing government spending. But that’s what you’d have to do if you’d debt financed your way out of a recession – loosening fiscal policy (borrowing to run a deficit) and then tightening fiscal policy (running a surplus and repaying some or all of the debt) after the event.

This perhaps explains why those proposing helicopter money seem to have been so tentative. One such has been former head of the Financial Services Authority, Adair Turner, Baron of Ecchinswell (why he was rejected for a knighthood by our former Prime Minister we can never know). Anyway, on the eve of his departure from the FSA Turner gave a lengthy speech which finally worked up the courage to say that maybe, in some circumstances, though not in these circumstances, we should entertain the idea of seriously considering money finance – sometimes called helicopter money. I haven’t looked it up but it was something of a cause célèbre at the time. Since then, unburdened by the position (though presumably with the interests of the kind people of Ecchinswell remaining firmly in his mind) and as a faculty member and now Chair of the governing board of George Soros’s (IAEIPNET) Institute for Already Extremely Important People engaging in New Economic Thinking he has written a book and plenty of columns on the idea.

He’s a smart guy whose writing I appreciate because he seems to wrestle with perhaps not knowing his subject as well as the best academics (it’s such an immense, technical and conceptually tricky area), but nevertheless has the courage to make proposals and risk making a fool of himself – not unlike your humble correspondent here at Troppo. However, though I’ve not read his book, I have read quite a few of the columns and the reticence remains. He concluded in a recent columnthat:

amid the confusion, the one really important political issue is ignored: whether we can design rules and allocate institutional responsibilities to ensure that monetary financing is used only in an appropriately moderate and disciplined fashion, or whether the temptation to use it to excess will prove irresistible.

As I’ve already half done the job, I’ll address the task Baron Turner has set in part two.

To be continued …

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oliverzip
1368 days ago
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A brief overview of the economics of full employment
Sydney, Balmain, Hornsby.
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Harry Potter and the set of all sets that do not contain themselves

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Even magic can't get you out of staff meetings
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oliverzip
1528 days ago
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Even magic can't get you out of staff meetings
Sydney, Balmain, Hornsby.
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tante
1551 days ago
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Russel's Paradox is magic!
Berlin/Germany

The End Of An Epic

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Clarke and Cook

2011: The boy wonders destined for leadership

When Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook first faced off as captains back in 2011 they were the archetypal boy generals. Taking over the top job while still in their twenties, the energetic and limber new captains cut a sharp contrast with their crusty and deteriorating predecessors.  Both men had been earmarked for the top job about thirty seconds after making their test debut and when they swiftly rose to the top position at precociously young ages it seemed we were destined to witness a rivalry so epic as to cast a shadow over all others.

Cook and Clarke have now gone head to head as test captains some fourteen times, plus a dozen or so one day encounters. Ricky Ponting did battle with Graham Smith on nine occasions, so too Mark Taylor with Michael Atherton but neither crossed that magic ten match threshold. Cook and Clarke did not merely cross it, they have well and truly demolished it. The idea now of an Ashes test under different leadership seems a little peculiar and yet, sadly before time, we are poised to experience exactly that.

The two men that shook hands at the beginning of July were markedly different from the boy wonders that crossed swords four years earlier. Out of form and under fire with talented and dynamic young deputies breathing down their necks, the pair were grimly aware of the fact that they were not merely playing for the Ashes but their own careers.

Cook and Clarke would face off for the last time under threat from popular young deputies

Cook and Clarke would face off for the last time under threat from popular young deputies

Alastair Cook was the first captain in decades to take over an English side of comparable strength to the Australians, arguably greater. Yet his record as both a batsman and a captain has disappointed, falling short of the high standards set by Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan.  For the last four years as a batsman Cook has been lacklustre and as a side England has been volatile. An Ashes loss on their home turf would likely have spelt the end of Cook’s captaincy and potentially his place in the test side.

Clarke as we well know was an ageing, underperforming batsman leading a side in continual decline.  Under his leadership Australia was meant to arrest a persistent slide in overseas campaigns that began with the retirement of the Warne, Mcgrath, Gilchrist Troika in 2007/08. Whether by strategic genius, disciplined leadership or sheer force of his own run scoring, Clarke was supposed to reverse the decline. For a fleeting moment  he appeared to be doing just that,  off the back  of his own Bradmanesque scoring he appeared to be keeping the decline at bay, but when injuries hampered his batting prowess Australia slid right back into this severe decline from the their 97-07 high water mark. The string of disappointments had stretched too far, the Australian selectors could not abide another and so Clarke had to go.

This was the spectre under which both captains greeted each other at the beginning of the series.  Unlike many other notable cricketing rivals there was no malice or acrimony in the relationship between Clarke and Cook. They have throughout their careers maintained a dignified and professional respect for the other. There were no unedifying shouting matches on the field, no potshots in the media and no accusations of bad sportsmanship. They played hard, they played to win and they did it within the spirit of cricket. It was perhaps therefore with a touch of melancholy that they shook hands with the knowledge that at the end of the series only one of them could have a future ahead of them.

The final showdown was a yo-yoing affair but this was the how it had always been between Clarke and Cook.  In 2013 England comfortably claimed  a home victory over the Australians before being humiliated six months later in a five nil whitewash in Australia. This time round, fighting for his very survival, Cook drew first blood with a convincing win at Cardiff against a respectable Australian performance.  Clarke’s Australians fought back at Lords as they were wont to do with an imperious 400 run victory and for a moment it looked as though Cook might be the one forced to deliver a resignation speech. But wimpy batting efforts from the Australians saw England seize control at tests 3 and 4 and undisciplined bowling secured Clarke’s demise. Cook will go on to lead England perhaps for another five years, the boy captain is still only thirty years of age and despite poor form with the bat still seems athletic and hungry in the field. His Ashes triumph has bought him time. Time to regain his form, time to correct his technique. His great rival has completely run out.

remebrance day

By 2015 both captains were out of time: they needed to deliver or stand aside.

When they go head to head for the last time at The Oval for their final pas de deux, Cook will be a man with a spring in his step. The weight of a thousand pressures will be lifted from his shoulders. Clarke will be, as they say, a dead man walking. He has chosen not to fight his own demise, he has pleaded guilty and stoically prepared himself for execution.

Four years ago two promising young deputies stood in for their injured captains. They stood on equal footing, relaxed, confident and optimistic.  Four years later one is a national hero, his position in the side is unquestioned, he looks as fit and healthy as a twenty year old and appears destined to enjoy a flourishing career for years to come. The other is a humbled and broken. Frustrated by injuries and a lack of success he can but wonder what might have been had his (and perhaps Ryan Harris’) back held up.

The final encounter

The final encounter

So when the two shake hands on the 20th of August savour it. Take a moment to reflect upon the rich and exciting era of Ashes cricket under Cook and Clarke: Ashton Agar’s 98 at no11 on debut, Mitchel Johnson’s 37 wicket series in Australia, Kevin Pietersen’s dramatic sacking, Steven Smith’s double century at Lords and of course Stuart Broad’s 8/ 15 at Trent Bridge. Throughout these turbulent years Cook and Clarke remained at the helm, stoic, dignified and resilient and now it is all at an end. The game will of course go on as it always has but we have never seen and may never again see two captains go through as much together as these two and even the hardest of men must be touched with sadness at this truth.


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oliverzip
1583 days ago
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As an era ends, you were there...
Sydney, Balmain, Hornsby.
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