Sunday, July 08, 2012

Why Soft Skills Matter

[Let me start by saying that I'm not an expert in this field, just someone who's had to learn the hard way why people are important in software projects.]

It's rare to hear of a new software project which is clearly doomed from the start, but I'm happy to make that call over SOLVE THE FILE FORMAT PROBLEM MONTH. It's rare for me to get to the end of a blog post and think "yeah? well screw you, buddy!", but Jason Scott's post provoked exactly that reaction.

Without getting into Meyers-Briggs typing or William Moulton Marston (he invented Wonder Woman, the polygraph "lie-detector", and wrote a book with the awesome title of Emotions of Normal People), the fact is that around 50% of the population will have a negative reaction to any new idea. They will focus on the potential problems, not the potential benefits. This doesn't make them bad people, it doesn't mean that they don't want it to succeed, it just means that they are keeping an eye out for trouble. Something which might actually be useful if you're about to run head-long into a minefield.

What you probably shouldn't do is tell all those people to "just get the fuck out now".

Nor should you declare that "The project doesn't need [50% of the entire programmer community], now or ever". Huge projects need to bring people together, and for that you need leadership capable of inspiring action, not driving away people because they don't immediately see your point of view. We have a communication problem here.

Tony Finch (@fanf) made the point that "If you want to get something done, there's no point wasting energy on nay-sayers". I agree with that. I much prefer to dive into writing code and let people worry about the design after it's working. But this task is far too large for any person or team to lone-wolf it. It explicitly relies on having a broad, critical mass of participants. Wikipedia, Linux and NaNoWriMo didn't happen just because someone said they were going to; they happened because a hell of a lot of people bought into the goals of the project.

Digital Archaeology is a cool field. Projects to save old machines are fascinating and a real labour of love. Geeks seem to love collecting and systematising (ugh!) things more than the population in general; maybe that's a stereotype, maybe it's true, but either way a project like this should be putting smiles on faces from San Francisco to Tokyo and from Moscow to Melbourne. Is it?

Maybe that has something to do with the official project wiki describing a large number of potentially-interested people as "whiners".

This should be something I want to be a part of. I love puzzles, I've reverse engineered file formats for fun (and occasionally profit), I have a bunch of old hardware and software, I'm a low-level coder more than capable of tracing my way through a disassembled program, and I have the 'archival instinct' to want to hoard a perfect collection.

But I don't want to participate. I have problems of my own to work on, and you've singularly failed to make me give a shit about yours.

So long. Best of luck. I'll go my way, you go yours. Hope it all works out... but I doubt it will.

- KoW

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fixing LIBOR

The recent scandal with Barclays (which, rumours suggest, may soon spread) rigging their LIBOR submissions to enrich themselves and mislead investors, according to the FSA, has exposed some rather strange features of the system.

By far the biggest use of LIBOR is to set the value of EuroDollar (US dollars held outside the US) futures traded on CME. Each of these ED futures contracts represent the interest on a notional $1m loan for three months, and over 1.5m such contracts are traded every day - $400 trillion of notional lending per year.

The settlement price of a ED future is determined from the LIBOR fixing on the second business day before the third Wednesday of the delivery month, which means that they are equal to LIBOR at settlement, and very close (and converging) before that.

So why fix ED prices on LIBOR rather than the other way around?

Here we have an extremely liquid market, of synthetic loans with zero counterparty risk, which is arguably the definitive price of borrowing money. Why are we not using the well-honed pricing mechanism of that market?

During the financial crisis, Barclays reduced its LIBOR submissions from the actual rate at which it was borrowing (paras 12-14, 102-145 in the FSA report) to avoid media speculation about its financial position. On the other hand, the ED futures market is independent of the creditworthiness of the LIBOR submitters as the loans are never disbursed, only the interest which would be paid if they were, so this source of stress is simply not present. In a credit crunch, lenders (ED buyers) will back off, forcing sellers (borrowers) to lower prices (increase rates, and pay more interest), but not in a way related to the creditworthiness of a particular counterparty, only to the market in general.

Is this not exactly what we want to see in a published interest rate figure?

The ED futures price is determined by a liquid market, independent of the creditworthiness of any particular bank, and provides a yield curve in quarterly increments out to 10 years. Surely this is what we should be using instead of having a small panel of bank representatives "exercise their subjective judgement" to determine "rates at which money may be available in the interbank market" (FSA report, para 30)?

The market is already there, we're just not using it for historical reasons. This scandal has shown that, as ever and always, concentrating power in the hands of a few individuals leads inexorably to corruption. Let the sunlight in, and determine LIBOR from EuroDollar futures prices - not the other way around.

- KoW

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Predictions for 2012

OK, yes, these are a couple of weeks late. Never mind.

  1. Motor Racing: Button will win the F1 driver's championship; Audi will win Le Mans
  2. Iran: Shots will be fired, UN sanctions, no invasion in 2012
  3. Eurozone: Greece defaults, EFSF and FU do nothing, Euro currency limps on (>1.30/£, <$1.20)
  4. Scotland: No referendum date announced during 2012
  5. Olympics: More GB medals than at Beijing 2008, but fewer golds
  6. Terrorism: No attack on the Olympics, nor in the UK mainland
  7. Markets: Gold will top $1900/oz, FTSE >6000 and S&P500 >1350 during the year
  8. US politics: Romney will get the GOP nomination and will narrowly beat Obama
  9. UK politics: Ed Miliband will survive (at least) through the Labour party conference, the coalition will last into 2013
  10. Mayan calendar: the world won't end in 2012

- Mystic KoW

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 predictions

Well, it's been a year since I made some predictions - a year in which I seem to have posted almost nothing. Oops. Let's see how the predictions went, though...

Inflation will remain high, forcing an increase in the BoE base rate by the summer
RPI has been above 5% all year, but the BoE is deliberately allowing inflation in spite of its obligations. Half a point? (0.5/10)

Property prices will continue their recent slide, exacerbated by the interest rate rise, and will finish down about 10% on the year
Nope. Up 1.6% YoY as of November, so a slight fall in real terms but no rate rise meant no crash. (0.5/10)

F1 won't be won by a German this year - I'm going to say McLaren for the double. Probably Hamilton, but it depends how well the new tyres suit Button.
Hahaha! Vettel won damn near every race, in one of the most lop-sided competitions for many years. It was still a damn entertaining season, though, once you ignore the car at the front. (0.5/10)

Audi will win 24 Hours of Le Mans again, despite a close fight with Peugeot, and Drayson Racing will be classified finishers.
Drayson Racing didn't enter for Le Mans, but Audi most definitely won - with Peugeot picking up second through fourth after an incredibly close race which saw two of the Audis crash out. (1.5/10)

Sterling will rise slightly against the Dollar - $1.60 - and fall slightly against the Yen - 115. I'm going to predict a rise against the Euro, though not sure how much maybe 1.20-1.30?
Today, £1 is worth $1.5661 (low in September of $1.53, high in May of $1.66), €1.1983 (low €1.2045, high €1.1065) and ¥121.7295 (low ¥116.985, high ¥139.62). So, we have hit €1.20 and $1.60 during the year, but it's been very volatile - half a point? (2/10)

Oil prices will fluctuate, but petrol prices will ignore this and rise to £1.50/litre for no adequately explained reason.
We've reached £1.32/litre for Unleaded, but I'm going to call this one a failure. (2/10)

Gold will trade above $1600/oz, but most of the volatility will be in silver and/or platinum.
Gold is only just below $1600/oz again - and it hit $1900/oz. Silver has been a little more volatile, but it's been an exceptionally volatile year for all metals. (3/10)

GDP growth will remain anaemic, maybe 1-2% over the entire year. The FTSE will remain above 5000 as a result.
Half a percent in Q1/Q3, flat in Q2 - even without the Q4 figures, I'd say that's a definite hit. Particularly since this time last year we were going to get >3% growth in 2011. The FTSE touched 5000 a couple of times, but has basically stayed above that psychological point for the entire year. (4/10)

There will not be a General Election in 2011. The coalition may not hold for the entire year, but I think it will last long enough.
It's too late now to call a GE before 2012, so even if the coalition falls this week, this one was bang-on. (5/10)

There will not be a significant Islamist terrorist attack in the UK, the US, or on a transatlantic flight. Let's define "significant" as "kills one or more people", none of this "has the Houses of Parliament on a list of targets" nonsense.
None. A couple of lone wolf nutters in Tucson, AZ and Norway, the Irish are back, and plenty of trouble from al-Qaeda et al in the Middle East, but nothing to worry about here. How's that Terror Alert Level doing? (6/10)

I might have been generous for a couple of those, but I'm fairly impressed by that strike rate. Shall have to make the 2012 predictions more specific and objectively measurable...

- Mystic KoW

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

The most retarded 'argument' I've ever seen

I came across this article earlier today, h/t to Longrider at Orphans of Liberty, and so it's about time I made another blog post. I'm amused and shocked that this sort of tripe still passes muster from anyone old enough not need help from the teacher to tie their shoelaces.

The article starts off with a bold claim:
Secondhand smoking is more dangerous than main smoking. It creates more serious health hazards. It is the cause of many modern diseases.
Wow! It should have been banned first, then, right? Since it's more dangerous?

There's a discussion of how "voluntary organizations and governments" have checked the "evil effects of smoking", leaving one in no doubt as to the hand-wringing credentials of the author, and then we get to the meat of the argument:
This secondhand smoke is more dangerous than the main smoking because ...
Yes? Yes?! Because? We're quivering with antici...pation here!
This secondhand smoke is more dangerous than the main smoking because it contains more than 50 substances that can cause cancer and other hazards through passive smoking.
Wait, what?

Those "50 substances" aren't being sucked into the smoker's lungs? Being breathed by the smoker, with their nose mere inches from the cigarette? Perhaps the "50 substances" are scared of fire and therefore only affect people more than six feet away from a lit cigarette...

Secondhand smoke is "more dangerous" than smoking purely because it is "dangerous". And it's only "dangerous" by tautology. This is not an argument. Saying that something is, I quote, "more dangerous" requires an actual comparison of the danger.

Well, the article does have a second try:
Since the secondhand smoke has higher concentrations of cancer-causing agents called carcinogens than the main smoke from the smoker, [...]
That's right. Secondhand smoke, from the combustion of a cigarette, contains more carcinogens than, um, the other smoke from the same combustion of the same cigarette. And at a higher concentration, because spreading that smoke through a 32m3 volume of air in a room makes it more concentrated than containing it in the 0.004m3 volume of the smoker's lungs. It's not diluted eight thousand times or anything. There's no attempt to cite a reference for this claptrap, it's simply thrown out there as a 'fact': smoke coming out of a cigarette is 'more dangerous' to non-smokers. Perhaps smokers build up an immunity to the effects? Science demands answers!

There's a bit of a correlation/causation conflation to 'prove' that secondhand smoke is dangerous, but that's it. Apparently secondhand smoke is dangerous because some non-smokers living with smokers die. Guess what? Everybody dies. It's not even that they died of something potentially smoking-related. Heart disease. Y'know, the #1 killer in the Western World, caused by a lifetime of fatty foods and just generally getting old.

This is like someone has heard about arguments, but hasn't quite understood how they work. Yes, arguments usually contain the word "because"; that doesn't mean that everything containing the word "because" is an argument. There's the whole 'logic' thing to consider, too. Let's have some fun with examples...
This secondhand smoke is more dangerous than the main smoking because it contains more than 50 substances that can cause cancer
How about:
This secondhand smoke is more dangerous than the main smoking because the sky is blue
This secondhand smoke is more dangerous than the main smoking because my garden wall isn't three feet high
This secondhand smoke is more dangerous than the main smoking because the giraffe is made of brightly-coloured kites
All of which make about as much logical sense

- KoW

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Predictions for 2011

OK, well, 30% wasn't too bad, so I think I should push my luck...

  1. Inflation will remain high, forcing an increase in the BoE base rate by the summer
  2. Property prices will continue their recent slide, exacerbated by the interest rate rise, and will finish down about 10% on the year
  3. F1 won't be won by a German this year - I'm going to say McLaren for the double. Probably Hamilton, but it depends how well the new tyres suit Button.
  4. Audi will win 24 Hours of Le Mans again, despite a close fight with Peugeot, and Drayson Racing will be classified finishers.
  5. Sterling will rise slightly against the Dollar - $1.60 - and fall slightly against the Yen - 115. I'm going to predict a rise against the Euro, though not sure how much maybe 1.20-1.30?
  6. Oil prices will fluctuate, but petrol prices will ignore this and rise to £1.50/litre for no adequately explained reason.
  7. Gold will trade above $1600/oz, but most of the volatility will be in silver and/or platinum.
  8. GDP growth will remain anaemic, maybe 1-2% over the entire year. The FTSE will remain above 5000 as a result.
  9. There will not be a General Election in 2011. The coalition may not hold for the entire year, but I think it will last long enough.
  10. There will not be a significant Islamist terrorist attack in the UK, the US, or on a transatlantic flight. Let's define "significant" as "kills one or more people", none of this "has the Houses of Parliament on a list of targets" nonsense.

- Mystic KoW

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2010 Predictions

Back here I made some predictions for 2010. Let's see how bad they turned out to be...

Inflation will reach double digits
Um... nope. About 5.5% RPI, 3.5% CPI. High, but not double-digit. (0/1)

Conservative victory in the General Election, by >30 seats
Nope. 20 short, but the coalition is 37 over the threshold. (0/2)

Britain will lose her AAA credit rating...
... but will regain it by the end of the year after massive cuts in public expenditure
Somewhat. We didn't formally lose the credit rating, but were marked as a negative outlook and the bond markets were pricing us as de-facto AA. We did need, and get, some cuts. (0.5/4)

The FTSE100 will drop below 4000 before rebounding
Nope. 52-week range is 4790-6021.5. (0.5/5)

There won't be a new Labour leader in 2010, Brown will cling on and smear his rivals as the party implodes
Nope. We now have the Work Experience Kid and Brown vanished like Scotch Mist. (0.5/6)

Sterling will drop below parity with the Euro, and below 120 Yen, but will stay around $1.50
52-week range against the Euro is 1.0966 - 1.2339, so, no, didn't expect the collapse in the Eurozone.
52-week range against the Yen is 125.5190 - 150.7188... damn, so close, especially as it's only 126 now.
52-week range against the Dollar is 1.4227 - 1.6459 (mean = 1.53), so I'm happy with that one. (1/7)

Global Cooling will continue, more neutral/negative results will come out, as will a few more scandals, Copenhagen will be swept under the carpet and most politicians will be claiming by the end of the year that they were always skeptical
Coldest December in decades, unseasonably cold in Cancun for COP16 (and generally only a ministerial presence rather than leaders), a paper claiming no link between CO2 and temperatures. I'm going to say that's a win. (2/8)

Sebastian Vettel to win the F1 world championship - he'll be the fastest German on the grid, certainly
Boom! Right on the money: Vettel won the championship, beating six other Germans in the process. (3/9)

VAT may or may not increase, but basic rate income tax will hit 25% as a temporary measure
Nope. The coalition wouldn't stand it. (3/10)

So, 30% right there. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't expected more, but I'll take it.
- Mystic KoW

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Guido uncovers Anglo-Irish Bank fraud?

Guido has a very interesting story about the recently-bailed-out Irish bank seemingly providing fraudulent marks to its (less-savvy) customers.

The two circled figures for 3-month yields in the accompanying image, the actual DIBOR at 6.22000% and the figure claimed by the bank of 6.5000%, are supposed to be the same by definition.

Like mortgages, money market transactions have interest rates based on an official index (LIBOR, DIBOR, the Bank of England Base Rate) added to a spread agreed between the parties, which covers the risk to and the profit for the bank. The bank will borrow at the index rate and lend at a slightly higher one, which is perfectly sound business. Just like someone with great credit and a lot of equity will only pay a small amount more than the base rate on their mortgage, so a good corporate customer will get a tighter spread; a new or less-creditworthy customer will have to pay more to borrow.

The problem in this case is that, according to those figures, Anglo-Irish has simply lied about the index rates in order to cream off a bit more from borrowers. This is equivalent to your mortgage provider claiming that the Bank of England base rate is 1.5%, when it's really 0.5%, and therefore your mortgage is an extra £250 per month - that extra £250 doesn't pay down your debt any faster, nor is it a cost to the bank. They're still borrowing at the index rate, so the extra is pure profit without having to worry about pesky contractual obligations - you'd agreed how much you'd pay them, and they're taking more without authorisation or legal authority. Fraud, basically.

The article suggests that this was only done for less aware customers - a professional would likely have other sources of DIBOR marks and would spot the difference, but a naive customer might just accept the bank's numbers without asking, and that might double the desk's profits - if you're getting 28 basis points (1% of 1%) from lying about the index and offering a spread of 25bp, then more than half of the total profit is from the fraud. Now, if the market was uncertain, borrowers might happily pay a 53bp spread - but charging them that while telling them that it's 25bp is surely illegal.

It'll be interesting to see how that one plays out...

- KoW

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Autumn of Wrath 2: Autumn Harder!

So, nearly a year late - it is the tube after all - the strikes are kicking off and will paralyse London. For what? Because the RMT and some other bunch of TSSAs think it's a bit unfair that they shouldn't be paid to sit around reading novels and want 250 unfilled and demonstrably-redundant jobs to be filled rather than being part of a 5% headcount reduction which will not cost anyone their job and will simply be natural wastage.

Wonderful, eh? Doesn't it make your heart sing that Bob Crow is going to fuck up the week of several million people over a manufactured and practically non-existent "dispute". We all know what this is really about - it's not the ticket staff, it's not the union members, it's purely to test the will of the coalition government. "The issue is not the issue". For that reason, it'll keep rolling on with one petty grievance after another trotted out as a pretext for what must be the last hurrah of unions in the public sector. We have a precedent - Lord Scarman ruled against the unionisation of workers at GCHQ, for the fairly obvious and sensible reason that some services are too important to allow union activity to interfere with them. When millions of people can be held hostage for the benefit of a few hundred, half of whom don't exist and none who would lose their jobs in any case, the system is broken.

I'm not going to be affected by it, of course - as soon as talks broke down, I called in some hotel points and booked myself a room within walking distance of the office. There's a bit of an opportunity cost there, but no alternative.

The point is that unions have a stranglehold over the public sector (and the Labour party) and simply cannot be allowed to disrupt vital public services on a whim. As I've said before, strikes only make sense when there is a functioning market and a company can lose customers to its competitors; when the "company" is a state monopoly, they are simply extortion with menaces.

In any field other than industrial relations, blackmail will get you jail time.

Time to step into the 20th century, eh? Forget about all those abusive Victorian mine owners and deal with the fact that, for nearly four decades, we've had adequate protection for workers in potentially-dangerous environments and bans on discrimination on the grounds of race or sex and, for approaching five decades, protection against arbitrary dismissal.

The battle was won half a century ago, it's time to stop fighting it.

The government should ban something useful for once: unions in monopoly services.

- KoW

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Rudest Woman I Have Ever Met

Well, tonight's train journey (the First Capital Connect 19:45 from King's Cross to Cambridge) was eventful... some woman set her kids a fantastic example by throwing a tantrum when she couldn't get her way.

I'd got to the station too late to comfortably make the 19:15, so I ended up waiting. Naturally, this meant that I was able to get on the 19:45 as soon as boarding started. I found myself a nice seat, stowed my bags and got out a drink and a newspaper. Boring and predictable just like most evening journeys.

Just before the train was due to leave, a fat woman, two other mothers, and four kids got on and decided that, as part of their arrangements, I was going to have to move. I was... non-plussed. Now, if you ask nicely, or give me a few seconds to weigh up "being surrounded by annoying kids" against "the hassle of moving", I'm blatantly going to give up my seat and move somewhere quiet.

But, no, as I had the temerity to want to sit where I was sat, the fat woman immediately goes off on one. Shouting, swearing, trying to insist that I have no right to the seat I'm in, attempting to draw analogies with airlines, making whiny passive-aggressive comments to everyone in earshot. That technique has repeatedly been shown by studies to be the best way to get exactly what you want... if what you want is a punch in the face, anyway.

Obviously goodwill goes right out of the window at that point and you're getting the full-on feature-length Stubbornness Experience (with a cartoon before and ice-cream during the intermission). Needless to say I sat there, quietly reading the Standard, with the fat woman complaining about how unreasonable I was on one side, and one of the kids kicking me in the knee on the other (clearly she sets a good example to them), thinking "wouldn't it be nice if we could all just... get along?" and "if they were doing this to a train company employee, it'd be called 'assault', according to the station posters".

I'm at a loss to understand what distorted sense of entitlement makes someone expect to be able reconfigure the seating arrangements of complete strangers in a public train, and to throw a fit if people don't immediately bend over backwards to accomodate you. It's ridiculous and, frankly, embarassing. One of the kids even suggested calling the police - presumably to tell them that "the bad man won't give up his seat for us", which I suspect is a misdemeanour at best.

As I got up to leave the train, the fat woman gave me a round of applause, which was nice. She probably meant it sarcastically, but who gives a damn? I certainly don't need anyone's approval to occupy a seat on a train, and nor will I apologise for it.

- KoW

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Big Society vs. Big Government

Yesterday morning, in what must have been a slow news day, the BBC rehashed the response to this month-old story - 'charities' are worried that government cuts will mean they lack the "resources" (money) to continue.

There's one very simple rule to bear in mind here:
If your 'charity' relies on government 'donations' then you are, by definition, a government agency.
You know, that whole "being given money to do something" Agent-Principal relationship? Fine, you help people and do good things - unlike other parts of government which exist to hurt people and do bad things, naturally. And you don't turn a profit - just like the MoD and the Foreign Office. Just because you can't see the PM on your org chart doesn't mean you're independent, and having to go cap-in-hand to the state means you're certainly not.

The site (which seems to be down at the moment) has a listing of many organisations which - while putatively charitable - derive >90% of their income from the government. It's amazing how often they appear on the news, lobbying us with our own money, in order to get more of our money.

I'm somewhat concerned about Cameron's "Big Society", though. It's clearly right in some respects - the state has no business inefficiently providing many things that people want. On the other paw, it strikes me as being a progressive, collectivist, left-wing, even fascistic policy - there seems to be no intention to cut back on services provided, only to expect people to do them for free in statolatric devotion.

I do not expect help from others, which apparently makes me some kind of mug, because others expect (nay demand) help from me. The demand is now made with a smile, rather than taken (via tax) under menaces, but it's the same demand.

- KoW

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Stick a Trident in it, this country is done"

Well, the British Summer has been and gone, so that's probably my last chance to use a barbecue reference. Work - new job - has been busy, so apologies for the lack of updates.

This last week, like so many others, has been bad news for defence. Nick Clegg announced four more deaths at PMQs on Wednesday, RUSI suggested cutting back from four Boomers to three and so dropping us to a fleet too small (9 boats) to sustain a submarine-building industry, and then on Friday morning it came out that George Osborne was insisting that Trident funding comes out of the MoD main budget.

The BBC were quick to jump on the story, questioning whether this will mean cuts to carriers or to JSF procurement, and they broadly supported Osborne's statement that "All budgets have pressure. I don't think there's anything particularly unique about the Ministry of Defence.". Really, George?

How many other departments have their staff being killed on a daily basis?

What's that? There are no IEDs in schools? No snipers in Whitehall? No insurgents ambushing doctors in hospital A&E departments? No landmines in police stations?

Defence is unique in that if you do it right, British citizens will die; and if you do it wrong, you won't have a country left to run.

That's not so say things are done well in the MoD, they're not. The procurement process is hugely inefficient and not fit-for-purpose, the tens of thousands of pen-pushers make the ministry top-heavy, and the budgets are too low in any case (2% of GDP is lower than other Western powers and a peace-time fantasy).

I had hoped that ousting infamous defence hater Gordon Brown would mean a change in the way things were done, even though I saw little evidence that they would be. Now it's clear that the Liberal Conservatives are no better. They live in the same centre-left puddle of "nice" middle-class Progressive soi-disant liberalism as New Labour and focus on the same populist demagoguery. Nobody values defence, because "the world is safe"; we have a few token wars thousands of miles away, but no "real threats". We have the luxury of being able to worry about how much aid we give away and what our carbon footprints are and how our eating habits will affect long-term healthcare provision. And so defence spending is always and ever a target for cuts to buy votes from the client state. A few people will wring their hands when Land Rovers are blown up and helicopters shot down, but then go right on claiming their "entitlement" to Tax Credits and congratulating themselves for being "a shrewd investor" by buying a house which is now bubble-valued at significantly more than they paid and demanding action on their "rights" not to have other people smoke or drink or eat unhealthy food.

So, Defence remains under attack from the Treasury, remains incompetent at procurement and remains right at the bottom of the ministerial pile. Useful idiots like Douglas Carswell and Lewis Page continue to attack the "cozy" (adversarial) and "protectionist" (largest open defence market in the world) industrial policy, encouraging us to take - with defence of the realm! - the sort of counterparty risks that the banks are being banned from taking. Liam Fox is a good man, but it now seems clear that he's on a hiding to nothing - rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic, in effect.

I left the defence industry when the bank bailout showed that some industries were more equal than others, and that defence wasn't something anyone actually cared about. I guess you could call it a Falling Down moment. I find it hard to express my feelings more succinctly than Michael Douglas' character:
I helped build missiles. I helped protect this country. You should be rewarded for that. But instead they give it to the plastic surgeons.
I wasn't the first to leave the industry on that basis and, from the sounds of it, I won't be the last.

It's going to take a while. Decades, probably. But then the UK won't have a defence industry (or any manufacturing at all, really), won't have a nuclear deterrent (or the seat on the UN Security Council that it buys) and so won't have any influence in geopolitics. So not much point in having a military, really - Belgium and Ireland have pretty much gone that way already. The UK will probably fragment along nationalist lines and will almost certainly be swallowed up into a giant Federal Europe. Citizens will be squeezed for ever-higher taxes to pay for the immense bureaucracy needed to keep the gravy train rolling, the make-work jobs and the "entitlements" of the populace and, just like the USSR, the continent-wide centrally-planned economy will collapse under its own weight. A gigantic public sector will pretend to work and the government will pretend to pay them, all the while sliding into oblivion.

Count me out.

Not today. Not tomorrow. It takes time to build a new career and a new life from scratch, but that's what I'm now working on. Where will I go? Not sure yet. The US or Japan are reasonably safe options; the BRICKs offer lots of opportunities.

- KoW

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