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Everything posted by Cogs

  1. I'd like to see how broad the the curriculum is and what other subjects would be studied pre-19. The Chinese are far more used to passing standardised tests for things like entry to the civil service and so on. I'd also like some sort of genuine indication of the level of mathematical knowledge that is required for chemistry (I have no idea). Taking a single question out of context is suggestive but doesn't necessarily tell us anything. I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered to evaluate the point being made.
  2. Vested interests you say Mr Pebble? In this Monday's Guardian... The middle class have hijacked the English countryside for themselves
  3. But see also Solomon Asch's "line length" experiments. I think that is what is going on with VIs and sentiment actually.
  4. Maybe we need to track chip prices against the Big Mac index to get a proper view of how the pound is doing. I doubt Gordo would remove it from CPI, he'd just add in a hedonic adjustment and cite Moore's law as applying to chips...
  5. Wason card task eh. Old skool. However, remember that the more concrete the framing of the puzzle the more likely someone is to get the right answer. Wason found far better performance when he posed the problem in terms of letters and stamps.
  6. A Schiffian argument here would be that the Dow is having to make these gains just to not lose more ground wrt inflation and the declining dollar. Worth considering how impressive these gains look if you price the market in something other than dollars, such as gold or a "basket of currencies" etc.
  7. That view belongs to a previous era that may indeed come again. It was true in the "rent trap" days but that really isn't the case now. Vs paying an IO mortgage I can save and invest the substantial difference and get a real bankable return. Perhaps HPI has a silver lining? I'd have never had a decent set of diversified investments otherwise. So you might call it UNDEAD MONEY...even while we sleep it roams around in the darkness adding to it's number...creepy eh
  8. Yeah possibly but what happened to buying within your means? Everyone still talks about the scenario where you stretch yourself as far as they'll let you go. Buying a house is of course merely a sacrifice game as economists would describe it. The last person to let go of the rope wins. So you're describing a crash/credit squeeze scenario where people are still stretching themselves to the max they can manage. Personally I want a modest terrace or even a flat (not so keen though) that I feel represents value for money. I might (emphasise "might") be able to buy either today if I really stretched, the problem is they are ludicrously expensive, there'd be enough leverage that the investment itself becomes really risky (in terms of the relative and absolute drain on my finances every month; a 3.5 multiple I could continue paying through about a dry period 6 months unemployment, at say 5 or 6 times the pressure is really on) and the bottom line is it currently makes sense to rent and invest the difference. I know what you want to avoid people discussing but I think the notion of "afford" is very important. I could have got a bigger, faster, flashier car but I didn't because I didn't want to spend the money, a decision that seems an anathema to the consumer in 2007, particularly when it comes to property.
  9. You don't need experience, you just need a good book on the history of Social Policy. You recall wrongly. Fees subsidies applied from 1945-47 (not sure exact date, it was a policy of the Atlee government and folded into the Butler reforms) until 2002, although they existed from the 1920s albeit patchily. Grants are perhaps a bigger factor than fees; so generous were grants in the 1960s that my uncle, a lad from a Welsh mining village, not only paid for his food and lodging out of the money, he also purchased and ran a car and still had money to save left over. Remember also that it was only in the late 80s that students lost the right to claim housing benefit and unemployment benefits in the holidays. You are right about reduced opportunity, but consider "opportunity" more widely: University wasn't required to the same degree in the 1960s and before as it used to be possible to gain full membership of professional bodies (e.g., IEE, IMechE) which a HND (or even a HNC) that these days requires an MSc (a BSc is not enough). In the 1960s it was viable to expect to be sponsored through the HND... know of many companies that aren't the armed forces that will pay your way through a degree today? A further thing to factor in is that a 16 y.o. boomer left school to a 100% employment market; he had the pick of anything he wanted to have a go at. And he could quit on Friday night and be in another job by Monday lunchtime. Given that this work was relatively well renumerated owing to the tightness of the employment market, many boomers (rightly really) lacked any particular motivation to go to university (esp. as you could still work your way up off the tools) which again differs somewhat from the situation today where you can't even answer a phone in a call centre without being expected to have some sort of degree it seems. The expansion of university access today should be seen for what it is: a paliative for unemployment. Times change.
  10. Two thoughts: First, I wonder what affect the kind of building we've seen since 1994 will have? Our city centres are heaving with properties that are really only suitable to rent and as purchases for BTL landlords. It may vary by area, but my impression is they aren't doing a great job of filling them at the moment either. Maybe they will come "on stream" at more realistic prices? Certainly paying rent equivalent to the mortgage on a 2-bed rabbit hutch in a city centre is a joke at the moment. If the rent was proportional to what they are "really" worth, and I don't think its anything like the comical 200-250k mark then it might be a more sensible proposition. A rising market accepts malinvestments such as these properties which stand empty, they tend to get shaken out in a decline. Second, "discouraged FTBs" are already priced out and renting, I can't see how a falling market would increase their numbers. To cover another "soft landing" theory, pent-up FTB demand won't really do much to act as a brake on momentum. My reasoning is that the level of easy credit the banks have been giving has already soaked up those who'd leap in on a small-ish decline (say, 5%). If you were that keen that you'd leap into a falling market, you'd have been keen enough to get a mortgage to cover the affordability gap ages ago. This wasn't the case in the past when lending was more disciplined and people reached hard limits and very well might have taken their chance, I don't think it is like that now. In a way I do think its different this time but not in a way that will allow a soft landing.
  11. State pension (so you'll get about £90,000 back given typical life expectency which is better than nothing). NICs also pay for the NHS according to the Inland Revenue (which is true but rather disingenuous given the absence of hypothecation).
  12. Don't worry folks, a few shandys and its become obvious to me. The quarterly inflation report headline figures will be available to them before the next meeting. They'll raise .5% to 5.75% "on the basis of the report's shock findings" and their "assessment of the effects of previous raises" and try to (against the evidence) attract praise for being tough on inflation, decisive, sending a message etc etc. Much more easily defended than .25% now and .25% next time. Unrealistic? Nanananana I've got my fingers in my ears and I can't hear you nanananana.
  13. At least you'll get some benefit from The Boomer Entitlement Tax (aka National Insurance).
  14. ROFL. "The over-65s are twice as likely to vote as the under 25s - and there are twice as many of them..A recent report by Age Concern identifies the next generation down, the 45-to-69-year olds, as the group who truly hold the keys to Number 10...The baby boomers are a key swing cohort. They swung to Thatcher in 1979, Blair in 1997 and many are undecided about who to vote for at the next general election," says Gordon Lishman, Age Concern's director general. " The boomers certainly did asset strip the country, it was what they enthusiastically voted for in the 1980s. Privatising everything in sight to make a quick buck was fine for the boomers in the 80s, after all they were reaching their peak earnings so the timing couldn't be better. Who needs functioning services and price protection on utility charges when there is a quick buck to be made? In the 2000s we are supposed to be terribly concerned about pensions, the NHS and the price of heating. Can't imagine why, none of that is an issue for me. All the boomers ever did was waste the inheritance their parents, who had actually fought a war and rebuilt a country had delivered to them. I believe they intended it to survive to be passed down to their grandchildren but apparently the boomers were just too greedy...
  15. It is one thing being cheap labour as a mechanic's apprentice because you are learning skills, there quid pro quo there and even a case for government subsidy, its another if your entire apprenticeship is spent sweeping the floor and making coffee without ever touching an engine. Thats just a dead end. I have concerns that they aren't always receiving any training worth the name, perhaps I should have been a bit clearer.
  16. King Cantue actually demonstrated his failure to hold back the tide as a way of disabusing his followers of the notion he was more than human. If only we had such wise and enlightened rulers today! Actually, I think Merv's rather obtuse comments about the housing market are his own attempt at "pulling a Canute", the problem is as with the King Canute, despite his statements, the public still think he can single-handedly save them from their stupidity when the global markets and financial climate turns.
  17. Quality and quantity. I wouldn't necessarily want to see an increase though, I'd like to see better quality apprenticeships. As I've written before, about 20 years ago British firms decided that rather than take responsibility and pay for training themselves they'd lobby government so that they'd be subsidised by the tax payer through education (which they want to become "training"). This is how we have reached the current state of play that the CBI regularly screams at the government and the public that its needs are not being met. In that regard they are no better than the resentful chav who thinks the DSS should buy him new trainers; if you want something to benefit you perhaps you should sort it out for yourself? In Germany at least they still take the apprenticeship seriously so something like an apprenticeship building the MINI (via BMW) would be a good one to go for. The trad engineering firms I also hear good things about. On the other hand it is all too easy to see that an extension of apprentice numbers could be achieved but if they are really just cheap manual labour and there is no career progression, again subsidised by the tax payer, then its a waste of time and we are into hiding unemployment numbers (or for 16 yos, shifting failing individuals out of the GCSE results figures) effectively. So I think the quality issue is more pressing then sheer numbers. When I read these articles I'm always very concerned that a Government spokesperson and Government policy is mentioned, it should be nothing to do with them whatsoever.
  18. It occurs to me I should used the "search" function which I've only just noticed. Oh well, chalk it down to experience.
  19. I don't know if this beauty has been posted before. Probably the most chilling 30 seconds of video you'll ever see if you are a bear, particularly if your partner doesn't share your outlook. Look at the guy's weary face, the panic, the sweat, look at the fear in his eyes ... Read the review of it on Slate.com afterward.
  20. I would advise not looking that particular term up actually.
  21. I wonder if they've recently been running "Bread" on UKTV Gold? Sounds like the inspiration. The Boswells used to rent their house to grandfather and grandfather rented his house out to the Boswells.
  22. Nonsense. You are thinking of Germany, you know, the Germany that has loosened its employment laws considerably to gain advantage in exports. That is also the country with 10% unemployment and where VDub made 20% of its workforce redundant, cut everyone's wages by 30% and raised their hours and productivity targets at the same time. In general the car sector has been clear: a squeak of dissent about long-term pay freezes (after the round of pay cuts) and they'll close all the factories, close all the offices and sack everyone, they've been quite blunt about it. I'd like to know which "decent paper" is pretending Germany still has "strict labour laws". German growth is precisely because of what is being talked about by Brown and Cameron. It certainly isn't attributable the labour regulations that had dragged them into the mire ever since reunification. Anyhow, I'll leave you to admire the French labour code, all 3,000 pages of it and see if you can figure out how to employ a person to man a hotdog stall in Paris without either A. Hiring a lawyer or B. getting arrested for violating it. You could also explain to me why that is good for business.
  23. German unemployment has been hovering around 10% for donkey's years now. Relative to the growth they need to deal with the problem (considering having such a vast pool of unemployed people must lower wages) Germany has been relatively unimpressive. Over the years, numerous state employment schemes far more "plastic" than our own have been tried and have failed. It is one thing to increase the state sector to deliver services, quite another explicitly begin job creation which really cannot be the job of government. Wages have been held down by employers for a number of years with explicit threats to offshore immediately if there is any trouble. France, unemployment between 8 and 9%. An employer can be arrested by the police if anyone on his staff works more than 35 hours a week, even voluntarily. There was a story about a coffee shop manager who was taken to a police station after his manager worked two extra shifts for two weeks to cover for a colleague. Anyone with a Baccalaureate is automatically allowed entry to a French university, chronic overcrowding has left higher education crushed. Even the Sorbonne is in trouble. Our only issues with A-level grades pale into insignifance when you consider French universities typically can't even seat all the people taking first year exams (they have to sit on the floor). I could go on and on. Spain? Italy? Whilst Britain didn't partake in PISA 2003 (the OECD comparison of the ability of 15 year olds) we did take part in PISA in 2000. The UK finished strongly in all the categories examined; Literacy, mathematics and science, typically as 2nd or 3rd best in Europe if I remember correctly. Top third anyway. The German steretype is that they are all brilliant and well-drilled scientists and mathematicians, which the study showed is clearly not the case in reality (bottom third-ish; in mathematics "significantly below the OECD average" for example). I'm not a nationalist of any sort and there are many things that worry me and annoy me about British society and the present government. I have spent a few months living in Berlin before now and I loved it, I certainly have no issues with Germans or Germany and look forward to hopefully another placement there at some point in the future. However, I think the "anywhere but Britain" mentality is really just choosing to have a good old Daily Mail style whinge without regard to the facts of the matter. Perhaps we could be like Germany, if we were prepared to have double digit unemployment, wage freezes year after year and kids who are uncompetitive in their literarcy and scientific and mathematical knowledge. I'm not.
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