Saturday, 5 January 2013

Falklands - facts

Around eighteen months ago when the Argies last set their sabres a-rattle over the Falklands, a retired general declared we couldn't defend them and couldn't win them back, prompting a related post from me. The detailed rebuttal in the comments by The Raging Tory is one of the delights of blogging and I make no apology for reproducing it in full below:-
Argentina couldnt invade its own bloody capital at the moment, never mind The Falklands.

Several places have mapped out possible invasions by Argentina, at best, they take the islands with catastrophic losses.
At worst, they lose 10,000 men and dont even set foot on the islands.

The FI Garrison is over 1000 strong, all trained as static infantry, with an additional company of proper infantry.

Argentina has a single landing ship, that could land 300 men and heavy equipment. Everything else they needed would be landed by dingy.

That assumes an S/T/A class isnt hanging around (the argies have no ASW capability) and sinks the invasion fleet with all hands.

They have a parachute Brigade, but its poorly trained and as far as I'm aware hasnt dropped in Brigade strength, ever.
Even the Americans, who constantly make parachute drops take serious losses to broken ankles and legs.

And of course, even if they do manage to parachute 1,000 men onto the islands, they will be dropped light, with limited ammunition, food and heavy weapons.

Realisticaly, all being even, the aggressor needs 3:1 odds to beat a defender.
They might get 2:1.

But all things arent even, your average argentine has never fired a shot in anger, your average British Infantryman has spent 6 months in Afghanistan.
And Mt P isnt just a hill with a few conveniently scattered rocks, we've had 30 years to big trenches, fire pits, concealed machine gun positions.

But even if they overcome all that, and somehow seize the islands, what then?

Our submarine fleet can continue to strike targets at will with Tomahawk, or sink ships with whatever fish we're on today (Tiger?).
And of course, we can launch a task force.

I know I know, it doesnt have fighter cover, big whoop, it has Daring and Argentina doesnt have fighters, they have ground attack aircraft considerably older than I am.
Skyhawks against SeaViper would be a one way bet.
With the Argentine Navy confined to port by Astute, theres nothing to resist a landing fleet.
Ocean can operate Apaches, at a pinch, probably 16 of them.
Illustrious can helicopter in an 800 strong ground force.
The Two Albions can land another 800 men and large amounts of material, and finaly the bay classes can land another 1000 men and, 90 odd tanks.

Argentina can hold the islands with whatever it can logisticaly support with a few battered old C130s, they cant ship supplies over, due to Astute related sinkings.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Life for Jobs

Back in the late 1970s / early 1980s a chap called Alvin Toffler explained why heavy volume manufacturing in the UK was over; as trade tariffs crumbled and global markets grew, manufacturing would move to places where the factor costs of land, labour, power and raw materials were lowest. The future for the West was the knowledge economy, he wrote, and post-Fordist niche production. Skills portability would be critical in maintaining full employment as we moved from a job-for-life deal from a single employer to one in which employers equipped employees with training and skills to ensure they would be employed for life. And all this more than a decade before the invention of the internet. 

Now that we're deeply into the territory foreseen by Toffler the mistakes we've made in adapting to structural change are clearer. Central Statist governments have poured a tsunami of wealth into slowing the loss of mass manufacturing when such resources could have been more competitively used for creating and maintaining knowledge economy infrastructure. Employers have become free-riders in the absence of compulsory training levies; instead of equipping staff as knowledge workers, firms have substituted IT systems. Instead of wider wealth distribution we've seen a greater concentration of wealth amongst very large global corporations. And the rise of e-commerce enabled producer-consumerism has seen the abandonment of the High Street by retailers who used to be the middlemen between consumers and producers / wholesalers.

But in Suffolk's little market towns over Christmas I saw signs that the High Street isn't dead, but in a process of change. The home-knitter who started buying wool in bulk and selling the surplus on eBay has now filled a shop-front with bright balls of wool and irresistible baby garments as a boost to her eBay shop; the ironmongers founded in 1823 that have gained new life by putting 6,000 of their 40,000 stock lines on the web, the farm-direct shop also with its own website, the shop window filled with old planes and woodworking tools from a collector and dealer who also operates on eBay, only opens the shop erratically but mans the computer in his workshop to the rear for about 16 hours a day. Thankfully most such towns are either conservation areas or the existing shops are listed, preventing the removal of the large ground floor display windows. Thus even when an ex-shop goes through a residential phase, it can always be resurrected as a shop. 

And this I think is the future for the High Street - small, perhaps part-time niche producers perhaps also with a part-time job elsewhere, with a web-outlet, offering a parade of fascinating and well-dressed  shop windows providing a visual feast of curiosities to strollers-by, and thereby maintaining the all-important footfall that keeps the chemist, the baker and the newsagents alive. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Compound interest

A friend runs a company undertaking facilities management contracts for offices here in London. Contracts tend to be from three to six years in length and have price indexing built-in, normally by reference to an index or combination of indices published by the ONS. In every case, she says, it is this indexing that provides the profit margin. Typically in year one the contract breaks-even or racks up a slight loss and by year three is comfortably in profit. All she has to do is keep costs within the indices - a process of good management and fine tuning.

In the days when school maths involved the calculation of compound interest any schoolboy would have understood the relationship. These days it takes the IFS to explain the effects of using different indices to uprate benefits. 

Labour used the RPI or a variant of the Rossi index to calculate benefit increases; although this was changed by the current government to the CPI, and subsequently to a cap of 1% for the next increase, the increase last year of 5% and previous increases based on RPI have taken the welfare bill to £208bn - a third of public expenditure. The effect of compounding is easily demonstrated by the following example; 


Inflate £ millions Inflate £ millions
Year 0
180,000
180,000
Year 1 3.10% 185,580 1.00% 181,800
Year 2 2.80% 190,776 1.00% 183,618
Year 3 3.70% 197,835 1.00% 185,454
Year 4 5.00% 207,727 1.00% 187,309
Total increase
27,727
7,309

The difference between the two, of about £20 billion, is equal to half the UK defence budget. Last year's 5% increase alone outweighed all the cuts made by IFS to disability benefits.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Private Lives

The Indie today prints a piece in praise of identity tech; gait analysis, biometrics, ANPR, facial recognition at 500m, DNA and even textual analysis of online posts. It all helps catch baddies, and must therefore be a good thing, goes the gist of the Indie's argument, omitting only the cliche that if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. 

It's no good railing against the technology, which once developed will surely be used. And no use imagining that it will remain restricted to law enforcement agencies. I'm just waiting for the first pub to install CCTV facial recognition to alert the bouncers to banned drinkers, or the first department store to do so to intercept and escort-out known shoplifters. Large employers will use textual analysis to identify staff posting on blogs or Facebook 'anonymously'. Ubiquitous hi-definition CCTV leaked to the web will show the world exactly what Ron Davies MP was doing on Clapham Common and with whom, and respectable seeming ladies taking cuttings from Kew Gardens will find themselves shamed. That desperate roadside pee with not another car or person in sight will still be captured digitally and CCTV watchers in Soho will have a laugh recording who's visiting the tarts' flats or taking the rent-boys from the railings. Software detecting nervous body movements will identify potential fraudsters in the bank queue or kiddie fiddlers at the pool. Within ten years there will be no more any such thing as a private life except that lived indoors in one's own home, and perhaps not even then. 

We can't stop it. Perhaps it can be slowed. Perhaps counter-surveillance technology such as that already available on eBay to block and scramble wi-fi packet data will become widespread, or directional EMP devices that can take-out anything with a chip within 15m with an intense pulse. Or perhaps we really won't be bothered; maybe we'll become a nation of voyeurs, logging-on to catch the latest footage of a minister groping his SPAD on the Embankment or the most recent comical drunk.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013: Direction of Travel

Well, here it is and as we look behind us and look before us we shouldn't be too pessimistic. We haven't arrived anywhere yet, but the helm is on generally the correct heading. On the positive side:-

Public spending; Still a long way to go to claw-back the insane tsunami of money we didn't have that was thrown into the pot by mentally-challenged Brown and Balls but welfare changes, particularly to HB and the end of tax credits to come in 2013 will start to put the bite on. Capital investment to keep the construction sector intact and competitive would be welcome in areas other than housing. More pressure needed on civil service numbers and the NHS still needs to cut its bad cholesterol and cut down on excessive paying.

Banks; The government need to maintain a hard line on the retail-investment banking split and advance the programme. Fines and penalties for wrongdoing are good where these eat heavily into bonuses, but bankers still need to be in prison in significant numbers. As more and more retail customers flee the big five the assets of smaller competitors unencumbered by hidden liabilities will grow and help free us from the sclerotic lending ability of the big five.

Europe; The realisation that the UK's relationship with the Eurozone needs radical reform is now general and we are entering the debate phase during which there will be much heat and noise generated. The prospect of UKIP sweeping the board at the 2014 Euro election will paradoxically aid Cameron enormously in negotiations. And I wouldn't get too stuck on Article 50 and the in/out or nothing argument; we're playing big boys games here. 

Energy; Still an incredible mess but a dawning comprehension that bloody windmills aren't the answer is gaining traction. A free for all on shale gas with an investment bubble in the small innovative exploiters who will bear the risk and most of which will go bust will get the thing going before the big boys step in to take over. 

Education; Gove's work with schools can't be faulted, the fake colleges are also rapidly being wound-up and with them the overseas fake students and Blair's lunatic university boom is starting to settle back to sustainable levels. Both apprenticeships and entry via Articles to law and accountancy are rightly experiencing a rebirth. 

Devolution & Localism; With the welcome prospect of a 'No' from Scotland in 2014 to outright independence we'll be into 'Devo Max' country - and the rest of the UK may have to thank the Scots for leading the way into real and meaningful Localism.After Scotland, Wales - and then Devo Max for the English regions. 

Policing; The battle is now on between the supporters of a national police service under the Home Secretary, long promoted by ACPO, formed of an elite of specially selected and highly rewarded officers living separate lives from the rest of us, and local police forces under civilian control with local pay and rewards and officers who are part of the local communities. Again, the debate will generate much heat and sound. 

On the less positive side, areas of concern include:-

Defence;  Maintaining an expeditionary force, a reserve army, and naval strength to defend the sea-lanes and support expeditionary operations is an absolute defence minimum. We are at real risk of failing, and with no prospect of change

Personal Liberty; Nannying shows no sign of abating. The bonfire of the quangos hasn't happened and the fake charities that campaign to restrict personal liberty are still being funded by government. Computer snooping is back on the agenda and no doubt they are looking for a way in which to reintroduce ID cards. We need to cull more civil servants, more environmental health officers and all of the fake charities to have an impact here - with no sign of a willingness to do so from Cameron's government. 

Anyway, 2013 promises to be an interesting year. May it be a good one for all of you.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Reynard

Thanks to Greg for this splendid shot of an urban fox; the banshee night-screeching apart, I have to say I also enjoy seeing them here in the city. I recall watching a 'Springwatch' with Bill Oddie and a camera crew spending a whispered night hidden in a ditch for a few seconds glimpse of a fox whilst outside my rear window a vixen was delicately picking (I think) earthworms from a newly dug bed, watched amiably by the two moggies. 


Wood Pigeons, too, perhaps aware that city folk don't eat them unless they arrive back-down on a plate have become bolder than ever I've known them in the country; with all the diet-discipline of Labradors, some have grown to prodigious size and waddle about lazily with bulging crops. 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Localism and Hunting

Cameron could demonstrate both his support of Localism and fulfil his electoral commitment to take action on the Hunting Act by devolving the decision. A simple two-line Bill that abolished the existing Act and gave each local authority the power to make Byelaws banning the hunting of mammals with hounds would surely be a victory for democracy?

Lambeth, Southwark and Tower Hamlets could therefore ban hunting to the great satisfaction of their electors whilst the debate in the Shires would be more nuanced.