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Week in Review: July 15, 2017

Mises Institute - Sat, 15/07/2017 - 04:00
By: Mises Institute
Week in Review image

Janet Yellen didn't make much news this week when she testified before the House and Senate banking committees. She continued to defend the Fed's low interest rate policy, painted a very optimistic picture of the American economy, and struggled to defend her opposition to Audit the Fed. Unfortunately for Yellen, while she can duck and dodge the questioning of the occasionally hostile legislator, she can't avoid the consequences of the policies of herself and her predecessor. 

The Bernanke-Yellen bubble will lead to the Bernanke-Yellen depression.

On Mises Weekends, Dr. Mark Thornton joins Jeff to explain the "business cycle" for what it really is: a series of booms (credit expansion) and busts (debt deleveraging) engineered by central banks. Mark explains why there's nothing natural, real, or sustainable about the current Yellen boom.

And in case you missed them, here are this weeks Mises Wire articles, covering a wide array of topics including: Yellen's continued denial that anything is wrong, "free" education, Nancy MacLeans distorted view of America, and do we really need the ATF?

 



Categories: Current Affairs

Europe's Unsustainable Welfare State

Mises Institute - Sat, 15/07/2017 - 04:00
By: Daniel Lacalle
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Angela Merkel used to say that “the European Union is about 5% of the world’s population, about 25% of its GDP, and about 50% of global welfare spending”:

The real data is more concerning.

The European Union is:

7.2% of the World Population.
23.8% of the World’s GDP.
58% of the World’s Welfare Spending.

Something has to give.

The EU average tax burden on workers is 44.9%. The average worker in the EU spends half a year working for the tax man.

Taxation accounts for 41% of the euro area GDP.

Ease of doing business remains below the leading economies of the world.

Bureaucracy is asphyxiating. The EU approves on average 80 directives, 1,200 regulations and 700 decisions per year.

The main EU economies remain significantly below the leaders in economic freedom.

At the same time, despite massive tax burden and constant confiscation of wealth, the EU’s average debt to GDP is 90%. Continuously making science fiction estimates of tax evasion and calling to tax the rich as a mirage, has led to unsustainable levels of government burden on the real economy and hinders investment and capital investment as policies are increasingly aimed at taxing the productive to subsidize the unproductive.

Using unrealistic estimates of tax revenues made by politicians — that are always missed — for very real expenditures — which are consistently above budget — has made the EU miss its debt reduction expectations.

The cost of hyper-regulation and excessive taxes to job creation, investment, and innovation are evident. The EU has an unemployment rate that almost doubles the leading economic peers, and taxation hinders the growth of SMEs (small and medium enterprises), which shows a ratio of development to large companies that is half the same ratio in the US.

The EU has many positive things, as I explained here. But we cannot let bureaucracy and confiscatory taxation take over a worthy project. Because ignoring those risks, we would make the EU implode.

Unless the EU politicians change their mindset of a model built on massive taxation and bureaucracy and start putting at the forefront of policy cutting taxes, slashing red tape, more open business, more economic freedom, focusing on job creation and attraction of capital, the welfare state will implode.

The EU’s welfare state can only be protected defending growth, investment, and job creation. However, it will likely be destroyed by the same ones that say they defend “the public sector.” By making it unsustainable.

Reprinted with permission of the author. Daniel Lacalle has a PhD in Economics and is author of Escape from the Central Bank TrapLife In The Financial Markets, and The Energy World Is Flat (Wiley).



Categories: Current Affairs

The Conquest of the United States by Cuba

Mises Institute - Sat, 15/07/2017 - 04:00
By: Jacob G. Hornberger
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One of the ironies of the U.S. national-security state’s never-ending efforts to effect regime change in Cuba is that the United States ended up adopting and embracing many of the dark-side policies and practices of what one might expect a communist regime to engage in. After the conversion of the U.S. government to a national-security state after World War II, the notion was that in order to defeat the Reds during the Cold War, America needed to become like them.

That’s how the United States ended up being a nation based on such dark-side activities as torture, assassination, secret surveillance, and indefinite detention. In fact, it was appropriate that the Pentagon and the CIA established their premier torture and indefinite detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, given that torture, military tribunals, and indefinite detention without trial would fit perfectly in most communist regimes.

RELATED: "The Conquest of the US by Spain" by Ralph Raico

One of the most hilarious ways in which the United States became like the communists to defeat the communists involves a radio station named Radio Marti.

Haven’t heard of it? Maybe the reason is that it is not allowed to broadcast to the American people even though it is based in Miami.

Why not?

Because that would be feeding propaganda to the America people!

You see, Radio Marti is owned and funded by the U.S. government. Its sole mission is to broadcast pro-U.S. propaganda into Cuba, with the aim of fomenting dissent there as part of the U.S. government’s never-ending aim of achieving regime change in Cuba.

It’s important to point out something important here: Radio Marti is a government-owned radio station Why is that important? Because that makes this station a socialist enterprise!

Look at the irony: To fight socialism, the United States adopts socialism! Is that hilarious or what?

The annual budget of Radio Marti and its sister station TV Marti is $27 million. Okay, not a large amount of money in the large scheme of things, but it’s the principle of the thing. This socialist enterprise is being funded the same way that socialist enterprises are funded in Cuba — through coercion. Both the U.S. government and the Cuban government take money from the populace to fund socialist enterprises. Think about that the next time you’re filling out your income-tax return and wondering why the IRS is taking so much of your income from you.

How large is the listening audience for Radio Marti. It’s impossible to say given that there are no ratings services in Cuba. But once Radio Marti began broadcasting in 1985, the Cuban regime responded by jamming its signals. This had a boomerang effect because many privately owned American radio stations, whose signal was not previously being blocked, discovered that the Cuban jamming of Radio Marti’s signal also jammed their signals as well. In any event, according to Wikipedia, less than 2 percent of Cubans listen to the propaganda issued by Radio Marti.

What message does Radio Marti send into Cuba? I haven’t researched the matter, but maybe it’s something like this: “Don’t you wish that you lived in a free country like the United States, where our government engages in assassination, torture, indefinite detention, secret surveillance, income taxation, military tribunals, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, income taxation, paper money, central bank, travel controls, trade restrictions, foreign interventionism, and gun control?”

Of course, the average Cuban could be forgiven for thinking to himself after hearing that message: “Big deal. Those are all core programs in our country as well.”

Another dark irony in all this is the name that U.S. officials chose for their socialist radio station — Marti. Jose Marti is one of the most revered figures in Cuba. He was a leader in Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain and was killed in battle in 1895.

Marti opposed any outside interference in Cuba. Yet, interfere is what the U.S. government has being doing in Cuba ever since it helped to defeat Spain in the Spanish American War in 1898. Such interference has come, of course, not just with the U.S. government’s socialist radio station perversely named after Marti, but also with such dark-side activity as sabotage, terrorism, assassination, invasion, and a brutal economic embargo designed to bring maximum suffering to the Cuban populace in the hopes that they will oust the communist regime and install another pro-U.S. dictatorship in its stead. All this against a country that has never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

In 1899, William Graham Sumner penned an essay entitled “The Conquest of the United States by Spain,” in which he pointed out that while the United States had defeated Spain on the battlefield, it was Spain that had ultimately conquered the United States. How? Because the United States ended up embracing the imperialist and interventionist mindset of the nation it just defeated in war.

The same point, of course, can be made about Cuba, only it’s worse. While the United States ended up adopting many of the core features of Cuba’s communist and socialist system, the communist regime in Cuba remains standing. I wonder if America’s socialist radio station, Radio Marti, broadcasts that message into Cuba.

Reprinted with permission of the author. Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.



Categories: Current Affairs

Salvation by allegiance alone

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Sat, 15/07/2017 - 00:00

There's an interesting introduction here to Matthew W. Bates' book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. It's a podcast interview between the author and Scot McKnight. Worth a listen.

Categories: Friends

Help with your Hebrew, step 2

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Sat, 15/07/2017 - 00:00

OK, so let's imagine that you've moved past the first-year level of Hebrew, so that 100 Hebrew Translation Exercises aren't going to be much help any longer

You're at the weak verb stage, which means you're at the you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-I'll-never-remember-all-that stage.

What you need is a simple way of condensing all the stuff you've learned about the crazy Hebrew verb system into three simple rules which will allow you to actually read this strange and wonderful language. Then you can read a couple of verses each day, and perhaps have a hope of arriving back at college in September without having forgotten everything you've spent two years learning.

You need the Hebrew Weak Verb Cheat Sheet.

Here's an extract from the introduction:

Lots of theological students find weak verbs a bit baffling. Way back in the day, I was one of them. James Robson, our lecturer at that time, was (and is) an utterly outstanding teacher, and produced dozens of full-colour sheets designed to help us chart a course through the minefield of weak verb paradigms. Some of my fellow-students even managed to learn them. Yikes - there were some smart folks in that class. But not everyone has the neck muscles to support the planet-sized brain necessary to memorize all that stuff.

Fortunately, it turns out that there’s an easier way. If you think about it, you don’t actually need to learn all of the rules for forming Hebrew verbs if your only aim is to translate from Hebrew to English. The range of possible meanings for any given verb is constrained both by the root letters that remain and by the context. This means that if you have a good grasp of Hebrew vocabulary, and if you’re sufficiently experienced at actually reading the Hebrew Bible to have a reasonable idea of the context, then a few simple rules will enable you to identify the root letters of almost every weak verb in the Hebrew Bible. You won’t impress your purist friends, but you should at least pass the exam, and you might even find yourself able to read the Hebrew Bible. Now there’s a neat idea.


Categories: Friends

Prominent Anglo-Catholic convicted on three counts of fraud

Anglican Ink - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 22:44

Fr Andrew Sloane stole from the collection plate to pay for prostitutes, prosecution charged

Figural practice as a five-fold movement

The Hadley Rectory - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 22:19
From Ephraim Radner, Figural exegesis and the Anglican tradition
Figural practice can be imaginatively described as a five-fold movement: sowing, tending, gathering, sorting, and enjoying. There is nothing inevitable about this imaginative framework, of course, although it does have the advantage of having some scriptural resonance. In sowing, a biblical word is cast into the soil of the Scriptures and allowed to resonate, collide, scrape, and wander. In tending, there is a deliberate effort to let this seed do its resonating work — time, prayer, reflection, study. In gathering, the reader (ultimately the Church) consciously collates the accumulated connections and associations the original word or words have taken on. These become a fund or treasury, and at this point are most clearly given over to documentation. With sorting we come to the articulated effort to make sense of this collation. This is the stage we associate with theology or homiletics, dogmatics or controversy. Finally, in scriptural delight, the reader (and Church) turns all this work to God, and returns to prayer, considering the nurture the word has offered, and praising its speaker and person.
Categories: Friends

Figural Reading in the Anglican Tradition

The Hadley Rectory - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 21:53
The Living Church website recently run a series on Figural Reading in the Anglican Tradition. It consisted of the following posts published between 14 March and 20 June 2017:Introductory essay by David Ney, “The bare reading of Scripture and Anglican hermeneutics
First, I will suggest that being a community gathered around the Word of God is central to Anglican identity. Second, I will argue that, historically, to speak of Anglicanism as a community gathered around the Word is to speak of the prayer book tradition and the way it orders the communal reception of God’s Word. Finally, I will suggest that this ordered reception breeds a particular response to Scripture: the prayer book’s juxtaposition of “bare” Scriptural texts commends figural reading.David Mason Barr, The accessible Word in Anglicanism: Tyndale and Scripture’s figuresNate Wall, ‘Interpret thine own work’: Figural reading with George Herbert and John DonneJeff Boldt, The Anglican approach to Christian apologetics: Joseph Butler’s biblical cosmosDavid Ney, William Jones: Scripture makes the world speakDane Neufeld, Defending the complex witness of Scripture: Henry Mansel (1820-71)George Westhaver, Spiritual renewal, Scripture, and the Oxford Movement: The vision of GodGeorge Westhaver, The Oxford Movement’s sacramental interpretation of ScriptureGeorge Westhaver, Oxford Movement exegesis and sacramental ontologyCole Hartin, The ‘fitness’ of Scripture: Richard Chenevix TrenchJeff Boldt, Lionel S. Thornton: The 20th century’s lonely figural readerJeff Boldt, Lionel S. Thornton and Scripture as ‘the divine mind’Ephraim Radner, Figural exegesis and the Anglican tradition

From the final essay:
The different articles have emphasized that the individual interpreters had their unique approaches to figural interpretation, but they all approached their craft from a particular standpoint: As members of the prayer book tradition they received the “allness” of Scripture, and their particular figural practices therefore must be seen as particular responses to this allness. In this final post, I will suggest that these figural practices are far more than merely idiosyncratic responses to Scripture’s breadth. These practices help us to see that, for Anglicans and non-Anglicans alike, the Christian interpretation of Scripture has little to do with the division between subject and object that modern critical studies take for granted. Instead, Christian readers are drawn into the Scriptures, unveiled for who they are, and, through the integrative reach of the divine Word, transformed. When pursued in common, the figural interpretation of the Bible finally refashions and transfigures the Church as a whole.
Categories: Friends

Will Trump Be Less of a Spendthrift than His Republican Predecessors?

Mises Institute - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 20:15
By: Ryan McMaken
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In the past here at mises.org, we've looked at several different ways of comparing government spending across presidential administrations. No matter how we look at it, we're forced to conclude that Republican presidents cannot be counted on to spend less than Democratic presidents. 

In this analysis, for example, we found that over the past fifty years, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were among the worst offenders, with Obama coming in behind third-placed Gerald Ford. 

(Explanation of graph is here.)

On an average annual basis, we found Obama to be similar to G.H.W. Bush, with George W. Bush topping all other administration in terms of spending growth. 

In all cases, the Clinton administration showed up as one of the periods of most restrained spending. 

Source. 

Nor is this obviously a matter of divided government and so-called gridlock. A separate analysis of gridlock suggested that even during the six years of total Republican control in the White House and Congress (2001-2007), government spending increased rapidly. Even taking divided government into account, there's little reason to assume that GOP control in Washington leads to more restrained government spending. 

Is Trump Different? 

But maybe Trump will be different. 

This week, the President's Office of Management and Budget, and the Congressional Budget Office, projected that federal spending will top $4 trillion for the first time ever. (2017 was the first fiscal year during which Trump had any input.)

The OMB also estimated that spending will increase slightly into 2018, topping $4.09 trillion. By 2022, the OMB estimates federal spending will already be well in its way to $5 trillion, topping $4.83 trillion in that year. The CBO estimates are less cautious, concluding that by 2022, total spending will reach 5.2 trillion. 

Of course, these estimates will prove to be far too low if there is another recession — as the experience of 2009's budget suggests  — or if there is a new war. 

But, let's say that the White's House's estimates are correct, and spending increases from $4 trillion to $5 trillion over the next 5 years. 

Looking at average annual increases, this would place Trump on about a par with Obama, but well below the big-spending habits of George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. Since all presidents in recent decades have overseen big spending  increases, this puts Trump somewhere in the middle of the pack. (The Trump numbers are based on the OMB estimates. All other numbers are OMB historical data.)

Could we describe this as progress?

Well, we're setting the bar incredibly low here if the Obama administration looks like a period of restraint. But, if these estimates hold up, it does look like that Trump administration may be headed for a period of relative spending restraint compared to his most recent Republican predecessor. 

These continued spending increases also underscore the fact that there are no cuts to total spending to social programs, in spite of repeated and inaccurate claims about Medicaid "cuts" and other cuts to social benefits. 

For example, a recent CNN article on the Senate GOP proposal for Medicaid says that the plan will "slash" Medicaid spending. However, if one reads deep into the article, one discovers that there is no cut at all, but a reduction in the rate of increase. In other words, under the proposal, Medicaid spending will increase every single year, but at a slower pace than some others would prefer. 

Under the current system, Medicaid is expected to grow at a 4.4% average annual rate over the next decade. The House would tie the growth to the medical inflation rate, estimated by CBO to be 3.7%, on average, over the next decade, while the Senate would tighten it even more by pegging it to the standard inflation rate, which is projected to grow at an average 2.4% rate.

As noted in this article, this is a common media tactic which redefines "cut" as a slower rate of growth. 

In any case, the continued growth illustrates how no one should expect federal spending under Trump to even flatten our, let alone decrease. 

Moreover, the Trump administration's obvious desire to greatly increase military spending will be more than enough to ensure a constantly-increasing federal spending binge, even if some social programs are held flat or increased. 

If there's any good news here, its that the Trump administration may be a more "moderate" Republican administration, and fall short of the massive spending increases pushed through by Reagan and George W. Bush. On the other hand, if the US continues to court war with the Russians or the North Koreans, no one should bet in favor of seeing any fiscal restraint any time soon. 



Categories: Current Affairs

Planning reform can be safe as houses

Adam Smith Institute - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 17:27

Over on Medium I've written up what I think is a politically-achievable plan for the Conservatives to get some real action on housing now that gives them something to campaign on at the next election.

In housing, the root problem is mostly the planning system restricting supply – not enough nice, big homes are being built, which keeps prices higher than they need to be across the board. You're not going to win by promising planning reform or anything like it — unlike rent controls, they don't sound good. But you might win if you can show that housing is becoming more affordable and more secure. 

I propose a three-pronged approach — allow densification within cities, and have it done on a bottom-up, street-by-street level instead of exclusively through massive new developments; let local councils capture some of the uplift in land values that comes when planning permission is granted to new developments; and introduce a 'long-hold' midway point between shorthold tenancies and leaseholds, which effectively confer ownership of the property:

"Private rents in the UK are some of the highest in the EU, and private rented households spend between 35% and 40% of their post-tax income on rent compared to a European average of 28%. This does not capture the second-order problem caused by expensive housing costs, which is that it is much harder to move to economically prosperous parts of the country where better jobs are, so people end up forgoing better jobs and salaries than they might otherwise get.

"Housing quality is also quite poor. New builds in England are some of the smallest in the developed world, and shared living areas are being turned into extra bedrooms in many rented properties, squeezing more people in. In 1996 54% of 16–34 year olds owned their own homes; now only 34% do. That’s a twenty percentage-point drop in twenty years. Over that period the number of renters in that age category has doubled from from 1.1 to 2.2m.

"Labour made this a major part of its election campaign. Economists nearly unanimously agree that rent controls do harm, but many voters do not realise the risks. Bans on lettings agency fees and making three-year tenancies the norm similarly sound appealing to people fed up with wheeler-dealer agents and having to find somewhere new to live every year.

"These are tangible policies that sound good on the doorstep. The Tory manifesto was vague on housing issues and offered no track record of improvement. The government’s housing policies were basically useless — they only seemed to be interested in getting people to own their own homes, but because they did little on the supply side, policies like Help to Buy mostly only raised prices and changed the distribution of who got houses, not increase the total number of homeowners."

Read the whole thing, and my previous piece on some other policies the Tories should be going for to win at the next election.

Categories: Current Affairs

The case against the new corn laws

Adam Smith Institute - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 17:12

There was once a time when Peel’s abolition of the Corn Laws was regarded as an unqualified success, ushering in an era of free trade and prosperity hitherto unforeseen in human history. What was once taken as dictum, however, seems to be lost on the current generation of policy-makers. The Corn Laws, along with the general spirit of protectionism they represent, has once again become fashionable under the guise of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Needless to say, there is no reason to suppose that a policy which was so disastrous in the 19th century, would be any less disastrous in the 21st. It is remarkable how similar, and how similarly conclusive, the arguments against agriculture subsidies remain. The case against this nefariously illiberal policy is made by simultaneously appealing to the needs of the consumer, the competitiveness of the producer, and the health of the international market more generally. The vote to leave the European Union on the 23rd of June offers the perfect opportunity for the government to repeal these new Corn Laws.

Subsidies are simply redistribution under another name – that of ‘protection’. By definition, subsidy requires the productive sectors to finance the unproductive sectors of the economy through general taxation. In the case of domestic agriculture, 1% of the employment market is financed by the remaining 99%. This is made all the more inefficient by the inequity of national contributions to the CAP, with the UK contributing £6 billion, while receiving half that amount in subsidy. The CAP does not even contain the one redeeming feature of redistribution – that of relieving the plight of the least fortunate. The CAP takes all the wealth of the whole of society (including societies poorest) and redistributes said wealth to a group of landowners, who predominantly belong to the upper middle classes. Moreover, the further effect of this subsidy is to inflate domestic food prices by artificially raising the barriers to entry for foreign imports. Regarding the discussion of the ‘cost of living crisis’ at the previous general election, removing domestic agricultural subsidies would be an effective way of pushing down the price of food without distorting the market.

The CAP does not even achieve what it purports to achieve: the goal of keeping the domestic agricultural sector strong. Rather, the effect of the CAP has been to starve the agricultural sector of much needed competition and free enterprise. Instead of farmers competing against one another in order to create the most efficient product in a free market, the sector is now make up of a rentier class, each competing for a subsidy from government (whether national or supranational). In 1984, the government of New Zealand gradually reduced all subsidies and import quotas on agriculture, with the process finally completed in 1990. The agricultural sector of New Zealand’s economy (which is far more important when relatively compared to the UK’s agricultural sector) consequently boomed, as fair and proper conditions were returned to the market.

Perhaps chief among the CAPs crimes is that it keeps developing countries poor, and in constant need of aid. Repealing the subsidy would enable imports, from African and South American countries in particular, to be sold at a competitive price in Britain. This would not only allow British consumers access to cheaper food, but increase the economic strength of developing nations. This would, in turn, allow western nations (the very nations which imposed the subsidy), to reduce their own foreign aid budgets towards these countries, enabling prosperity, and reducing embezzlement by corrupt officials in one fell swoop.

All that remains is for Theresa May’s government to emulate its Peelite forebears, by scrapping agriculture subsidies, without exception, over a gradual period of years. It may not be politically advantageous – it is in the nature of embedded interests to cause political trouble when their privileges are questioned – but the future benefits of such a policy would go a long way to cementing May’s legacy at a time when her premiership has yet to begin. Before the referendum on the 23rd of June, Paddy Ashdown attempted to boost the Remain campaign by threatening that leaving the EU would ‘open the door to cheap food world-wide’. Let’s take him at his word. 

Categories: Current Affairs

McCaffrey and Dorobat on the Economics of Game of Thrones

Mises Institute - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 17:00
By: Matthew McCaffrey, Carmen Elena Dorobăț
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This Sunday the long awaited seventh season of Game of Thrones will premier on HBO. Two Mises Institute scholars, Matthew McCaffrey and Carmen Elena Dorobăț, have written extensively on the economics of the series, noting that:

George R.R. Martin’s story touches on a variety of economic issues, from the implications of not having an economic system at all, to the problems of money and public finance. 

Recently the two appeared on Mashable.com along with a "small council" of other academics looking at some of the main characters of the series, and what the future may hold in store for them:

On Cersei Lannister:

The first couple seasons demonstrated that the city can be starved out quickly. Financially, the rich and powerful house of Lannister now has several debts to pay in the upcoming season. Their short game of acquiring more power at every opportunity has not only left them in bad straits with the Iron Bank — but also with the smallfolk of King’s Landing.

Daenerys Targaryen:

She’s also made mistakes in governance similar to those of Cersei and other elites. As her attempts to free Slaver’s Bay by ruling through the same old monarchical system failed, they advise she abandon the "wheel" of Houses altogether, and instead capitalize on a common theme rising throughout the saga: the smallfolk’s disenchantment with the ruling class.

Jon Snow:

While dangerous in the short term, this long-game shake up of the land-owning Westerosi caste system through an infusion of egalitarian ideals could prove vital to Jon Snow's survival. 

McCaffrey also joined Moneyish.com to discuss the financial situation of the Seven Kingdoms after six seasons. He notes that their appetite for debt has left the Lanisters and King's Landing in a bad situation:

“As a House, and now as rulers of Westeros, the Lannisters were just too attracted to debt,” said McCaffrey. They’ve destroyed their credit history with the Bank of Braavos, and worse, Cersei literally burned a bridge with her rich Highgarden allies by obliterating its heirs Margaery and Loras Tyrell in last season’s finale. Cersei also soured relations with the country of Dorne, and now the Tyrells and Dorne are backing Daenerys Targaryen’s army against the Lannisters.

“It’s unlikely the Lannisters as a family are going to survive this, because Cersei has alienated everyone around her. And you can win or lose a war depending on your financial connections,” said McCaffrey. “As for King’s Landing, the only hope at this point is to find a new leader to end this war and push for some stability in the land. Wartime prosperity is a fake boom; you have to shift your economy from building and creating consumer goods that people actually use to make life a little better, to producing tools of war, which don’t benefit people. Go back to a system of relatively low taxes, relatively low borrowing, and let the people earn a living once more.”

Read more by McCaffrey and Dorobat on the economics of the Game of Thrones:

The Economic Sense in Game of Thrones | mises.org
Game of Thrones and the Politics of Fantasy | mises.org
Mormont Shrugged; or, Lessons from the Game of Thrones | mises.org
The Game Of Thrones Is A Game Of Coins | International Business Times
An economist explains what's really going on in 'Game of Thrones' | Business Insider
What “Game of Thrones” Can Teach Us About Debt | badcredit.org
 

Also check out their 2015 paper, 'We Do Not Sow': The Economics and Politics of A Song of Ice and Fire. 



Categories: Current Affairs

It's time to privatise London's buses

Adam Smith Institute - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 16:30

London is home to some of Europe’s most congested roads. While the London Underground does a good job of speeding passengers across the city beneath the gridlocked streets, London’s buses provide what has to be one of the slowest and least convenient public transport systems anywhere in Europe.

However London’s bus network is often held up as one of the country’s finest. A walk down any major London street will usually involve passing several dozen red double deckers in the space of a few minutes. The TfL bus network covers every imaginable corner of the Greater London urban area with over 500 routes, theoretically making any destination in the city reachable for a travelcard or Oyster user.

It is often a revealing exercise, however, to look at how many passengers these routes are carrying. There have been proposals by Sadiq Khan recently to remove the several hundred buses an hour that use Oxford Street to make it a more pedestrian-friendly environment, but there’s a huge question around where these displaced routes will go. However, the question is never asked whether all these routes need to exist at all. Any amount of time spent watching the buses on Oxford Street will reveal that many of them are running close to empty.

Supporters of central planning and public ownership will often point to comprehensive network coverage as one of the advantages of having public transport managed by one authority. London is a textbook example of this; although the routes are run by private operators, they are specified and tendered by Transport for London, in stark contrast to the completely private commercial operation found virtually everywhere else in Britain.

Elsewhere in Britain, operators are commercially forced to respond to passengers’ needs. Intense services appear where demand is highest, while services disappear where demand is lowest. One consequence of this is that smaller communities lose their services, while another is that the routes that emerge are far more attractive to potential users switching from other modes of travel.

This isn’t the case in London. While the TfL network does succeed in providing a service to every community in the city, it fails in providing a service that responds in any way to demand. London’s bus routes are indirect, circuitous and painfully slow. The lack of speed is partly down to the traffic situation, but stops every few hundred yards and routes that rarely head towards their final destination are the main thing that makes a bus ride in London so frustrating. It also doesn’t help that the numerous buses themselves are a major contributor to the congestion problem.

It hasn’t always been this way. A limited amount of private competition was introduced in London in the 1990s, with operators like Grey Green bringing a splash of colour to the red monotony that otherwise prevails. Latterly, however, TfL has tightened its grip, creating a situation where private operators with ideas for new routes are prevented from starting commercial services within the city, even where demand for different routes is demonstrably present. The omnipotent authority has even clamped down on branding variations by its own tender operators, as though Metroline’s blue stripe or Arriva’s cream swish were somehow damaging the quality of service being offered.

Imagine for a moment what London buses would be like under completely private operation. Gone would be the slow red double decker carting fresh air around every backstreet it could find, taking the best part of an hour to cross a distance the tube can cover in five minutes.  In its place would emerge direct point-to-point services, picking up major destinations and responding directly to the needs of passengers. Competition on key corridors would drive up standards, while operators would bring in quality service brands like Stagecoach Gold and Arriva’s “Sapphire” that have proved so successful at bringing people out of their cars across the country.

Certainly, some less densely populated areas would lose out. High-income areas where bus usership is lower would see service cuts. That’s how supply and demand works. There are far better ways of providing connectivity to remote communities than a frequent empty bus service, wasting money and fuel on a vehicle that could be better deployed where that capacity is really needed. It isn’t realistic to expect every community to have frequent bus services, any more than it is to expect every community to have motorway-grade road connections.

But other communities could stand to benefit hugely. Take the likes of Camberwell, a gigantic hole in the rail and tube networks where buses are the backbone of public transport. Here, direct demand-responsive services could act as street-level extensions of the underground network, bringing huge improvements to one of London’s most poorly served districts.

The current state of London’s bus network is a sad reflection on the conflicted political ideologies that have shaped it since the 1950s. It’s sobering to realise that this is what remains of what was once one of Europe’s most impressive tram and trolleybus systems, destroyed as it was by a political drive to free up road space for the car. Now, again, the passenger is being left behind in the same spirit of political idealism.

Let’s move to a system that operates for the passenger, not the politician. 

Categories: Current Affairs

John’s Letters – Living in the light of God’s Love [Peter Mead]

The Proclaimer - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 11:57

Tucked away at the end of the New Testament, John’s letters are some of the less preached-on bits of the Bible and may be unfamiliar even to people who have been Christians for many years. If so, we’re missing out! These are letters full of love and pastoral encouragement, as John explains the privilege and implications of fellowship with the God who is light and love, warns against false teaching and encourages a faithful, hospitable Christian in the face of opposition.

This new set of devotions covers all three of John’s letters at a fairly relaxed pace, taking just a few verses at a time. Context and structure of the letters (not entirely straightforward) are introduced with a light touch and there are helpful reflection questions to start you thinking and praying about how to respond to what you’ve read. If you’re hurtling towards the end of a busy term and feel in need of spiritual refreshment, or are just looking to do something different in your quiet times over the summer, immersing yourself in John’s letters should be a great encouragement, knowing that ‘in this is love – not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’
Categories: Christian Resources

PHP for EasyApache 4 updated

CloudLinux - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 11:38

The new updated ea-php packages are available for download from our production repository.

Changelog:

ea-php56-5.6.31-1.cloudlinux

  • (core) 73807: Performance problem with processing post request over 2000000 chars;
  • (core) 74111: Heap buffer overread (READ: 1) finish_nested_data from unserialize;
  • (core) 74603: PHP INI Parsing Stack Buffer Overflow Vulnerability;
  • (core) 74819: wddx_deserialize() heap out-of-bound read via php_parse_date();
  • (gd) 74435: Buffer over-read into uninitialized memory;
  • (mbstring): Add oniguruma upstream fix (CVE-2017-9224, CVE-2017-9226, CVE-2017-9227, CVE-2017-9228, CVE-2017-9229);
  • (openssl) 74651: negative-size-param (-1) in memcpy in zif_openssl_seal(;
  • (pcre) 74087: Segmentation fault in PHP7.1.1(compiled using the bundled PCRE library);
  • (wddx) 74145: wddx parsing empty boolean tag leads to SIGSEGV;
  • LSPHP SAPI updated to 6.11.

ea-php70-7.0.21-1.cloudlinux

  • (core) 74738: Multiple [PATH=] and [HOST=] sections not properly parsed;
  • (core) 74658: Undefined constants in array properties result in broken properties;
  • (core): Fixed misparsing of abstract unix domain socket names;
  • (core) 74101: , bug #74614 (Unserialize Heap Use-After-Free (READ: 1) in zval_get_type;
  • (core) 74111: Heap buffer overread (READ: 1) finish_nested_data from unserialize;
  • (core) 74603: PHP INI Parsing Stack Buffer Overflow Vulnerability;
  • (core) 74819: wddx_deserialize() heap out-of-bound read via php_parse_date();
  • (dom) 69373: References to deleted XPath query results;
  • (gd) 74435: Buffer over-read into uninitialized memory;
  • (intl) 73473: Stack Buffer Overflow in msgfmt_parse_message;
  • (intl) 74705: Wrong reflection on Collator::getSortKey and collator_get_sort_key;
  • (intl) 73634: grapheme_strpos illegal memory access;
  • (mbstring): Add oniguruma upstream fix (CVE-2017-9224, CVE-2017-9226, CVE-2017-9227, CVE-2017-9228, CVE-2017-9229);
  • (oci8): Add TAF callback (PR #2459);
  • (opcache) 74663: Segfault with opcache.memory_protect and validate_timestamp;
  • (openssl) 74651: negative-size-param (-1) in memcpy in zif_openssl_seal();
  • (pcre) 74087: Segmentation fault in PHP7.1.1(compiled using the bundled PCRE library);
  • (pdo_oci): Support Instant Client 12.2 in --with-pdo-oci configure option;
  • (reflection) 74673: Segfault when cast Reflection object to string with undefined constant;
  • (spl) 74478: null coalescing operator failing with SplFixedArray;
  • (standard) 74708: Invalid Reflection signatures for random_bytes and random_int;
  • (standard) 73648: Heap buffer overflow in substr;
  • (ftp) 74598: ftp:// wrapper ignores context arg;
  • (phar) 74386: Phar::__construct reflection incorrect;
  • (soap) 74679: Incorrect conversion array with WSDL_CACHE_MEMORY;
  • (streams) 74556: stream_socket_get_name() returns '\0';
  • LSPHP SAPI updated to 6.11.

ea-php71-7.1.7-1.cloudlinux

  • (core) 74738: Multiple [PATH=] and [HOST=] sections not properly parsed;
  • (core) 74658: Undefined constants in array properties result in broken properties;
  • (core): Fixed misparsing of abstract unix domain socket names;
  • (core) 74603: PHP INI Parsing Stack Buffer Overflow Vulnerability;
  • (core) 74101: , bug #74614 (Unserialize Heap Use-After-Free (READ: 1) in zval_get_type;
  • (core) 74111: Heap buffer overread (READ: 1) finish_nested_data from unserialize;
  • (core) 74819: wddx_deserialize() heap out-of-bound read via php_parse_date();
  • (date) 74639: implement clone for DatePeriod and DateInterval;
  • (dom) 69373: References to deleted XPath query results;
  • (gd) 74435: Buffer over-read into uninitialized memory;
  • (intl) 73473: Stack Buffer Overflow in msgfmt_parse_message;
  • (intl) 74705: Wrong reflection on Collator::getSortKey and collator_get_sort_key
  • (mbstring): Add oniguruma upstream fix (CVE-2017-9224, CVE-2017-9226, CVE-2017-9227, CVE-2017-9228, CVE-2017-9229);
  • (oci8): Add TAF callback (PR #2459);
  • (opcache) 74663: Segfault with opcache.memory_protect and validate_timestamp;
  • (opcache): Revert opcache.enable_cli to default disabled;
  • (openssl) 74720: pkcs7_en/decrypt does not work if \x1a is used in content;
  • (openssl) 74651: negative-size-param (-1) in memcpy in zif_openssl_seal();
  • (pdo_oci): Support Instant Client 12.2 in --with-pdo-oci configure option;
  • (reflection) 74673: Segfault when cast Reflection object to string with undefined constant;
  • (spl) 74478: null coalescing operator failing with SplFixedArray;
  • (ftp) 74598: ftp:// wrapper ignores context arg;
  • (phar) 74386: Phar::__construct reflection incorrect;
  • (soap) 74679: Incorrect conversion array with WSDL_CACHE_MEMORY;
  • (streams) 74556: stream_socket_get_name() returns '\0';
  • LSPHP SAPI updated to 6.11.

To update run the command:

yum update ea-php*
Categories: Technology

Friday Quiz: Romans

The Good Book Company - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 10:53
Categories: Christian Resources

Values? What values?

Lustig's Letter - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 09:03
When Donald Trump addressed the people of Poland last week, just before he headed off to Germany for the G20 summit, he spoke in glowing terms of what he called Western civilisation.
'We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression,' he said. 'We value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom.'
I wonder if the Chinese pro-democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo heard those words. We'll never know, because now Liu is dead, the first Nobel peace prize winner to die in custody since the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who was imprisoned by the Nazis and died in 1938.
Western civilisation? The right to free speech? The dignity of every human life? Rarely have those words sounded as hollow as they do today, less than a week after China's president, Xi Jinping, was fêted by his G20 fellow-leaders.
(It's not entirely fair, incidentally, to single out President Trump for criticism. Liu's American lawyer Jared Genser wrote in the Washington Post two weeks ago that Barack Obama 'led the West in playing down concerns with China on human rights and was conspicuous by his unwillingness to help Liu, his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate.')
But let's not confine ourselves to the abysmal record of China. Also at the G20 summit, looking like the cat who got the cream as he wrapped Mr Trump round his little finger (if you'll excuse the mixed imagery), was President Vladimir Putin, a man whose political enemies have a remarkable habit of ending up dead.
Enemies like Boris Nemtsov, whom I met in Moscow in December 2013, as he campaigned to reveal the appalling corruption in which the Sochi Winter Olympics were mired. He was shot dead on a Moscow street just over a year later. Or like the campaigning journalist Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in 2006. Or the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in police custody in 2009.
(We'll return to the Magnitsky case another day, as it's part of the increasingly surreal Donald Trump Jr emails saga. The Russian lawyer whom the young Trump met in the hope that she was about to hand over some dirt on Hillary Clinton was best known as a lobbyist against the Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials suspected of involvement in Magnitsky's death.)
Standing right next to Mr Putin in the G20 family photo was President Erdoğan of Turkey, who just a year ago survived what may or may not have been an attempted coup against him and who then embarked on a crackdown in which an estimated 50,000 people have been arrested and another 150,000 have been either sacked or suspended from their jobs.
The inescapable conclusion? That Western civilisation defends the right to free speech except where it doesn't.
Certainly not in Egypt, for example, where a military coup that put an end to an inglorious -- but democratically-elected -- Muslim Brotherhood administration was greeted with a deafening sigh of relief from Western capitals.
And definitely not in Saudi Arabia, where a ruling royal family riddled with corruption has been fawned over shamelessly for decades in return for billions of dollars-worth of arms contracts. (Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the arrest of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who had the temerity to write in favour of such outlandish ideas as secularism and democracy.)
I wasn't born yesterday. I know that strategic and commercial considerations will always take precedence over such wishy-washy things as 'values'. What sticks in my throat is the cant, the absurd pretence that somehow the West stands for all that is best about the human condition.
Donald Trump, as it happens, pretends much less often than most of his fellow Western leaders. His speech in Warsaw was a rare exception, but not to be taken seriously, given that no one was fooled for one moment into believing that he had written it, that he meant it, or even that he understood it.
At least Trump is open in his admiration of despots: Putin, Xi, Erdoğan, Sisi of Egypt and even the truly appalling Duterte of the Philippines. I suspect he would love to be able to behave as they do: locking up his opponents, ruling by decree, and governing by fear.
To his credit, the US secretary of state Rex Tillerson did issue a statement paying tribute to Liu Xiaobo after his death on Thursday and calling for the release from house arrest of his wife, Liu Xia. It was the very least he could have done.

President Trump, tone deaf as ever, chose instead to praise President Xi Jinping as a 'very talented man, a good man, a terrific guy and a very special person'.  A few hours later, the White House had to issue a follow-up statement: the president had been 'deeply saddened' to learn of Liu's death and offered his condolences. So that's all right.
Categories: Current Affairs

Beta: LVE Manager, lve-utils and CageFS updated

CloudLinux - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 07:59

The new updated LVE Manager, lve-utils and CageFS packages are available for download from our beta repository.

Changelog:

cagefs-6.0-49

  • CAG-701: cleaning PHP sessions like cPanel does (part 2 - using defaults when parsing of php.ini has failed);
  • CAG-733: fixed error when executing ea-phpXX on cPanel 65.9999 (build 195);
  • WEB-613: checked performance of cagefs plugin in cPanel for version 64, 66;
  • WEB-620: added logo icon for Plesk17.5 in extensions window.

lvemanager-2.0-31

  • WEB-624: separate soft and hard inodes according to new design;
  • WEB-612: activated StatsNotifier settings in web-interface for DirectAdmin and Plesk;
  • WEB-620: added logo icon for Plesk17.5 in extensions window;
  • WEB-613: checked performance of lvemanager plugin in cPanel for version 64, 66;
  • WEB-589: show full path to a folder with emails templates in the Options tab for DA and Plesk;
  • WEB-623: VMEM limits field is hidden when limit value is zero;
  • WEB-622: redundant UI elements are not available for DEFAULT user;
  • WEB-633: fixed issue with sending of cookie header in DA;
  • LVEMAN-1131: selectorctl  correctly processes symlinks to users' home directories.

lve-utils-1.5-55

  • LU-455: cldetectlib: improved performance for ISP5.

To update run:

yum clean all --enablerepo=cloudlinux-updates-testing yum update cagefs lvemanager lve-utils --enablerepo=cloudlinux-updates-testing
Categories: Technology

Even the IFS is at it now

Adam Smith Institute - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 07:22

One of the things which puzzles people - we know this because people ask us - is how come there is all this shouting about austerity? Cash spending is up, spending as a portion of GDP is still, just, up over what Gordon Brown was spending pre-crash. So, err, what austerity?

The answer being that those complaining about it all are using a different measure. Well, obviously, they must be, if their measure is not according with reality. Even the IFS is in on this now:

Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the IFS, said: “An ‘end to austerity’ – as defined by no further net tax rises, benefit cuts or cuts to spending on public services – would require a very sharp change of direction. 

The point being that that's not the entire budget. A notable lack there is the interest bill for the public debt. Something which has risen rather a lot in recent years and which, as interest rates rise again is going to become ever more important. We don't in fact predict that this will be true but it is certainly possible that said interest will become an expense to rival that of the NHS (debt of 90% of GDP, interest rates up to say 5%? Could happen). And we do tend to think that when we talk about a budget then we should be talking about a budget, not just the nice stuff that people like, the spending upon themselves.

We've also seen a rather more economist's definition of austerity, whatever level of spending is below what would ensure full employment. That meaning that anything less than near infinite spending in 2008/9 being austere given the depth of that recession.

The answer to the basic question is that by our measure, total spending, there has been no austerity. You can indeed cook up measures by which there has been some. But the rest of us don't have to agree with the recipe you've used to do that cooking.

Categories: Current Affairs

Sign of Victory

Peter Leithart - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 05:00

Bach's Cantata 80 is an elaboration of Luther's “Ein Feste Burg.” The second movement of the Cantata is a duet of soprano and bass, the former singing the second verse of Luther's hymn while the bass sings an embellishment promising the victory of God.

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