Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Should maths be taught in our schools?

It's about time this thorny issue was properly and openly debated, just as it is here. The egg-heads in their ivory towers have had us in their thrall for too long...

Now watch the real thing... Can you spot the difference?

The contest was won by Miss California, a self-confessed 'science geek'. So there is hope.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When brains freeze over...

If you thought the video I posted earlier this month exaggerated the failings of the mainstream media to get science stories even remotely right, just take a look at the latest nonsense running in print and (especially) on-line about the coming 'mini ice age'.
Below, this media fabrication is admirably dissected by an ex-New Scientist editor known as 'Potholer'. When it comes to stories about climate, I'm afraid, the kind of pig-headed idiocy he examines here is absolutely par for the course.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A culture of gullibility?

Did you know that if you leave a tooth in a glass of Coca-Cola overnight it doesn't dissolve? No, neither did I. This excellent video, the first in a series, demonstrates how silly 'scientific' claims are now swiftly disseminated via the Internet - and how to spot them without the need for a PhD...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Laughing all the way to the bank?

Richard Lewinsohn's near-contemporary analysis of the 1929 Wall Street crash - a classic account that nobody interested in economic history or economic theory should miss - has recently been translated into English by Peter Bild. (Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Financial-Contagion-Lessons-Great-Depression/dp/1446136426). At the back there are some rather witty verses on our own 21st century financial crisis, penned by the translator. With his kind permission, I append this exclusive extract:

Rhymes for our Times
(Dead and buried, out of fashion,
Sodden Ogden’s teeth are Nashn’)

Three years since the fall of Lehman.
Politicians still are schemin’.
Printing cash for junking clunkers.
Hunkered down in marbled bunkers,
Bankers, what’s your latest news?
No more blues, just one more ruse
To use the cash you can’t refuse:
Taxpayers’ cash, let’s call it  TARP -
That’s what makes you rich and sharp.

A year along, your bank seems strong.
Nothing that you did seems wrong.
You’re a banker: and you hanker
For a margin without rancour.
Don‘t treat me like a trading chip.
So get a grip before we slip
Into a bubbly double dip.

Now masters of the universe
Tell me please, what could be worse
Than bankers heading for a fall.
Let them grovel, let them crawl!
Schadenfreude? Not at all!

Hear the honest realtor.
Buy a home! Buy three or four!
Soon they will be worth much more.
You’re the broker who espouses
That’s what borrowed money’s for.
Why, the market’s safe as houses.

And should you feel acquisitive
Then buy my new derivative.
Indisputably financial,
It makes trades more influential,
And your profits exponential.
That’s how you fulfil potential:
Trading on the differential.

You’re so smart, well who’d have thought it?
Sold some stock before you bought it.
Savvy bears just love to short it,
Leaving markets all distorted.
Though it’s rarely well reported,
That is how, with falling prices
You make money from the crisis.

Lions of the money jungle
Brainy bankers never bungle.
But I’m uncouth, a simple youth,
I’m telling you the naked truth:
(The sort of truth a banker loathes)
The Emperor-banker’s got no clothes!
I’m with Warren: in the Buff- it
Is low tide! No time to bluff it.

When you signed that trading chitty
Did you grasp the nitty gritty?
No you didn’t, more’s the pity.
In New York or London City,
Alter-ids of Walter Mitty
Think this ditty’s pretty shitty.
For, when traders tell their bosses,
Those weren’t profits, those were losses,
Other folks will bear the onus.
You make sure you keep your bonus,
Those  fine champagnes can addle brains.
With your ill-begotten gains.
Lots of loot down lots of drains.
Where wert thou, John Maynard Keynes?

Some banks trembled, others crumbled
Arrogant until they tumbled.
Some believe they should be humbled
Jumbled on a victims tumbril.
Regulators Messrs Bumble
Fiscal fingers all a-fumble
Mumble, but they rarely rumble
In advance before you stumble.
Afterwards, they merely grumble.

After all that speculation.
For the banks: Administration?
Bottom line defenestration?
Too big to fail, resuscitation.
Main Street, meanwhile, feels frustration 
Suffering in desperation
From financial constipation.
Who picks up the tab? The nation!
Somewhere, there must be a trade-off
For the money Bernie Madoff.

Now here’s a twist you may have missed.
The rating agencies insist,
Like the alchemists of old,
This ain’t sub-prime shit. It’s GOLD!
Care-packaged in the USA
These housing loans are A OKAY,
We’re PAID to rate them Triple A.
Wrapped up neat they look a treat,
As shysters on the New York street
Sell CDOs a dime a bunch.
“So find the lady, play your hunch.
And get one free." A sucker punch.
Please don’t fret if you don't get it.
Trust us bankers. Give us credit:
Credit for the credit crunch.
Meanwhile, please enjoy your lunch.

Hail to Henry Paulson. Hank!
Who came to Treasury from a bank,
Sheltered from financial blizzard,
As our ranking, banking wizard.
Hail to Hank whose banking wisdom
Sought to save the sinking system.
Was it greed? Or just stupidity,
Feeding on our mass cupidity,
To inject more cheap liquidity?

Now what’s it worth,  our glorious greenback?
90 cents that won’t be seen back.
Chinamen can hold our dollar.
When it falls, just hear them holler.
Let them work, while we just lean back.
And so with Wall Street’s contribution
Watch the dollar's dire dilution:
Uncle Sam wins absolution
For his post-war dissolution.
All in all, a neat solution.
B’fore the dollar, we all knelt down
Till it caused financial meltdown.