Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Gordon: Another pointless political defence decision

What the hell?

We're going to buy 22 more Chinooks? I know Gordon wants to demonstrate how he "gets" Defence all of a sudden (Hey, is there an election coming up?) but why the hell are we buying these?

Lets assume that we need them. If that's the case, we need them now. We need to get more helicopters out to Afghanistan as soon as possible. Instead we're buying these and getting them delivered in 2013. We're planning to start withdrawal next year. By 2013 we'll have much fewer troops in theatre and will probably have enough SH (Support Helicopter) assets in theatre to keep them all happy. Well, reasonably happy anyway. But these will not arrive in time to make the Military situation any better, all they will do is make Gordon look politically better.

But do we actually need them? I don't think so. I believe that Gordon is making a political decision that just demonstrates his complete lack of understanding of how the military works. He has been told that we don't have enough Helicopters in Afghanistan, so has decided to buy some more. Whilst this seems logical at first blush, it isn't. We don't have enough helicopters in Afghanistan because we don't have enough helicopters, it's because we don't have enough crews.

I'm told that you need roughly 5 crews to operate any given Chinook properly. That's 10 trained and qualified pilots for each airframe. We have 262 trained Chinook pilots. That means we can fly about 26 helicopters. We currently have about 46 Chinooks, of which 8 are being converted from the failed Mark 3 standard. We don't have anywhere near enough pilots to even run our current number of Chinooks. These airframes will sit in a hanger for most of their lives, unless we spend a hell of a lot of money quickly training up more pilots. Just to run these additional helicopters, we'll need about another 220 pilots, nearly the same number as we've already got trained. Where will the money come from to double the number of Chinook pilots? Where will the money come from to double the number of engineers and mechanics?

So, they won't arrive early enough and we can't use them when we get them but are we at least going to get a decent deal. Recently I looked at the Canadian purchase of 15 Chinooks for $1.5Bn, with ~$2Bn of support costs for 25+ years.

We're looking to buy 22 Airframes for £1Bn, though the deal hasn't been done and I seriously doubt it will for that amount. The Canadians are paying £61m per airframe, or £143m with support costs. If we can get ours for the same price, we'll be looking to get 16 helicopters, or if we buy all 22, we'll be paying £1.35Bn, a mere 35% over what we're estimating now.

With support costs that rises to £3.15Bn, 315% more than we're estimating. And that's not including Pilots, Mechanics, Engineers, Loadies and the rest of the people we'll need to run them. They'll drive the price up even further.

So, to summarise, Gordon is buying something we won't get soon enough if we were able to use them, which we're not. And he's not even being honest about how much it's going to cost us.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Defence cuts? Not needed!

I'm hearing increasing amounts of news about defence cuts recently, with some suggesting 16% cuts ahead. This will let the Government protect "Front-Line" services, such as the NHS and Education. I might be a little bit old-fashioned (in fact I almost certainly am!) but I'm pretty sure it doesn't get much more "Front-Line" than one of our troops in the mud with a gun.

So, it looks like Defence will be getting hit by ~£6Bn of cuts (more than an aircraft carrier). That's quite a lot of money. If only we had some other areas of spend that we cut first. Lets assume we have to continue to protect schools and hospitals. I'm just going to look at the spend commitments that most people will agree we don't need to be spending cash on.

Gordon has pledged £1.5Bn recently to combat climate change. Actually, what he means is that he wants to give this money to poor countries to help them deal with our post-colonial carbon guilt. OK, that's over 3 years, but we're still looking at £500m each year, or as much as the Banker Tax will raise this year.

We could look at the Department for International Development, who in 2010 has a budget of £7.8Bn, up from £5.3Bn in 2008. From 2013 the government has pledged to increase the budget to 0.7% of Gross National Income, doubling from 2008 (so we're looking at the wrong side of £10Bn / year).

We could actually keep the budget where it was in 2008 (0.36% GNI) and use the £5Bn to help fill the hole in our defence budget.

Gordon has just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and there have been numerous stories recently about how he's finally "getting" Defence. Yet his plan is to cut Defence's budget by much the same amount he's raising our budget for international aid (Yes, the same aid that has sent roughly ~£1Bn to India, a country rich enough to launch their own rockets to the Moon).

Supporting poorer countries is important. But we can only afford to spank Billions around when the country is doing well. Surely the average person in the street would prefer Labour to focus on reducing the Debt (not just the deficit) and cutting the taxes that punish them for working than spending their money on other, increasingly rich countries?

Most of the £6Bn spent on Defence remains in this country, it flows from the government to the contractors then their workers, who spend it, boosting local and national economies and pay tax back to the government again. Can we say the same about International Aid?

How can Gordon justify boosting that budget whilst cutting Defence?

Friday, 11 December 2009

More Ratings Rantings

Yesterday, Citi said that the UK should pretty much expect to have it's debt rating lowered from its current presitigious AAA rating. If that happens then the risk element of the interest we'll have to pay on our debt will go up to cover the risk of us defaulting. If we slide to a AA rating, it'll go up about 50%, if we go further to an A rating, it'll pretty much double.

Our current Debt was about £600Bn in 2008. Labour are planning on increase the debt by £500Bn over this year and the next two. Almost doubling the debt burden and taking us to well over One Trillion Pounds of debt. That's a number so big, I'm not even sure what I could use as a nice easy point of comparison.

For the year 2008 we paid about £31Bn in debt repayments (just interest on the debt). We're basically suggesting that will double (due to more debt) taking us to about £60Bn each year. If our rating goes, this will get even more expensive to service.

Ignoring the problem of our falling ratings, we should look at the clearest problem Labour is inflicting on us. Essentially, thanks to their massive, unprecedented increase in debt, they have taken £30Bn out of the economy every year in the future. That would have been enough to pay for vitually the entire Defence Budget!

But when the ratings start to fall, then £60Bn of interest repayments will look like a glorious deal, instead we'll be paying a lot more. The next government will be forced to slash public spending, just to meet our repayments. Citi are saying that a Hung Parliament will lead almost inevitably to a down-rating. That parliament then won't be able to make the decisions needed to meet the new debt repayments, further down-rating, more problems.

Essentially, voters will have a choice at the next election. Vote Tory, or the country gets it!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

PBR: Labour borrowing enough for 3,125 Jumbo Jets

Well, Darling has delivered the PBR and to quote a great thinker of our times: "We're Boned".

Let's have a look at his headline, one-off tax on bankers' bonuses. This is estimated to raise £500m. That is estimated by Darling of course, the man who suggested in April that the economy would shrink 3.5%. Today he's decided that in fact he was wrong and the economy has shrunk by 4.75%, over a third more. In 2008 he said that borrowing in 2009 would rise to a massive £43Bn, so looks like he missed that estimate as well (In case you've been dead for the last year, we're now borrowing £178Bn this year, over four times as much as estimated).

Anyway, let's assume that he's right this time. £500m is some pretty serious money. Even Lewis Page would have to admit that it buys at least one Typhoon.

However, to be honest, it's small change. This year we're borrowing £178Bn, next year £176Bn and then £140Bn the year after. I wish I was joking. That's basically £500Bn in borrowings over three years.

Darling would have to run this new tax for 1,000 years to match 3 years of borrowing.

The Tax is ultimately pointless, as "discovering" "efficiency" savings of £3Bn. I'm increasingly starting to believe that Labour are engaging in a Scorched Earth strategy, deliberately destroying the economy just to spite the Tories.

Anyway, just for entertainment, let's take out £500Bn and see what we could be doing with the money, rather than our current attempts at propping up banks and throwing ever larger amounts of benefits.

The Apollo programme, which put 10 men on the Moon and was about the most gloriously expensive thing Mankind has attempted cost about $25Bn in 1969. That was a long time ago. The spectre of inflation has kicked in. We're now looking at that being worth $150Bn in 2009 money. That's less than £100Bn. We could buy five Apollo programmes for three years deficit!

The country could buy every share traded of the following companies:
British American Tobacco, Rio Tinto Group, BHP Billiton, BG Group, Tesco, Xstrata, Anglo American, Diageo, SABMiller, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Imperial Tobacco Group, National Grid, Centrica, BAE Systems, Cadbury Plc, Scottish and Southern Energy, ENRC, BT Group, British Sky Broadcasting, Tullow Oil, Rolls-Royce Plc, Morrisons, Antofagasta, Compass Group, Associated British Foods, WPP Group, Pearson. I've avoided anything Financial, as we own enough of those anyway. At 3rd October prices, we could have all of those and still have about £10Bn left over. We could buy these 30 massive companies and also buy a crate of Champagne for every tax payer to celebrate!

We could buy 3,125 747 Jumbo Jets. Assuming they're fitted out in an all-economy configuration that's pushing 3,000,000 seats. We could buy enough planes to enable the whole country to emigrate in 20 trips!

If we could convert that to pennies, we'd have 178,000,000 Tonnes of the little bastards! Let's see the banks try bagging those up! If we melted them down, we've have a steel and copper cube over 5,000m along each axis.

We are not in "A position of strength". Labour are borrowing suicidal amounts of money. At least with the options presented above we'd have something to show for our investment, be that 50 people on the Moon (each group of 10 would start a new project up, using no data and knowledge from the previous one), the world's largest fleet of aircraft or a fun new modern art installation. After three years, Labour will have nothing to show for their staggering economic incompetence.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Climate News - What's actually important?

On the news front, the argument is hotting up on every side. Ignoring ClimateGate, there have been many stories detailing how temperature records have been "modified". However, there is one story that should be shouted from the roof-tops:

The Climate Change bandwagon is based on the logic that what we're experiencing now is unprecedented and therefore caused by human emissions. Historical records, unfortunately, disagree. There are many records of what's called the Medieval Warm Period. This was commonly accepted wisdom until the Hockey Stick graph appeared, showing that temperatures have been flat for two thousand years. The Medieval Warm Period was quickly accepted as being a figment of people's imaginations, along with the Mini Ice Age (remember those paintings of Snow Fayres on the Thames?).

The Hockey Stick graphs were based on a few proxies, that weren't actually linked to temperature. This is why the "Nature Trick" was important. It didn't hide the decline in temperatures, it hid that the proxies used to show temperature were flawed. They were unable to show recent warming and were therefore also unable to show historic temperatures.

Actually, a recent paper (by the Nature Trick man himself) has rediscovered what Historians knew all along. There was a Medieval Warm Period, although they're not calling it that. The Romans had Vineyards pretty far north in England, Greenland was actually bloody Green. There's some debate over how warm it was. Some sources suggest that it was about 0.5c (roughly the rise we've had since the 1940s) warmer than 1997 (itself one of the hottest years ever due to an excessive El Nino effect).

Interestingly, there wasn't a great deal of CO2 emissions back in those days, so clearly something else was causing both the warming and then the cooling over the previous years. Also, the whole world wasn't under metres of water, so catastrophic sea level rises seem unlikely as well.

Maybe climate just changes? Looking at a graph of temperature for the last 400,000 years we can see that the warm bits (where we like it) are actually pretty short, usually interspersed with much longer periods of serious cold. We can see several occasions when the temperature was higher than today and the majority of the time where it was a lot lower. However, the times when it was as warm, or warmer are pretty short, before the world slips back into a natty ice coat for another 80,000 years.

Just looking at that graph, I'd suggest that we really shouldn't be worrying too much about the world being 1.1 degrees hotter in 2100, but focusing more on the ice. It's worth remembering that we're not talking about a bit of frost. During the last ice age, there was an ice sheet 3-4km (yes, 3,000m thick) on the UK. We're still recovering from it as the rock in Scotland slowly elastically expands from the sheer compression this much Ice caused.

I don't know about you, but I think I can cope with 1 degree hotter temperatures much better than I could with watching civilisation scrapped off large chunks of the Northern hemisphere.

"The most important conference the world has ever seen" - Bollocks!

"The most important conference the world has ever seen" is opening today.

100 World Leaders are attending, from 192 countries. No, I've got no idea what happened to the 92 who aren't coming along. Maybe they figure that warmer temperatures will help their countries.

Still, these 100 leaders are so charismatic and competent that they require 15,000 delegates and officials to help them. That's a mere 150 per leader. And that's before we get to the 5,000 journos who will be "reporting the news".

So, roughly 20,000 people will be going, no doubt the vast majority will be flying in. Apparently the number of private jets and limos in Copenhagen are sky-rocketing as well, as leader after leader competes to show how hairy their shirt is.

The true reason for this conference is now starting to come out. There's a tiny note in that BBC article saying:

"At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world"

This conference has surprisingly little to do with Climate Change and a lot to do with moving money from "rich" countries to "poor" countries. The African Union are demanding billions of dollars and were threatening this morning to leave the conference if they don't get enough money. Indonesia is asking for "funds for forest conservation". Ecuador is looking to "get rich countries to pay $3.5 billion to keep 850 million barrels of its crude in the ground".

We are finally starting to see the effects of the fall of Communism, starting with the Berlin Wall falling just over 20 years ago. Simply, the Reds have become Greens. This international "money sharing" is exactly what they've been pushing for the last 50+ years. Now they've finally found a suitable tool to beat the Western democracies with.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Dauntless joins Daring!

Another T45 has been delivered! We now have two excellent new destroyers, the first ships to join the RN for some time. Quentin Davies was quoted as saying:

"The six Type 45s will be the largest and most powerful destroyers ever operated by the Royal Navy. With the second of class now in the hands of the MOD, we are forging ahead to deliver an unparalleled air defence capability to the Royal Navy."

Well, largest is pretty much meaningless, Steel is cheap and Air is free. We could probably buy an old supertanker, stick a cannon on it and call it a Destroyer to get a "larger" vessel.
On that point, can anyone really see this ship performing Torpedo attacks on Enemy Ships of the Line? That's what a destroyer was originally supposed to do. Accurately, it's probably a cruiser, T45s are only 4m shorter than the Dido Class Anti-Air Cruisers and have a larger displacement. Actually, lets use the Dido Class as a point of comparison, they're built to do the same job and are about the same size.

The main armament on the Dido class was 10 5.25 inch, with 2 40mm Bofors and a couple of Vickers machine guns.

The main armament on the T45 is Sea Viper, with up to 48 missiles, 1 4.5 inch gun and 2 30mm Oerlikons.

The quote above talks about the T45 being the "most powerful". Well, at the moment, it doesn't appear that Sea Viper works.

So, what we have for our £1Bn is a ship that carries ten times less heavy weapons than a ship built before WWII. Sure, the Sea Viper System will work eventually, and I'm sure the C&C Capabilities of the T45 are excellent. In fact, they were even mentioned in the report:

"With the ability to integrate both land and air forces, HMS Dauntless truly is a joint asset and will carry out a wide range of operations, whilst remaining a highly effective air defence ship. Dauntless is a magnificent feat of engineering."

Wasn't the job of the T45 to guard the carriers we're now building? Won't they pretty much be in charge of integrating air operations? If Sea Viper is the answer to all our prayers, wouldn't it just have been cheaper and easier to put it on the carriers themselves? Afterall, they're going to have plenty of room, seeing as there won't be any planes on them.

I've no doubt that these ships will be excellent once they're up and running properly. I'm sure they'll do the job they're designed to do perfectly. I'm equally sure that they'll do the jobs they weren't designed to do pretty damn well, that's just what our Forces do.

However, I'm pissed off that we've gone from buying 12, to 8, to 6. I'm pissed off that the money isn't there to fit them out properly (Fitted for but not with Tomahawk, CIWS and god knows what else). I'm pissed off that we won't be able to export them to anyone, even we've not got the money to buy them. I'm pissed off that we didn't build something a quarter of the price, but with most of the capability and build more of them. I'm pissed off that we're spunking money on capabilities for them that probably won't be used.

The engineering and the equipment is no doubt top rate, the men and women on board will be equally so. But can't we sort out our procurement to get a bit more bang for our buck than one measly little popgun for £1Bn!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Joke of the Day Dec 2nd

A platoon was marching in Helmand Province when they came upon a Taliban Insurgent, badly injured and unconscious.

On the opposite side of the road was a British soldier in a similar but less serious state.

The soldier was conscious and alert and as first aid was given to both men, the platoon commander asked the injured soldier what had happened.

The soldier reported, “I was moving north along the highway here, and coming south was a heavily armed insurgent. We saw each other and both took cover in the ditches along the road.

I yelled to him that Mullah Mohammed Omar was a miserable, lowlife scum bag who will get what he deserves, and he yelled back that Gordon Brown is a fat fuck wit and a good-for-nothing, left wing half-blind Jock, and Lord Mandelson is a cross-dressing power mad idiot.

So I said that Osama Bin Laden dresses and acts like a frigid, mean-spirited lesbian.

He retaliated by yelling, “Oh yeah? Well, so does Harriet Harman!”

“And, there we were, in the middle of the road, shaking hands, when a bus hit us.”

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Going to the Dogs

I've been quite amused how long it has taken to ascertain the breed to dog in this story. There is so much sheer nastiness behind this story.

  • Why the hell would anyone breed dangerous illegal breeds? (ignoring the obvious for dog-fighting answer)
  • Why didn't the Police act when someone pointed out the whole "breeding illegal dogs" thing was going on? (too much like real crime?)
  • What sort of parents send their kids off to a breeding home for illegal dogs? (I can't seriously believe they didn't know what was going on, who cares if it's your Mother's home, it's still fucking dangerous!)
  • And finally: How the hell can it take days to work out if the Dog is illegal? It killed a small child, that's pretty much illegal behaviour in my book.

Why the hell has the government spent time and effort cataloguing the different types of dogs and deciding that Dog X is illegal and Dog Y is lovely. Wouldn't it just be far easier to identify illegal dogs by seeing if they do something illegal, like trying to eat a child?

What would they have done in this case if the dog had turned out to have enough Border-Collie genes to be legal? Just dismissed it as a tragic accident?

The breed of the dog should be irrelevant, it's the behaviour of the dog that should dictate whether there is a crime or not.