Levitt on Prostitution

There are those who wish to make prostitution illegal in the UK. John has views. Steven Levitt has new empirical information.

Surprising to an outsider are the fluidity with which these women move in and out of prostitution and other work, their willingness to absorb enormous risk for a small pecuniary reward, and the blurred lines between good and evil, where police extort sex and pimps pay efficiency wages.

Where prostitution is illegal (as it is in Chicago) pimps enable prostitutes to make more money. Is that what Harriett actually wants? More pimps?

Jesus, Lighten Up Guys

It\’s only blogging fer cryin out loud!

Michael Arrington, who founded the popular TechCrunch blog, said he did not know to what extent stress had to do with Mr. Malik’s attack, “but the stress is crushing in what we do.”

“I was a corporate lawyer and an entrepreneur, and I know about working all the time. But now, you’re always worried a big story is breaking in your e-mail, and if you wait an hour, you’ll miss it. Every morning when I wake up, the panic hits and I have to see my e-mail as soon as possible.”

British Honorifics or, How To Address Politicians.

Hundreds of Iraqi interpreters employed by the British Armed Forces in Iraq are being rejected after applying to live in Britain for their own safety.

Out of 700 who have now applied through the Ministry of Defence for the special settlement scheme announced by the Government last year, 300 have been rejected already, the MoD said yesterday.

Only 170 have been told they are eligible, and the rest are being processed. Successful applicants will be allowed to bring their closest dependants, including grandparents, if the Home Office accepts them as refugees.

An additional 180 Iraqis have applied through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office because they worked at the British Embassy in Baghdad or at other diplomatic missions. Of these, 38 have been turned down either for the settlement deal or for the alternative financial assistance package, The Times has learnt.

Defence sources said applicants were failing to meet the Government\’s strict eligibility conditions under which ex-Iraqi employees are required to prove 12 months of continuous employment with the British forces.

This system designed by The Honourable I\’d like a 10% pay rise and The Right Honourable no you can\’t see my expenses claims.

Forgive my visions of the mobbing peasantry descending upon them, pitchforks waving and brands alight.

This is the Point!

The campaigns against factory-reared chickens by celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver are helping to put poultry producers out of business, farmers’ leaders claimed yesterday.

Whether you agree with the campaign or not is one thing. But the point of the campaign is to put such poultry farms out of business. So the complaint is that the campaign is actually being successful, no?

Err, Larry?

You sure?

Traditionally, incomes policies held for a year or two and then fell apart. We all know what happened in 1978-79. This time, public sector workers will ask why they should be forced to carry the can for an economic downturn that resulted from the greed and stupidity of highly paid financiers, none of whom will be forced to take a pay cut.

Financiers won\’t be forced to take a pay cut? When banks are laying off swathes of their staff? When bonuses  won\’t be paid at all, let alone at their previous high rates? Or does a 50%, even 100% cut in income not mean a pay cut in your world?

Cath Elliott

Not getting the point here:

We rightly condemn female genital mutilation (FGM) when it\’s forced on women and girls in the name of culture and tradition, yet we\’re quick to embrace it when it\’s sold to us packaged in the language of choice.

It\’s that magic word, choice. I might think it\’s absurd, you might think it\’s absurd, that some women go through plastic surgery on their genitalia. But if it is their choice this is of course vastly different from something forcewd upon other women.

For that\’s actually what the whole game is about, expanding the choices and liberties available. There\’s nothing in that which says that we have to approve of the choices people then make from the menu on offer, nothihng which allows us to stop them from making choices we disapprove of.

Well, not in a free society, at least, but then there are those who don\’t think that such freedom to do as they disapprove of should exist.

Darling, Darling….

Chancellor Alistair Darling\’s bid to portray himself as a consumers\’ champion over soaring energy bills has back-fired spectacularly, with power companies revealing that higher Treasury taxes account for almost 50pc of last weeks\’ rise in household energy bills.

One of the arts of politics is to make sure that when you start grandstanding no one can cut you off at the knees quite this quickly. The lawyer trying to run our economy doesn\’t seem to have quite grasped this yet.

I\’ll Drink to That! *

According to the study, moderate drinking combined with exercise is the best combination to prevent life-threatening conditions – even better than total abstention.

The survey of more than 11,000 people over 20 years showed that drinking and exercising – though not together – were particularly effective against fatal heart disease, reducing the risk by up to 50 per cent compared with those who were inactive and teetotal.

When widened to risk from all deaths the reduction was up to a third, the survey claimed.

While heavier drinking when combined with exercise dulled the health-giving effects it was still only found to be as bad as exercising and not drinking.

Once again we find that the guidelines on drinking are complete and total tosh. As we all now know, you need to get to 65 units a week before the risks are the same as beeing teetotal. However, I\’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the prodnoses who issue such advice to actually change their message to one that accords with reality. They won\’t do so, for reality isn\’t the game, it\’s stopping people from doing things they don\’t like which is.

* Well, what else did you think I\’d use as a headline?

Noooooo!

Ministers should be sent on training courses to teach them how to run the country, according to a report.

I would expect Mr. Dillow to be all over this one.

Policy initiatives are left uncompleted, unnecessary laws introduced, huge sums wasted and major projects flop routinely.

The group\’s report, Governing Well, makes 50 recommendations for improving public administration, including training for ministers, opposition spokesmen and chairmen of Commons committees.

\’\’Ministers are increasingly drawn from a specialist political background with little experience of the management and operation of large organisations," says the report.

"But they are in a position of great influence in relation both to their own departments and to deliverers of public services. They need appropriate training."

The problem is not that Ministers do not have the appropriate training. It\’s that the appropriate training does not exist, that it is not possible to train people to take on the tasks which they attempt. The mico-management of 65 million people from the centre simply isn\’t possible.

It isn\’t the quality or training of the people attempting to pull the levers, it\’s that the levers themselves do not and cannot exist.

Unless the training is that there\’s three or four things that you as Ministers both should and must do, leaving everything else to the people to work out fo themselves, this will simply make the problem worse, not better.

 

 

 

Raising MP\’s Pay?

Not on these figures matey:

Pensions for MPs will cost taxpayers nearly three times the original estimate, it has been revealed.

The annual bill for funding MPs\’ generous final salary pension schemes could be as high as £20.5 million – or £29,000 for each one.

Of course, this isn\’t the figure publically announced:

The most recent Commons accounts report that the cost to the taxpayer of paying for this scheme is £7.8 million – or £11,000 per MP.

However this is calculated using an optimistic view of the stock market. Under an accounting treatment used by most companies and public bodies, the actual cost is £20.5 million, or £29,000 for every MP.

Pension contributions should be counted as pay, at least for the purposes of measuring the relative incomes from different jobs. For they are a form of delayed pay.

But as I\’ve said before, MPs are currently grossly over paid, as evidenced by the fact that so many people are both qualified to be one and eager to be so.

 

Oh Bugger

You mean she might actually win? Eeek!

Hillary Clinton narrowly beat Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary this morning in a major upset that reignited her hopes of capturing the White House.

What the Internet is For

I had an interesting little email yesterday from someone I haven\’t seen or heard of since I was 10, he\’d stumbled across the blog.. How\’s that for technology beating the anomie of modern life, the way in which we no longer commune?

71-73 we lived just north of Naples (father, RN, was posted to the AFSouth base there) and one of the families in the same road was a US military family, the son of which was one Dean Ottoman. Two memories stand out from that time, the way we (like so many young boys did) put playing cards on the shafts of our bicycles (those old American ones, one gear, you braked by pedalling backwards) so that they rubbed against the spokes and made a really "cool" noise as you rode along.

The other was one afternoon when a very flea ridden and shaggy stray dog turned up (some indeterminate mix of collie, lurcher, whatever). He managed to catch all of us by the way he would offer his paw to be put into your hand (obviously, he had been "set free" from somewhere). It was Dean who persuaded his parents that "Ralph" should be taken in and cared for. He became part of the gang, of course.

They do have winters in Italy and given that at that time no one had heating, they could be pretty miserable. There were also such annoyances as school and so on (run by the RAF if memory serves) but the over-riding theme of my memories of that time is of blissful summer afternoons spent roaming the area, climbing the volcano (yes, it started at the bottom of the garden, or perhaps the top is better) variously with Adam, Dean, Stacey, my brother Peter, the gang. Dean remembers better the carolling we did at Christmas, he had my cricket bat for many years after we all left.  In memory at least, some combination of the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons.

One other memory from then, we often used to go to Cumae for picnics. The area is awash with Greek and Roman ruins and Cumae is a concentration of temples and the like. One of the childhood photos on my parents\’ mantelpiece is of two headless statues, circa 100 AD or so, with my brother and I popping up behind to provide the faces, in the style of those seaside amusements.

So that\’s what the internet is really for, to allow me to wallow in the memories of a golden childhood, long ago.

Dean\’s in Seattle Washington now and has a band. Have a listen here. If you happen to run a bar or gin joint in that area then you should hire them. Both the internet and the power of the blog demand it. They do a pretty good blues chug with "Mojo" (a reworking of perhaps the Muddy Waters and JJ Cale songs of similar names).

VATs and Informal Suppliers

The general sales tax (IGV), however, affects both formal and informal activities. Although it appears to be a tax on gross income, it is actually a tax only on added value, which is why it is levied at each stage of production. At the second stage, for instance, one pays a tax on gross income but receives credit for the payments made at the first stage. This is a major handicap for informal suppliers of intermediate goods. The customer pays the gross tax but cannot obtain credit for the intermediate good purchased from the informal supplier. This places in informal supplier at a comparative disadvantage.

Indeed, and it also places an informal supplier at a comparative advantage if he is supplying finished, rather than intermediate, goods.

Which is really one of the problems with the Fair Tax idea, as it places all formal suppliers of final goods at a 30% price disadvantage to informal suppliers of same. That\’s the sort of price difference where even Farmer\’s Markets can compete with WalMart, isn\’t it?

Isn\’t This What You Want?

The closely defined layouts of estates, and their tendency to house the poorest people, lend themselves to inverse snobbery. You have estate-linked gangs, whose members go to estate-linked schools, defining their identity by the name and "reputation" of that estate. Because their lives revolve around those estates, their perspective narrows with each day that passes, until it stops at the bollard-tipped end of the walkway.

Localism, community cohesion, a sense of place and of belonging to it? Or have we stopped banging on about the anomie of modern life, the way in wihch a sense of identity is destroyed by a rampantly consumer society?