Anyone Fancy a Cottage?

There\’s a couple of cottages down at the end of our road. A couple of kilometres outside Messines (walk in 10 minutes) which is itself a town of about 5,000. There village here is maybe 100 souls. Little pub etc.

The cottages aren\’t all that great. 10 and 25 metres from the main road.

1) A ruin, sound walls but needs new roof and complete redoing of plaster, windows, electrics etc. No garden, but small terrace at back (away from the road).

Price, so I was told in the pub last night, €9,000. At local costs, need perhaps another € 30,000 to turn into a finished 2 bed one recep.

2) A liveable 2 bed cottage. Small garden but this is detatched, across the lane. € 20,000. Would obviously be better if it got the full treatment as above.

No, I haven\’t left a zero out of those numbers.

I\’m pondering one or the other….but I\’m not quite sure what I would actually do with it once finished.

Or, how about people who want a little place in the Algarve and are willing to pay someone to oversee the whole process? Ride the builders, sort out the paperwork and so on? Anyone think there\’s a viable business there?


Stephen\’s Honeymoon

Hmm. The new Mrs. Pollard might have to get used to this sort of thing, you know?

I\’m in Australia on honeymoon.

Yes, we know that.

It says much about Australia that on its biggest day of the year – Melbourne Cup day – Flemington racecourse can be packed with 130,000 people and the toilets remain in the same pristine state at the end of the afternoon as they were at the start of the morning – and that without the need for any cleaning staff.

Now, do we think that the honeymoon was in Australia so that Stephen could show the Lucky Country to his new wife? Or so that he could attend the Melbourne Cup?

Likes his gee gees does Stephen.

Good News Folks! We\’re Leaving!

Quite excellent news today then. We\’re going to be leaving the EU if Gordon Brown has his way.

The report cautioned: “The prosecution and conviction for the expression of non-violent opinions under certain provisions of the Turkish criminal code are a cause of serious concern. The number of persons almost doubled in 2006 compared with 2005 and there was a further increase in 2007. The Turkish legal system does not fully guarantee freedom of expression in line with European standards.”

Mr Rehn added: “It is not acceptable that writers, journalists, academics and other intellectuals . . . are prosecuted for simply expressing a critical but completely non-violent opinion.

If you don\’t have freedom of speech you can\’t be in the European Union. OK, seems fair enough.

Freedom of expression is in trouble too – possession of "extreme" pornography not covered by the Obscene Publications Act will be a crime. And freedom of speech gets another kicking, with a new crime for inciting hatred against gays, lesbians, the transgendered, and disabled people. Not that I\’m in favour of hating anyone, of course, but people should be free to express their opinions, repugnant or not.

As El Gordo wants us to not have freedom of speech, ergo, we have to leave the EU. A high price to pay, I know, but there it is, that\’s what ought to happen.

An End to Spin

Isn\’t that what we were promised? Gosh, how lucky we are!

The Home Office was involved in another spin row last night after a series of identical quotations were sent out under different names on a government press release.

The department issued regionalised press releases a month ago to mark Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, meeting representatives of the Youth Parliament.

The press release for the North East region quoted Natalie Irvin, member of UK Youth Parliament for the North East, saying: “This has been a chance for the Home Secretary to meet some young people who have been affected by gun and knife crime and to hear about our experiences and the ideas we have to tackle this violent behaviour.

“It is good to hear that gun and knife crime is a key priority for the Government – they must not let this continue to destroy young people’s lives. I’m glad that the Home Secretary met us to talk about these issues.”

But one good thing has in fact come out of it:

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “It would be good to know how it is possible for so many different people with different personalities, having had a meeting with Jacqui Smith, all had come out with exactly the same quotation. I would have thought that each one would have had a different insight to the meeting.”

Keith Vaz is in fact capable of saying something intereswting. Who knew?

Richard Murphy in The Guardian

He\’s still not really got it:

As a result tax burdens are shifting from companies to ordinary people, whose effective taxation rates in the UK have risen as corporate contributions have fallen.

He\’s missing the idea of tax incidence. Sure, it looks like the corporations are paying all of that tax. But they don\’t really. The corporate income tax is paid by investors, by workers or by customers: the company is just that convenient legal fiction that the cheque comes from. As is detailed here.

Which is why we should abolish coproation tax altogether and simply tax the income when it arrives with the workers or the investors.

What\’s The Vision, Gordon?

As Jonathan Freedland asks:

The prime minister has been treated like some swooning French peasant girl given to seeing the holy mother in her sleep: everyone wants to hear about his "vision".

So, err, what about it? We can, of course, judge by what he\’s actually proposing:

Then there\’s anti-terrorism. As expected, the government wants longer detention without charge – probably 56 days (up from 28, already the longest period in Europe). They also want to be able to continue questioning suspects after charge, and allowed to draw adverse inferences from silence when questioned. No more habeas corpus then, and no more right to silence.

Freedom of expression is in trouble too – possession of "extreme" pornography not covered by the Obscene Publications Act will be a crime. And freedom of speech gets another kicking, with a new crime for inciting hatred against gays, lesbians, the transgendered, and disabled people. Not that I\’m in favour of hating anyone, of course, but people should be free to express their opinions, repugnant or not.

And to top it all off, there will definitely be no referendum on the EU Constitution Reform Treaty. That will mean more national powers to Brussels now, and no chance of preventing more powers being taken away in future.

So, from that we can deduce that G. Brown\’s vision is the destruction of freedom in this country. How lucky we are, eh?


This is no surprise:

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI said: "The CBI welcomes the Government\’s plan to review when and how the right to request flexible working will be extended to parents of older children. It should beware of increasing numbers eligible to request too far too fast, however, as this could jeopardise the future flexibility of those currently eligible."

No doubt the CBI does welcome it. For such plans hit small business disproportionately heavily, big business being able to deal with it better. Thus the small strivers who compete with big business are hamstrung. How could you not welcome such a development?

Weird Metals Story of the Day

Slightly odd:

South Korean scientists said Tuesday that they have developed an eco-friendly topsoil that enhances plant growth and drastically reduces harmful residues of pesticides.

A research team led by Chung Byung-yeoup at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) said the new soil is made by using small quantities of so-called rare earth elements. These are a group of compound materials made up of Lanthan, Scandium and Yterium.

"Test have shown that this new topsoil boosts plant growth by 30 per cent, strengthens roots, while lowering nitrate and pesticide levels by up to 60 per cent.

There\’s another name for Lanthanum, Yttrium and the like: heavy metals. Serioulsy, most surprised that anyone is recommending adding these to topsoil.

Best Blog Posts

There\’s a little meme going around the blogs at the moment, which are, were, the best blogs, the best blog posts. There\’s even which were the worst being asked.

Megan McArdle asks a slightly different question.

I\’m actually more interested in what people would select for their own best blog posts. Who do they think they are, at their best?

Why, we might take that as our very own little game, why not? You, you other bloggers out there. What do you think is the best blog piece you\’ve done? Take up to five if you wish. Spread the meme far and wide.

Of my own output I\’ll go with this:

Fuck Him

Via The Englishman we get this:

Spending on compensation paid to those wrongly convicted of crimes is to be cut by £5m a year, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has announced.

Those who win their appeals at the first attempt will get no compensation. Others who have spent years in prison will see any pay-outs capped.

A discretionary compensation scheme, introduced in 1985, which paid out £2m a year would be scrapped immediately because it had become "increasingly anomalous", Mr Clarke said.

Scrapping that scheme means people will not be allowed compensation if their cases have been quashed while going through the normal appeal process – winning at the first attempt.

And new limitations will be placed on claimants under a statutory scheme – which will remain in force – which currently pays out £6m a year.

"The changes I have announced today will create a fairer, simpler and speedier system for compensating miscarriages of justice," Mr Clarke said.

"These changes will save more than £5m a year which we will plough back into improving criminal justice and support for victims of crime."

So let’s think through what happens when someone is wrongly convicted shall we? They lose some years of their life to the prison system.  Sad but true and there’s no way we’re ever going to have a justice system where this doesn’t actually happen to some unfortunates at least occasionally.

What matters is what we do when it does happen.

There are a few other trivial things that happen too. They miss seeing their children grow up perhaps, lose their jobs and careers. Most will probably lose their house, whether rented or mortgaged. Some trauma perhaps at finding the State imprisoning you for no good reason.

All in all you could say that there’s some direct damage, both economic and psychic, from such wrongful convictions.

So what does Charlie the Safetly Elephant suggest? That if you’ve only spent, what, 20 odd months, damn near two years inside (the length of time it usually takes to get an appeal heard), lost perhaps your house, job, children, maybe even marriage, well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, eh? Y’know, bad things happen, not my fault Guv?

And for what? To save 5 million a year? 5 fucking million? Out of 500 billion that he and his wastrel compadres are spending each year?

That is, 0.001% of public spending is going to be saved by not compensating those whose lives have been irretrievably fucked up by the actions of the State?

Have these people no shame?

Do you know what else costs some 5 million a year? Subsidising the snouts in the trough in Parliament. Literally:

parliament\’s £5.7m annual catering subsidy

Talk about your misplaced priorities mate.  Nope, sorry, I don’t care how nice he was to Rachel and her Dad (eventually), think  nothing of whatever laws have been passed about the incitement to terrorism and give, quite frankly, two shits about the consequences of this statement.

Charles Clarke should be hung from the nearest lamp pole, assuming we can find one to bear the weight of the fat fucker, the assembled political parties forced to watch as he tap dances on air and happy children gambol at his feet.

If we as a society get things wrong and imprison the innocent it is our duty, as that very society, to both say sorry and to compensate them as best we can. What we offer can only ever be inadequate but to deny this moral fact, to save the price of MP’s pork pies?

You fuck Clarke, for shame.

Yes, I\’ll stand by that: makes up in part for some of the inanity I\’ve been responsible for I think.

New Blog!

Good Grief!

A well written Sex Blog!

Carrying the mantle for radical feminism between my legs isn\’t easy. Not even for me, Belinda Swallows – wife, mother, sister, daughter. Actually none of those are true except the last one but it sounds good, doesn\’t it? The point is I am a woman. A woman putting her arse, pussy and breasts out there in full view of men, just to get a better deal for other women. And instead of every single woman getting behind me and admiring my hot figure, they write to me and abuse me, saying that my fucking has nothing to do with eliminating the glass ceiling.

You might find the occasional, umm, echo, of another sex blogger in this.

Interesting Political Party

Unfortunately, you can\’t vote fo them as they\’re in Australia:

It is not moral to give away other people\’s money.

The LDP doesn’t believe that the government should have any role in regulating, controlling or monitoring our love lives.

Adults should be free to control their own sex lives without the coercive interference of the government or any other group.

Raising a child is the job of parents, not the government.

The LDP supports free choice for adults.

The LDP believes that each individual should be allowed to discriminate using their own property, but should not be able to use to the government to discriminate against any group.

And a lovely answer:

What would your Party do to safeguard family time?


Honest politicians, eh? Who would have thought it possible?

Errm, Dean, Well…

I see your point but….

The regulatory policy that states had in place was deliberately to designed to have a cross subsidy, with industrial users paying more so that residential and commercial users could pay less. One expected result of deregulation would be that this cross-subsidy would be eliminating, which would mean that electricity prices for residential and commercial users would rise relative to prices for industrial users. It would be quite striking, if it turns out that even industrial users did not benefit from deregulation.

I\’m perfectly willing to agree that such a cross subsidy was in fact what was planned, what was desired. However, I would argue that there is at least the possibility of an alternative explanation of the results of deregulation. That such a cross subsidy was not in fact achieved. That, despite the desires of the planners, it was actually industrial large users who were subsidised by residential and commercial users.

That does at least explain the observed facts, that industrial users are facing higher (I assume relative to commercial and residential…for if everyone is paying higher prices then that might just be changes in raw materials or fuel costs) prices under the deregulated system.

It also fits with my own prejudices Bayesian Priors, that when a system of such cross subsidy, of regulation, is set up, whatever the intended outcome, those with the biggest incentives are going to be those who strive most to make sure that the system benefits them. Thus the industrial users, given that they had vastly higher and more concentrated benefits from gaming the system than residential users did, worked harder to make sure that they system benefitted them, not the residential users.

In short, such planned systems might have an intended outcome, and we often see when they unravel that the actual outcome was the opposite of what was planned.

A good reason not to have such planned systems, of course.