Polly Today

It\’s rather unsporting to have ago at her today really. She does get one thing right:

Because without public trust, no one believes a word politicians say.

Quite. Her solution is that Labour should campaign for PR and state funding for political parties (she really does have a tin ear for the public if she thinks that is going to fly with the Great Unwashed) and we should do everything "for the children".

Not really the foundations of a great political comeback if you ask me.

The Times Christmas Charity

Looks like an excellent one to support:

TreeHouse, founded ten years ago to help children with severe autism, is a magnificent example of the determination of some parents to do more for those afflicted, and of how intensive and dedicated specialist therapy can bring extraordinary results, even for those thought to be untreatable. The school in North London has pioneered an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) approach that yields substantial improvements in speech, social skills and in the children\’s ability to manage daily tasks. The therapy, however, is extremely costly. The ratio of teachers to children at TreeHouse is 1:1, and each class has five teachers and children. Though still in temporary premises, the school has 59 children, drawn from across London, and has plans for a purpose-built centre. TreeHouse, as a charity, relies on the voluntary sector and on the dedication of parents such as Nick Hornby, who today details the struggle to assist his son, Danny.

A couple of things though:

The need is obvious; 588,000 people in Britain have some form of autism, with boys four times more likely to develop the condition than girls.

I\’m pretty certain that that is the number of those upon the autism spectrum, not those with "classic" autism. Further:

Autism, it is feared, may be on the increase. Why this is so and whether genetic or environment factors play a part is largely unknown.

Well, actually, we do know quite a lot about the causes. Simon Baron Cohen (yes, cousin of Ali G) is the leading researcher in the UK, perhaps one of the leading ones worldwide. There\’s two things in play here he seems to think. One is that we have extended the definition, from that "classic" autism to the autism spectrum. I\’m not sure quite when that happened in the UK but in the US it was early 1980s, and this tracks very well with the rise in reported cases. the rise beginning in the early 1980s.

The second is that it is indeed linked (correlation so far, not quite causation yet) to genetic factors. It does seem to run in extended families. and one possible explanation for the reported rise (over and above the extention of the diagnosis) is the rise in assortative mating.

Now I don\’t claim that that is necessarily true, just that that is what a leading researcher is saying he thinks is true.

Oh, by the way, no, it has nothing whatsoever to do with either the MMR vaccine or mercury in vaccines.

Good Lord!

Opening of a Guardian Leader:

Northern Rock\’s big blunder was to borrow short and lend long.

That\’s it? That\’s the secret?

Err, does anyone at The Guardian actually know how banks work? All of them, every single one of them, borrows short and lends long. It is, in fact, the essence of banking. When you stick your money into an account that is a deposit that you can withdraw on demand. The bank then lends it out as, say, a mortgage. That mortgage might last 25 years. From the bank\’s point of view this is borrowing short and lending long.

Northern Rock may well have made blunders. Perhaps relying upon wholesale markets rather than retail deposits, perhaps not having enough equity, perhaps too fine a pricing on their loans. All of those are possible reasons for the troubles, but borrowing short and lending long simply ain\’t the point.

Tell me, are Guardian leaders written by the sociology graduates or something?

Nice to Get The Guardian On Board

You never know, perhaps there actually is a real liberal buried somewhere in The Guardian:

It is only by replacing narrow self-interest with the enlightened variety, that humans stand any chance of dealing with climate change.

Well quite, enlightened self interest being what Adam Smith was talking about two centuries and more ago. So we\’re off on the path of creating a classically liberal state, where we all act out of enlightened self interest, are we? Of course we hope so, just odd to see the rallying cry come from The G.

Timmy Elsewhere

Rather than retype this, a cut and paste of a comment at CiF.

Err, can I try and get your argument straight here? You\’re saying that because various Europeans make good records, throw good parties, cook good food and make decent movies, we should therefore be in favour of a specific style and structure of governance? Said style and structure of governance actually having nothing whatsoever to do with food, music, parties or films?

Might I use this logic in other areas? That the US makes good movies, New Orleans has good food, certainly I\’ve been to the odd good party or two there, there\’s even been known to be the odd good record or two come out of the place. Does this then show that George Bush and the style and structure of governance in that country is somthing we should all support?

If not (and I would assume that most here would say not) then why should that logical structure apply to Europe?

Two other minor things. The accepting euros bit by The Might Boosh: you do know that was John Major\’s idea, yes? The Hard Ecu as it was called at the time? Instead of our adopting the euro, simply make it a legal currency which people could choose to use or not, as they wished, running along side the pound? Or perhaps you don\’t know that.

Oh, and Gisele? Second Guardian piece this week (Alexander Chancellor\’s being the first that I saw) which was based on, how to put this, less than adequate research:

"Gisele Bundchen\’s manager sister has denied reports the supermodel demands to be paid in Euros instead of U.S. dollars, insisting the claims are "ridiculous". The Brazilian beauty was alleged to have refused payment in American currency because the dollar is "too weak".

However her sister Patricia Bundchen, who was credited for the quotes, has denied making any such comment and claims the supermodel is simply "bemused" by the reports.

Patricia says, "It\’s a joke by some journalist, it\’s ridiculous. I never said that to any press organization. We never talk about Gisele\’s contracts, and even less so the money involved. (Gisele) is continuing to sign her contracts in dollars or euros, as she has always done. She is bemused by these reactions. This information is not true … I do not recall ever having said anything that could be interpreted in that way."  "

I agree that\’s not the most stunningly reliable source of course, perhaps someone might hire a journalist somewhere and check out which version of the story is true?

Sam Leith and Privacy

Well, yes:

It used to be quite tricky and labour-intensive for reporters to run down photographs, workmates, friends, and school contemporaries of people in the public eye. Now you run the risk of being a front-page story simply by standing next to someone newsworthy in a Facebook photograph.

Me, I\’m going à la carte. I\’m adjusting my privacy settings, burning off my fingerprints, "tickling" Foxy Knoxy, and pulling my tinfoil stetson down low.

Anyone comes near me with a digital camera, it\’s on with the burqa.

This might have more effect if this gentleman desirous of a low profile were not a national newspaper columnist who has, in the couse of writing such things, told us that  he\’s a heterosexual, smoking, cat owning, computer game playing, scruffy, cardigan wearing (and that\’s just what I can remember off the top of my head) 33 year old.

Good Old Will

Reliable as ever is Will Hutton. I agree with parts of his analysis, that bidders are indeed tryingto dump the losses at Northern Rock onto the taxpayer while claiming the profits for themselves: that\’s pretty obvious. It\’s also what any sensible person would try to do, even if they can\’t quite manage to pull it off. However, Will\’s logic then goes a tad awry.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has made some woeful misjudgments over this crisis, but at least he wanted to show private sector sharks some cold steel. No such attitude seems to exist in Whitehall.

The problem is with the politicians, their being muppets essentially. Agreed.

So Will thinks that the politicians should take over the whole bank, nationalise it.


Accuracy in Reporting At The Guardian

This is good from Alexander Chancellor:


So it is with Google, the latest wealth-spewing monster of the internet. Its two young founders – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – are each worth around $20bn, much the same as Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 13th richest person in the world. But unlike him, they don\’t have private jets, Rolls-Royces, yachts or any of the other pointless accoutrements of the super-rich. The Prince has just bought a new A389 superjumbo, the world\’s biggest passenger aircraft (list price $319m), as his own private plane, which he will convert into a flying luxury hotel and use to carry his fleet of limousines with him around the world. Page and Brin each own nothing more flashy than a modest Toyota Prius, the environmentally virtuous hybrid car.


Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the low-key co-founders of Google Inc., set tongues wagging last year when they bought a used Boeing 767 widebody as an unusually large private jet. The 767-200 typically carries 180 passengers and is three times as heavy as a conventional executive plane. Mr. Page said last year that he and Mr. Brin would use it for personal travel, including taking "large numbers of people to places such as Africa." He said it would hold about 50 passengers when refurbished, but declined to comment on other details of the plane, which has been kept ultra secret.

Green Party Politics

Leader or no leader?

The supporters of the latter, led by the MEP Caroline Lucas, and Prince Charles\’s favourite Green, Jonathan Porritt, succinctly argued in a letter to this paper on Tuesday that a single identifiable leader who people recognise and trust is the best way of engaging the voters.

If they want to contest elections within the existing system, if there is going to be a Green party, as opposed to a green pressure group, they have to act like players. And in a context of minimal voter attention and celebrity politics, that means the party\’s enviably simple message has to be put across by a single leader.

The Guardian comes out on the side of two of its occasional columnists. Amazing, don\’t you think?

Err, Jasper?

The culture of spin didn\’t actually die; it merely mutated. And against a bacterium this infectious, the public is defenceless. Even the media have succumbed.

Mr. Gerard, as you are part of that media doing the succumbing, isn\’t the answer rather something for you to come up with?

Bay Area Earthquake

Last night there was an earthquake in the Bay Area, about 5.6 on the Richter scale and centered on San Jose.


Sort of a "small earthquake in Chile, not many hurt" type story really.

Quick question. That story of that headline is that Cyril Connoly and mates were trying to invent the silliest or most boring headline possible, wasn\’t it? So the question is, was this just what they came up with in said competition, or was it actually printed?

Err, Jeff?

Yes, I know that small business is important, but this much so?

Small businesses employ more than 10m people, nearly half the private-sector workforce, and contribute almost £1,000bn to the British economy.

The British economy is what, some £1,2 trillion? And we\’re saying that 50% of the private sector workforce alone is providing 83% of that? Don\’t think so, somehow. That\’s the sort of number that should set journalistic alarm bells ringing, surely?

Great Britons

So the Telegraph is running something to try and find the Great Britons. One suggestion:

Or John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith who brought the Conservative Party up to date on green issues – and duly had some of their policies pinched by Labour?

They\’ve clearly lost their minds then.