Child Abuse

Libby Brooks has a decent piece on a method of stopping child sex offenders from, well, reoffending. There\’s an earlier Guardian piece about it here and something I wrote on it here.

Started by the Mennonite Church in Canada and taken up by the Quakers here, at its simplest volunteers become the social support group for those offenders released from prison. My impression is that it works almost by social shame, or the desire not to let down those in that new social circle.

However is does work in detail, on the larger scale it works incredibly well. Reoffending rates are usually something like 70%. Of the 49 who have joined those Quaker run programmes in this country, not one has reoffended.

It works, which is really something rather wonderful.

But I have to admit to a certain sadness at this news:

Now, with further Government funding, Circles is expanding across the UK, with the Quakers taking a back seat. This is no longer a faith-based initiative, with volunteers presenting from all strands of society.

Yes, I\’m afraid that I\’m a terrible cynic. I just worry that something which moves from being embedded in a local community (and works precisely because of that) will turn completely to shit when run nationally by the State.

Turning to other matters:

According to the most recent study, between 16% and 20% of all children in this country experience some form of sexual assault before they reach the age of 16.

No, sorry, I don\’t believe that at all. Not unless we\’re using so wide a definition of "sexual assault" as to be meaningless.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

Yes, this is indeed a hit, a veritable bullseye.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: The reason why I and my Eurosceptic friends believe that noble EU pensioners should declare that interest in our debates is that EU pensions are perhaps unique in that holders can lose them if they fail to uphold the EU’s interests or bring the EU into disrepute.

If we look at former members of the European Parliament, we have the noble Lords, Lord Dykes, Lord Inglewood, Lord Harrison and Lord Teverson, the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, and the noble Lord who asked the question, the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson.

…[then] we come to the ex-Commissioners and ex-Commission employees: the noble Lords, Lord Brittan, Lord Clinton-Davis, Lord Kinnock, Lord Patten of Barnes, Lord Richard and Lord Tugendhat. As I say, I would not have named those people, but I think it will help students who read Hansard in future to know that our debates have been influenced to that extent. There can be no doubt that this unseen hand has distorted the quality of our deliberations. I very much regret that.

I conclude with a word of advice to my erstwhile political friends in the Conservative Party.

Lord Kinnock: My Lords, before the noble Lord does so, perhaps I may ask him as a point of honour, since I have been listening to him from beyond the Bar, that when he expresses a desire to ensure that future students have an accurate understanding of what is going on, it is necessary to record, first, that I thought that he was a man of honour and would not give himself to sentiments such as those he has just expressed; and, secondly, that there is nothing that I have ever taken from anyone that would begin to influence the judgment that I exercise as a parliamentarian.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the noble Lord would say that, wouldn’t he?

Do read the rest to see quite how absurd Kinnock\’s main argument was.

Oh, and yes,. EU pensions can indeed be stopped for the reason given above and yes, they are the only financial interest which Lords do not have to declare in debates. Odd that, eh?

The Rise of Vegetarianism

John Harris is really rather sane here about vegetarianism. Except for this little bit:

In the short-to-medium-term, it may well be the price of meat rather than high-minded ethics that sends sales of Quorn through the roof.

How appalling that markets work, eh? That people change their behaviour when the incentives they face change?

Incumbents\’ Protection Act

Another sighting.

Companies offering high-priced genetic tests have found themselves under pressure in the US, after officials launched a crackdown on their operations in California. Thirteen companies offering genetic testing have received cease and desist letters from the state\’s department of public health, in a move that could force them to stop selling their tests to the public.

Genetic testing services offer customers the chance to examine their genome for susceptibility to common diseases and conditions – usually for a fee in excess of $1,000 (about £500). Typically customers send in a sample of their DNA, such as a saliva swab, in exchange for information on potential health risks.

Although no specific regulations apply to the growing industry, state law dictates that their laboratories must be fully certified and that customers can ask for a test only on doctor\’s orders. The firms have been given two weeks to prove they meet those standards, with the threat of a $3,000 a day fine if they flout the rules.

"There\’s either concern they don\’t have a licence, there isn\’t a physician\’s order, or both," a state spokesperson, Lea Brooks, told the Associated Press. "That\’s what\’s under investigation."

Yes, yes, of course this is terribly important. Vital.

The move by Californian officials was welcomed by the chief executive of a leading DNA diagnosis company, the Iceland-based Decode, who said he was happy to see more rules in place. Kari Stefansson told the Guardian that his company had not received communication from California, but that genetic information was too complex and detailed to be unregulated.

Quite, Absolutely nothing about a company established in the market being delighted to see its smaller and upstart rivals bound with protocols and regulations that it can afford to bear now, is there.

No, no, clearly not. Perish the very thought.

Number Crunching

So, in order to meet another of those EU targets which we cannot avoid (because we\’ve already sold our freedom down the river) we\’re going to have to spend an awful lot of money.

Britain could invest more than £100bn in renewable energy over the next decade and still fail to meet an EU target on clean technology, the government\’s own renewables advisers have warned.

The Renewables Advisory Board (RAB), made up of senior figures from across the industry, says the best the UK could realistically hope for is to generate 14% of its energy from sustainable sources by 2020. The EU has set Britain a target of 15% renewable energy generation by then.

There\’s no particular point in having such a 15% target, nor in having one by any specific year. Climate change is indeed a problem but it\’s neither an immediate one nor a catastrophic one.

What we really want is a target to get non carbon technologies below the costs of carbon emitting ones: but that\’s an engineering and technology problem, rather less amenable to bureaucrats sitting in meetings.

For that is how the target was set. A few federasts decide that as the EU has responsibility for the environment thus they must be seen to do something. So they set a target. Doesn\’t matter whether it\’s possible or not, it\’s just and righteous that the Continent should spend money on the whims of those in power. And it is some money: that £100 billion is £1,700 per head (ish).

And, um, no, it\’s not a total cost: that\’s the extra cost.

Robin Webster, of Friends of the Earth, said: "The government must deliver a strong green energy strategy instead of trying to wriggle out of EU renewable energy targets. Next week\’s renewable energy consultation must set out a blueprint for a greener future.

"Britain\’s abundant wind and wave power could create a new industry worth millions of pounds and thousands of jobs, cut carbon dioxide emissions and wean us off our increasingly expensive fossil fuel dependency."

Robin laddie, your solution is that £1,700 per person more expensive that the "increasingly expensive fossil fuel".

It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if that had to be actually raised in taxes, transparently, wouldn\’t it? A resounding "Fuck Off!" I would think, which of course is why those who would spend others\’ money on their own desires prefer to change the regulations and thus tax opaquely.

And one more thing Robin? As I\’ve had occasion to mention to your boss, Tony Juniper recently, the creation of jobs is a cost of such schemes. Yes, a cost, not a benefit.

What a Big Surprise!

Britain and Europe will be forced to fundamentally rethink a central part of their environment strategy after a government report found that the rush to develop biofuels has played a "significant" role in the dramatic rise in global food prices, which has left 100 million more people without enough to eat.

The Gallagher report, due to be published next week, will trigger a review of British and EU targets for the use of plant-derived fuels in place of petrol and diesel, the Guardian has learned.

The study marks a dramatic reversal in the role of biofuels in the fight against global warming. As recently as last year, corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from vegetable oil were widely seen as important weapons in that fight – and a central plank of Gordon Brown\’s green strategy. Now even their environmental benefits are in question.

Nobody should be all that surprised at this outcome, of course. Anyone with any sense has been saying these things for years.

But remember the elephant!

It was unclear yesterday whether Britain had left it too late to influence EU biofuel targets, after the government failed to raise objections in a succession of votes in European environment and industry committees. British officials believe the issue can still be revisited in Brussels.

Even though we know that the technology is not only not beneficial, but positively harmful in both emissions and that trivial point about starving people, we can\’t actually do anything about it. For it\’s all to do with the European Union you see….one of the subjects that the federasts insist we must be members to deal with is indeed the environment.

But, just like every bureaucracy anywhere, they insist on trying to pick technological winners and just like every bureaucracy everywhere they fail in doing so.

And, umm, yes, that Lisbon Treaty does indeed give more power to that centre to determine such things for us. Which given their track record is a real joy, eh?

Erm, you sure here?

Morgan Stanley has suspended a trader in London after the individual allegedly cost the Wall Street bank $120m (£60m) by wrongly pricing investments.

The actual offence he\’s accused of is that when he marked to market (on items which are difficult to do this with) his prices were too high.

So he didn\’t in fact "cost" the company money. He certainly concealed that it had made the losses, but didn\’t cause those loses by doing so.

The Problem With Short Selling

Richard Murphy speaks:

And yet it’s attempt to raise cash in the market has been severely impeded by the wholly irresponsible action of short sellers in the market – mainly hedge funds. They have ‘borrowed’ shares from people like pension funds, then sold it, seen the price fall under pressure of a net selling market and then bought it back before returning it with a fee to those from whom they borrowed it. In so doing they seek to undermine the main function the stock market has, namely the creation of liquidity by the raising of cash for businesses that need it.

He entirely misses the point that short selling increases liquidity in the stock market.

Sigh.

How Odd

A decent piece on macroeconomics in The Guardian.

The surge in oil prices is a supply side shock, yes, of course it will lead to inflation, but the point is to have that one single burst of inflation rather than embedding it in the decisions people make going on years into the future.

You might not be surprised to find that it was not written by The G\’s economics editor.

Well, Quite

A settled view, among the electorate as well as the commentariat has formed, one that will take an earthquake to shake. I can see its distortions and exaggerations and yet, no matter how much I would like to, I cannot depart from the substance of it. I find myself in sympathy with those who admired Brown through his 10 long years as chancellor and who keenly awaited his premiership, and yet now conclude that they got Brown wrong – that, on the current evidence, he is simply not up to the job.

Although there are those of us who thought he wasn\’t a very good Chancellor either….in fact, a very bad one.

Free Schools

Fraser Nelson advises Cameron to promise them now, so as to be able to hit the ground running and get them up and operating properly within the term of the new government.

Can\’t say I disagree either. I do like this:

Labour\’s objections to a Free School scheme simply underline its potency. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, says Free Schools would be "unplanned" by ministers, as if this were a self-evident absurdity. Unpopular schools would face ruin, he says, while threatening to close them himself. Teachers will be poached, rather than sacked, as their career options multiply.

That\’s right, Balls in complaining about what is actually the whole point.

Insiders and Outsiders

There\’s a great deal of truth in this:

Chief executive Mark Clare was so thrilled with Barratt\’s prospects that in February 2007 he bought rival Wilson Bowden for £2.2bn. At the time, Clare had been in the job only a few months and had little experience of housebuilding. By contrast, David Wilson, who founded Wilson Bowden, had spent a lifetime in the industry. The timing of his exit, even though he took only about half his payment in cash, looks exquisite.

Equally clever was the decision of Jon Hunt, the founder of Foxtons, to sell his posh estate agency last July, the peak of the market, for £390m. Had Hunt waited 12 months, he would not have got even a quarter of that price. In fact, as the housing market crumbles, many agencies are simply unsaleable.

As is often the case, when those who know the business backwards, especially if they are the founders, reckon it\’s to time to sell, the rest of us should take note. The departure of Wilson and Hunt signalled the coming of winter.

Markets, by their very definition, are made up of people who place different values on the same things. But when you see the industry insiders selling off to those who know a little less, that\’s as useful a sign of the peak as you\’re going to get.

Now We\’ve Price Controls!

Wondrous: the descent into authoritarianism continues

Shops could be forced to raise the basic cost of alcoholic drinks by a third or more, as part of plans to make it harder for young people to access cheap alcohol.

Ministers at Westminster are considering plans similar to those already put forward in Scotland, to impose a minimum price for alcohol. Any legislation could see English supermarkets and corner shops ordered to charge a minimum of between 35p and 40p per unit.

The move is aimed at curbing the binge-drinking culture among teenagers, who according to recent figures drink more than youngsters in most other developed countries.

That some thousands, or even some tens of thousands, already break the law to purchase alcohol while underage isn\’s actually all that strong a justification for raising the price of alcohol for the milions of people who buy it legally and drink it without vomiting over the shopping centre.

What seems to have been missed as well is that minimum prices, well, they do just increase the profits of the supermarkets.

Is that really what these campaigners are after?

Is Obama Insane?

Seriously, is Barack Obama insane here or has he just been misreported?

The heart of Sen. Obama\’s spending program is his plan to spend $15 billion a year for 10 years on energy technology. It would be funded by revenue collected from a separate Obama proposal to cap greenhouse emissions through a system of trading pollution permits. Sen. Obama would auction those permits to producers of carbon dioxide, such as electric utilities, and figures the sales would yield about $100 billion a year. Most of that would go to consumers as rebates on utility bills, he said.

OK, cap and trade, auction all permits, very good.

But spend the money raised on rebates to energy consumers? WTF?

Seriously?

We\’re going to tax energy at one end of the system then subsidise it at the other?

Use the cash raised to lower other taxes, perhaps, use it to provide a citizen\’s dividend maybe, heck, spend it even.

But subsidise utitlity bills with the money you\’ve just raised by a tax on those utilities?

That\’s insane.