Seems Sensible

At last, an explanation for falling classroom standards. Predictably, it’s Balls. Apparently, every time the Schools Secretary sends out a vital Whitehall edict in his name the message is automatically blocked by the nation’s censorious school software programmes.

“I appreciate that schools don’t want to encourage the use of what they see as ‘bad words’,” says Tony Attwood, editor of the Schools Directory newsletter. “But I am not sure that exposure to the minister’s name is going to harm anyone in the information and communications technology services department.”

Are we sure it\’s the name that\’s causing it? Or the desire to protect people from the painful vacuity of the messages themselves?

Well, OK

Fair enough, cannabis does have physical effects:

Smoking cannabis for long periods of time may shrink parts of the brain that govern memory, emotion and aggression, according to researchers in Australia. Scientists used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of people who admitted to smoking more than five joints a day for at least 10 years and compared them with brain images taken from non-drug users.

Those who smoked cannabis regularly had on average a 12% smaller hippocampus, the part of the brain which is thought to be involved with emotion and memory, and a 7% smaller amygdala, which plays a role in regulating fear and aggression.

Now I\’m certainly no expert on dosages but 5 joints a day for a decade….that\’s pretty heavy usage isn\’t it? What would we say it is in comparison to alcohol? A bottle of spirits a day? More?

And at that sort of level we\’d expect to find some physical effects of alcohol consumption, wouldn\’t we?

Do we use the incidence of cirrhosis to ban alcohol? No, but I\’m sure someone will try to use this paper on cannabis to continue the ban on that.

Last month, a team at New York University scanned the brains of a group of 17- to 30-year-olds who had smoked cannabis two to three times a week for at least a year. In that study, the brains of drug users looked no different from those who had never taken cannabis.

As we\’ve known sinice Paracelsus, the poison is the dise.

 

Eh?

Police have seized a potential £1 billion “treasure trove” of cash, drugs and guns in an unprecedented raid on concrete vaults holding 7,000 safety deposit boxes.

Seriously?

The police simply crack open 7,000 safety deposit boxes on suspicion? And anyone who is "innocent" has to go and claim their goods back?

Whatever happened to privacy?

Organic Milk is Healthier?

I\’ve just stumbled across (via) what looks like an excellent resource. OK, it\’s funded by the NHS but it is indeed a public health service and informing the public about health issues seems fair enough.

Behind the Headlines.

A sample of their output.

Remember last week there were stories all over the place about how organic milk is better for you?

Umm, that\’s not quite true.

The results do not demonstrate conclusively that organic milk contains the best nutritional properties. In fact, the most favourable nutritional properties seemed to be found in milk from the non-organic low-input farms that used a spring calving system.

And yes, they do take you through all the steps to get you there, including links to the original research etc.

I\’m not sure how quickly they put up stories (I suspect they\’re a day or two behind the newspapers) but this will be a wonderful resource for us bloggers I\’m sure.

 

Celebrating the Euro

Sigh. Even the Commissioner in charge of the damn thing can\’t see what is plainly under his nose.

Before the euro, exchange-rate realignments in times of economic turbulence often disrupted trade and investment.

Exchange rate realignments help to ease the process of adjusting to economic turbulence. You know, like the pound coming out of the EMS? (Or was it EMU? Can never remember which was which).

While some eurozone countries have performed exceptionally well, the growth rate of others has been undeniably modest.

Yes, because wildly different economies have been subjected to the same interest and exchange rates you blithering idiot. This is proof that it\’s a bad system, not a good one!

Kevin Watkins

Let me get this straight.

Kevin Watkins is director of the UN\’s Human Development Report Office.

Umm,

Thomas Malthus, the 18th-century cleric, must be chuckling in his grave. As world leaders gather in Rome for the UN summit on hunger, his grim prediction that humanity faced a future of rising food prices and mounting malnutrition has finally arrived at the centre of the international agenda.

We\’ve got a Malthusian in such a position?

Putting in place a WTO agreement that stops rich countries dumping surpluses, opens up their agricultural markets and allows poor countries to protect their producers is a vital ingredient for any viable long-term recovery strategy.

One who says that tariff protection in poor countries is going to be to the benefit of the people in those poor countries?

No wonder the international world order is so fucked.

Reduced self-reliance is driven by many factors. The neglect of smallholder agriculture by national governments and aid agencies is one factor, reflected in the shocking state of transport and marketing in poor rural areas.

He\’s actually arguing for more peasant agriculture? When, as Paul Collier has so wonderfully pointed out, what we want is more commercial agriculture in such places?

We\’ve actually got an example to point to as well. Zimbabwe.

Twenty years ago the commercial farms in that country meant that it was a large nett exporter of maize. Their replacement by peasant farming has meant the country is starving.

I despair, I really do, when we\’ve got such people arguing in favour of "self-reliance". No, twat, what we want is greater interconnection, more globalisation!

Might I quote Dani Rodrik here?

If developing countries had all kept their import protection, the global supply of food would have been lower today, not higher. (That is because import protection would have led global production to be reallocated from efficient exporters to inefficient importers.)

If that was true then, then it\’s true now and looking into the future. So Our Kevin is actually arguing for  policies which will reduce the global supply of food into the future.

As I said, no wonder the system is fucked with idiots like this running it.

Nebbish

Now I really, really want to understand this: I would like to get inside the head of that person – that self-important, officious nebbish of a council official – who actually believes that these are appropriate uses of the anti-terror legislation designed to prevent mass murder.

Great to see the word "nebbish" being used here. There are a number of possible meanings, putz, twit, self important git, but none of them quite capture the full meaning.

It was once explained to me thus: someone with so little personality that when they leave the room you feel as if someone has just entered it.

Umm, Janet?

For example, the price of home-heating is now a serious problem, so what does the Government suggest? A return to zero VAT for heating fuel, which would lower the price instantly and significantly for everyone?

But that would also be illegal….can\’t zero rate heating fuel under European Union regulations.

Not to mention that it would also be a little stupid when we\’re trying to reduce emissions and homes account for some substantial portion of them (not sure of what the actual number is off the top of my head. 16%? 20%?)

Indeed, any government which was actually being sensible about the reduction of emissions would raise VAT on home energy back up to the 17.5% level that most other things pay….but of course we won\’t as the current special rate was one of Gordon Brown\’s innovations.

The rise would be a great deal simpler and more effective than pfaffing about with cap and trade.

Today Really is Full of Surprises

Argentina\’s trick this time, under the presidential double act of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, has been to purge the National Statistics Office and appoint a friend to manage inflation data.

The official Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 8.9pc. This is the benchmark used to set payments on inflation-linked bonds, now 40pc of the country\’s debt.

The true inflation rate is more than 25pc, according to union staff of the statistics office. They allege manipulation. St Luis province is issuing its own data, three times higher.

"Argentina is engineering a partial default on its domestic debt," said Professor Carmen Reinhart, from Maryland University.

Gosh, who would have thought it?

As one economist recently pointed out, perhaps the only thing worse than the effect of orthodox economic policies in Argentina is the effect of heterodox ones.

Those Olympic Games Facilities

My word, what a surprise!

The buildings constructed in Athens for the Olympic Games four years ago are fly blown, closed to the public and covered in graffiti, a forewarning of the possible aftermath of the London Games in 2012. Of the 22 venues in the city, 21 are in a state of disrepair and under guard to prevent vandalism.

All that money spent in order to hold an outdoor jamboree for drug abusers.

It\’s not like it hasn\’t happened in every other Olympic city as well, is it? A vision of what 2016 will be like in London perhaps?

Is Anyone Surprised?

Official figures show that vast sums have been shifted from Tory-leaning country shires and transferred to Labour-supporting towns and cities over the past decade.

Councils in London are now receiving twice as much per head of population from central government as their rural counterparts, according to statistics from the independent House of Commons Library.

The government funding gap between urban and rural areas has grown dramatically since Labour came to power in 1997.

That\’s what governments do isn\’t it? Tax those who are not natural supporters to provide the goodies for those who are?

None of us is actually naive enough to think that the pattern of government spending is determined solely by what\’s best for the citizenry are we, as opposed to at least being laced with a healthy dollop of party political calculation?

Tax Freedom Day

Is today.

That means you can stop working for Her Majety\’s Government today and begin working for yourself and your family.

Be nice if it was a little earlier in the year, wouldn\’t it?

Erm, Alex?

(Worstall, meanwhile, having spent years arguing that climate change isn’t happening cos of the 1940s pause, is now arguing that its nonexistence means climate change doesn’t exist either. I am not joking.)

Leaving aside the description of me as "reactionary ballbag hack" whatever that might mean, umm, sorry, could you come up with any substance, sustenance perhaps for any of this?

I\’m pretty sure that I\’ve been going down the path of climate change is happening, that we are causing it, and that the only interesting or important thing is what we do about it.

Hmm, you know, I\’d rather like our Ranter to back up what he says about me and any previously expressed views of mine. I really am pretty sure that I\’ve never said that climate change isn\’t happening.

Over to you Alex.