Quite Disgusting

Abu Qatada, the man once described as Osama bin Laden\’s right hand man in Europe, was pictured out walking the streets on the third anniversary of the 7/7 terror bombings.

A man convicted of nothing is allowed to roam the streets.

He was released from Long Lartin high security jail in Worcestershire jail last month after the Government failed to have him deported to Jordan where he is wanted for terrorism offences.

The Appeal Court ruled that Qatada would not get a fair trial in Jordan because statements against him may have been extracted by torture.

And will you look at that: not only have we not convicted him of anything, nor will we allow him to be tried where the process could be described as dodgy!

He may indeed be a bad \’un, but this is the very root of what civil liberties mean: those things that Basher was arguing for up in Yorkshire.

Until someone is convicted of a crime in a court of law (with that all important fair trial, the presumption of innocence, a jury, the ability to confront witnesses and the whole shebang) then they are innocent.

It\’s what living in a free country means. Just as they cannot bang him up for ever (although they had a damn good go) so can they not do it to you or me.

Yes, there\’s a number of costs associated with liberty: this is one of them.

Willy Hutton Watch

Will Hutton just a few weeks ago suggested that the solution to the UK\’s mortgage woes was a government backed intermediary, along the lines of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.. That would of course stop all these risks of the markets seizing up as mortgage banks went bust.

His timing is of course amazing.

For it looks like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will go bust and need a government rescue.

Will Hutton: the near perfect guide to what not to do.

London Violence Versus Paris Violence

No, I\’ve got no figures here at all, just a question:

For London has recently felt like a far more violent capital city than Paris. According to official figures from Inhes, nobody was stabbed to death this year in the French capital and its neighbouring suburbs, whereas in London 19 teenagers have died during knife and gun attacks since the beginning of the year. Significantly, according to this report from Inhes, more than 80% of acts of physical violence in France are committed without any weapon. However, their number has been increasing over the years: 164,359 acts of physical violence against people have been reported to the police in 2006, a 10.6% increase compared to 2005. At the same time, however, in Paris, there has been a decrease of 4.9% of these attacks, down to 33,400 (see details here).

Paris is a much smaller city, so the absolute numbers will of course be different. However, here\’s the question. How much of this difference can be explained by the fact that in London, the slums are actually in the city, while in Paris, they\’re all well beyond it, in the (hope I get these words right) the banlieus beyond the peripherique?

That Electric Sports Car

The Electric Lightning GT appears to have everything an eco-conscious lover of British sports cars could want: luxury interior, top speed of 130mph and acceleration to shame a Porsche. And it\’s all generated from 30 onboard rechargeable electric batteries, with no direct greenhouse gas emissions.

Erm, no. The energy is stored in 30 onboard batteries. It\’s generated elsewhere, with significant losses in getting it into those batteries.

French Uranium Leak

Yes, our Gallic cousins have allowed some uranium to leak into a couple of rivers. On the scale of disasters, this really isn\’t high. Depending upon who you believe there\’s 350 kg to 75 kg of uranium been released into the environment. Yes, no doubt this will be used as an argument against nuclear power.

Worth getting it in proportion though. Given that it was in liquid form (ie, a suspension I think) and that it went into rivers, it\’ll soon be diluted down to something very close to background levels. In fact, I really wouldn\’t be surprised to find that within a week or so levels in those rivers will be lower than background in say, Cornwall or Aberdeen (both of which are high comparatively because of the uranium content of the local rock).

Also worth noting that this is not enriched: it\’s natural uranium, with the normal isotope distribution.

Yes, it\’s a blitheringly stupid thing for the plant to allow to happen, but not a danger to life or limb.

Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, Aslihan Tumer, said: "Given the restrictions on the consumption and use of water in the area, it is clear that the leak poses a risk to the local population and to the environment."

Erm, no. That people take precautions does not show that there is danger: with matters nuclear in fact, we usually take too many precautions because we\’ve got people wibbling about how dangerous this all is.

To put this into some sort of context:

A 1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could release as much as 5.2 tons/year of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons/year of thorium.

That is, when this plant screwed up they released into the environment some 7% of what a coal fired power station will release in a year of normal operation.

Scary, hunh?

El Gordo\’s Record

Leave aside all this flummery of the EU telling us we\’re naughty boys and look just at this figure:

Britain\’s sins are more serious. The breach has occurred at the top of the cycle when tax revenues should be at their peak. Brussels said there had been a "deterioration of the structural balance of 4.5pc of GDP" since 1999. Brussels said Britain did not qualify under the "exceptional" circumstances clause.

I said yesterday that I don\’t really do macro but even I know that that\’s not quite where we ought to be at the end of 16 years of continuous growth, the longest peacetime expansion since we started keeping accurate records.

Essentially Brown has taken the bounty from the good years and pissed it up against the wall. Now come the lean and we have no corn nor kine to see us through. You\’d have thought a Son of the Manse would have read his Old Testament, wouldn\’t you?

Equal Pay for Equal Work

You know how the gender pay gap figures are worked out? On hourly pay?

Here\’s an intriguing statistic from Wimbledon. For winning the men\’s singles title, Rafael Nadal trousered a cheque for £750,000. Venus Williams, who took the women\’s singles and doubles titles, went home with £865,000. Yet because Nadal was obliged to compete across the best of five sets and Williams three, the Spaniard was on court for a total of 1,114 minutes while the American was out there for 1,029. It works out that she earned £840.62 per minute, Rafa £673.25. I wonder how long it will be before players on the men\’s circuit demand equal pay with the women.

Tsk, such injustice.


MEPs Expenses

So David Cameron has insisted that the Tory MEPs should list their expense claims. A group of them have written a letter asking:

It reads: "We will … find that far from buying off criticism, the more we publish, the more questions will be asked.

"Could we have eaten in a cheaper restaurant? Did we need that extra half-pint of lager? Couldn\’t we find cheaper paper-clips?

Well, umm, yes perhaps?

To be honest, I\’m not quite sure I can believe that someone earning £60k a year, plus a hefty expenses package, would actully put a half of lager on an expenses claim. Yer average travelling salesman in the UK finds that (as per HMRC rules) alcohol is not an allowable expense (I think I\’m right in saying that it is if you\’re entertaining clients, not if not).

Further, I\’m not actually sure what they\’re talking about anyway. There\’s obviously some part of the gravy train that I don\’t understand. I thought there was a simple (if high) per diem for each day spent at the Parilament. Why are these expenses itemised (or even claimed) at all?

"Members may well change their behaviour under the rules. They may decide to drive to Brussels, claiming the full mileage allowance, rather than fly or take the train.

"They may decide not to go to Strasbourg at all – it as an enormous hassle and there will be little incentive to go.

Seriously? The claim is that without being able to fill their boots with expenses they wouldn\’t actually turn up to do their job?

"They may decide to buy an apartment in Brussels rather than rent or use hotels. In any case they will certainly trade up to business-class flights, obviating any saving for the tax-payer.

Erm, you mean that if you\’re not able to fiddle the difference between a cheap flight and an expensive one, you\’ll simply take the expensive flight anyway?

They\’re not really doing themselves any favours here are they?


Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker\’s explosive entry into the music world.

So that\’s what he was singing!

A touch different from the original Lennon/McCartney lyrics I think, no?

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Quite excellent this.

Danny Finkelstein has a post about the way that the Tories are suggesting that incentives should be offered for recycling, rather than fines imposed for not doing so.

All well and good except, except, it\’s illustrated with a picture of two green glass bottles being recycled.

No, not get it?

There are some things that it\’s a really great idea to recycle…because you can make money by doing so. Catalytic converters from cars, their radiators, aluminium cans, all good stuff worth real cash on delivery. Then there\’s another group of things which are still a good idea to recycle even though they cost money to do so. This would be because there\’s some environmental damage external to the market prices that not recycling might cause. This is why we force you to pay for your sewage disposal rather than letting it run into the nearest river.

However, there\’s a third group, things which we really don\’t want to recycle at all. It might be because we have to spend more money than the environmental damage caused or, possibly, it could be, at the extreme, that the recycling both costs us a lot more and also damages the environment more.

And guess what? Green glass in the UK is in that very last group.

We don\’t bottle much in green glass in the UK (mostly because we have a very small wine industry) so said glass is expensively collected and then milled down to provide hardcore for roadbuilding. And WRAP (the experts on this issue) have noted that this has greater emissions than simply throwing the glass into landfill in the first place.

So, an article on recycling is illustrated by a photo of someone damaging the planet at great expense by doing that very recycling.

Fun, eh?

David Selbourne


They now share the overarching belief that a “market economy”, espousal of the “values of the market” and exercise of the “right to choose” are preconditions of human progress and wellbeing. Instead, as the internal social condition of free societies worsens, we can see that free enterprise and moral licence are now two sides of the same coin. The free market and the free lifestyle go together; the privateer and the libertine are birds of a feather.

Extentions of human liberty in the economic and social sphere are undesirable in just what manner?

Britain\’s social crisis demands more public spending, not less; as the country falls into recession, more intervention is needed, not less. A small state and low taxes will not cure the ills that are daily increasing public alarm. Only a strong state can. You cannot repair the “broken society” while simultaneously “leaving people to live their own lives”, as Mr Cameron has put it.

Snigger. That broken society has, in great part, been caused by the expansion of the State into parts of our lives where it should not be. The solution is to extend it further?

It is to laugh.

The 19th century\’s oppositional movements – communism, socialism, trade unionism – have been defeated or humbled. These outlets for public action have gone. This, too, is a danger in times that have much in common with the Thirties. They are times when national self-repair is required, when the “free society” needs to be protected from itself,….

You could run Oswald Mosely on that: no, no thank you, I really don\’t want to have such a "national renewal" movement.

John Sauven

Yes, the Head of Greenpeace tells us what needs to happen:

The eight countries now forming the group represent between them the bulk of the world\’s economic activity; they also own most of the world\’s firepower and consume most of the world\’s resources.

That\’s a really scary thought now, isn\’t it? That the eight countries which make most of the things in the world consume most of the things in the world used to make things? OOEEEOOOW into the Twilight Zone we go!

If the G8 wants to be taken seriously it should stop debating what the goal is for 2050 and introduce a moratorium on all new coal fired power stations in their countries. Coal burning is the biggest single cause of CO2 pollution and the greatest threat to the climate. We can live without coal in the developed world and we have better options. They should launch an Apollo programme for renewable energy and start a campaign against energy wastage to secure genuinely clean energy supplies for the coming decades. They must act decisively to finally stop the mass deforestation that on its own accounts for a fifth of the world\’s greenhouse gas emissions.

John laddie: the discussion is not about whether things need to be done (yes, OK, some of us are still discussing whether, but governments are not). It\’s about how we do these things. There\’s a little more to changing the entire economy of the planet than some politicians issuing orders. It\’s necessary to craft the incentives to get humans on the ground to actually change their behaviour.

Just as an example, acting decisively to stop mass deforestation? Well, yes, there are some useful things that could be done by politicians: they could get rid of the insane rules they themselves developed about biofuels which are leading to Indonesia being ploughed up to produce palm oil I suppose.

But how are you going to stop that starving Brazilian peasant from moving another mile into the forest and burning down a patch to grow runty corn for a year or two, to repeat the process in three years time when the soil is exhausted? How are the G8 politicians going to deal with that?

How, exactly, are we to change peoples\’ behaviour? OpEds in the Guardian ain\’t gonna do it you know: there\’s not much of a market for the paper in Amazonia.