An explosion in an unlicensed Turkish fireworks factory killed at least 20 people, injured more than 100 and caused the five-storey building to collapse.

Which idiot set that up? I thought everyone* knew how to build a fireworks factory? Very strong walls, a very light roof and definitely no more than one story high….


* Well, everyone has read Terry Pratchett, haven\’t they?

Polly on Taxation.

"The question between now and the next election is whether Gordon Brown will go on shovelling more money to the grossly rich in the futile hope of appeasing them"

A delightful potted version of Polly\’s world view. Brown isn\’t shovelling more money to the grossly rich: he\’s not taking as much of it as Polly would like.

There\’s a rather crucial difference between not taxing someone and actually handing tax money over to them.

To equate the two, to say that not taxing someone is the same as handing them money is to make the assumption that it all belongs to the State and we only get to keep whatever the State doesn\’t need.

Polly might well think that way but most of us don\’t. Tax is a necessary evil, something we hand over to pay for the things that must be done both collectively and with the coercive powers of said State. It isn\’t the State\’s by right, we being allowed to keep whatever crumbs it allows us.

Labourites Warn

On how to win the next election:

The statement says that economic competence is not enough;

No, but it would be an interesting start, don\’t you think? Going into an economic slowdown wih no room to lower taxes, increase spending or increase borrowing isn\’t, even in Keynesian terms, evidence of economic competence.

Pretty Impressive

When one great great uncle did finally make some money as chairman of the Ashanti goldfields in South Africa, he didn\’t share it among his nieces and nephews.

No, really. Ashanti is in Ghana* so making money out of it in South Africa is pretty good going.


* The merger with Anglo of South Africa was in 2004 and that\’s not what she\’s talking about.

Why Wait?

As I sat down after making my remarks, the leader of the bloc to which Tory MEPs are allied, the European People\’s Party (EPP), rose to say that he\’d run out of patience with me, and that he wanted the EPP to expel me.

Chatting to me afterwards in the aisle, he said: "I don\’t care if you make your protest for a referendum in Britain. But you will not do it from the floor of the parliament as a member of my party". Fair enough, I said: there did seem to be some serious ideological differences between us. "Not differences, incompatibilities," he replied. If anyone was still wondering why David Cameron wants to leave the EPP, there is your answer.

Why not leave now?

Shell\’s Profits

Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley called the profits "obscene", adding: "Greedy oil companies should be asked to contribute for the common good." The AA said some of the windfall profits should be used to improve conditions for the motorist.

Providing the motorist with the fuel to power her car isn\’t enough?

Mr Van der Veer pointed out UK Treasury taxes account for well over 50pc of the price of petrol at the pump, and that the vast bulk of the Anglo-Dutch company\’s profits were made outside Britain. Most of its earnings come from exploration and production, not from UK petrol sales.

But they are paying tax on those profits made elsewhere. Some $18 billion indeed. That\’s enough isn\’t it?

Fruit Juice Causes Gout?

Not sure I actually beleive this (although of course my anecdotal data point doesn\’t outweight the science):

Drinking too many sugary soft drinks and fruit juices can substantially increase the risk of gout, scientists say in a report published today.

Researchers found that the risks associated with these drinks were higher than with certain types of alcohol, overindulgence in which is seen as a traditional cause of the painful joint disease.

The two times I\’ve had a twinge of gout have been as a result of extended periods of rich food and rich wines. They\’ve most certainly not been as a reult of an extra litre of fruit juice.

Attacks of gout, which are caused by too much uric acid in the body, usually start in the toe but affect the joints most severely as this is where the acid lies and crystallises. Dieticians traditionally advise sufferers, of whom there are about 600,000 in Britain, to restrict their intake of purines – chemicals found in meat and alcohol that turn into uric acid.

But many soft drinks and fruit juices contain large amounts of fructose, a naturally occurring sugar that can increase uric acid levels.

But at least now I know that if I get it again,. it\’s water, not juice, for me.

Laffer Curve Explained

A video from Cato (by the self-described Geroge Clooney of the policy wonk world).


Not bad actually, makes the sensible points that there is a Laffer Curve, that it depends where we are on it, that different taxes have different feedback mechanisms and, yes, that it\’s very rare for a tax cut to entirely pay for itself, just as it is very rare for there to be no revenue enhancing effects at all.

Hurrah, Hurrah!

Excellent news:

I finally received my new stick and crutches, thank you to everyone who donated, it’s nice to be able to walk down the street without all the clacking sounds I used to get with every step and the whistling of the wind through the adjuster holes. Having them also improves my posture, which helps with the pain.

There has also been another side effect of the generosity and of making that order, it has helped me take a huge step forward in coming to terms with everything surrounding my disability and depression. Instead of trying to ignore everything, and trying to keep on going in the same way as I did before the accident, I’m now, finally, looking for all the things that will make life easier for myself.

Lastly, I’ve seen my doctor today, she is really impressed by my improvements with depression, there is still a way to go yet, but for once I feel there is a lightening of the load, and there will be more on that in my next entry.

That\’s you lot that did that you know. Dropping money into his paypal account. Back rubs, secret masonic handshakes and lashings of ginger beer all round.

It gets better:

Right now I would like to say a huge thank you to the staff of The Royal British Legion based in Kendal, and to all the charities such as the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund and the Army Benevolent fund  who have helped them find the money to give me a new kitchen adapted to my needs.

I had the phone call, just before I went to the doctors, to say that they would be starting work on Monday morning. The mix of emotions is incredible, mainly nerves and excitement, plus looking forward to the benefits of worktops at the right height so that making a sandwich isn’t crippling and doing the washing up doesn’t cause me to have to sit down for an hour.


Marcottism of the Day

She’s responsible, and she’s taking measures to fix her problem, but the article also subtly drives home the point that there’s something deeply fucked up about our usury laws that we allow something like a 30% interest rate to even exist. (The article reminded me to pay off a balance sitting on my credit card, however. Paying even a nickel in interest to these sharks crosses a deeply held moral boundary.)

That Amanda gets to borrow at 0% as long as she only does it for 6 weeks is a reason that people who borrow longer than 6 weeks pay higher interest rates seems not to occur to her.

E Numbers Hysteria

You really do have to hand it to our MPs and Lords: knowing arses from elbows is clearly an advanced manouvre for them.

All artificial colourings in food and soft drinks should be banned, a parliamentary committee urged yesterday in a report on the effect of diet on the brain.

The associate parliamentary food and health forum – a grouping of parliamentarians and outside experts such as nutritionists, doctors and the food industry – says at the end of a year-long inquiry that the Food Standards Agency should be taking a tougher line on E-numbers and additives, which some studies suggest may over-stimulate children\’s brains and make them hyperactive.

Now, it might be true that some of these chemicals are not quite what we want to feed into a growing brain. I would put the onus on parents to make this decision, but I\’m aware that there are those who might disagree. But that isn\’t my point here, rather, it\’s the insanity of their actual proposal.

For E numbers are not in fact some creation of the devil\’s spawn. It\’s simply a labelling system. There are certain things which are put into food and so that everyone knows what they can and cannot use when and where a single labelling system was drawn up for all in the EU. Not even I am against clarity through such cooperation (I might whine about the use of criminal law etc, but having information presented clearly is just fine by me).

Some E numbers do describe things made in the lab: others do not.

E140 Chlorophylls, Chlorophyllins:

Green colour occurs naturally in the cells of all plants and responsible for photosynthesis. A fairly unstable dye, which tends to fade easily (see E141). Not easy to obtain in a pure form and commercially available chloroyphyll usually contains other plant material impurities. The usual sources are nettles, spinach and grass with the chloroyphyll being extracted using acetone, ethanol, light petroleum, methylethylketone and diachloromethane. Lutein, E161b, may be extracted at the same time. Can be used for dyeing waxes and oils, used in medicines and cosmetics eg in chewing gum, fats and oils, ice cream, soaps, soups, sweets and, obviously, green vegetables. Has no maximum recommended daily intake and is not subject to any prohibitions.

We\’re going to ban the use of chlorophyll in food now, are we? Bye bye to all green vegetables then.

E160a Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene, Gamma-carotene

Orange or yellow plant pigments, found mainly in carrots, green leafed vegetables and tomatoes, which the human body converts into \’Vitamin A\’ in the liver. Fades on exposure to light. Can be commercially manufactured in the laboratory but beta-carotene, with some alpha-carotene and gamma-carotene present, is normally extracted from carrots and other yellow or orange fruits and vegetables with hexane. Used in butter and soft margarines, coffee sponge cakes, milk products and soft drinks.

This is to go too? This is what is the stupidity: they\’ve confused the labelling system, the E numbers, with things that might do harm. But E numbers are simply a labelling scheme, nothing else. A blanket ban on the use of things with E numbers is insane.

E101 & E101a Riboflavin

Riboflavin is yellow or orange-yellow in colour and in addition to being used as a food colouring it is also used to fortify some foods. It can be found in such foods as baby foods, breakfast cereals, sauces, processed cheese, fruit drinks and vitamin-enriched milk products as well as being widely used in vitamin supplements. Also known as vitamin B2 occurs naturally in milk, cheese, leafy green vegetables, liver and yeast but exposure to light will destroy the Riboflavin in these natural sources. In processed foods it is very likely to be Genetically Modified as it can be produced synthetically using genetically modified Bacillus subtilis, altered to both increase the bacteria production of riboflavin and to introduce an antibiotic (ampicillin) resistance marker. It is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. Like the other B vitamins, it supports energy production by aiding in the metabolising of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B2 is also required for red blood cell formation and respiration, antibody production, and for regulating human growth and reproduction. It is essential for healthy skin, nails, hair growth and general good health, including regulating thyroid activity. Any excess is excreted in the urine but as the human body does not store Riboflavin it is thought deficiency is common. Riboflavin also helps in the prevention or treatment of many types of eye disorders, including some cases of cataracts. It may assist bloodshot, itching or burning eyes and abnormal sensitivity to light.

Cretins, simply cretins.

E150 Caramel


Can we hang them all?

(Looking at the actual report, they took evidence on tartrazine alone and then decided that all artificial colourings should be banned. Swing bastards, swing.)

Bansturbation Again

Patio heaters could be banned by the European Union over fears that they are contributing to global warming.

Euro-MPs will today vote on energy efficiency proposals to phase out the sale of the popular gas-burning appliances which are increasingly found outside bars, cafés and restaurants since the indoor smoking ban.

Fiona Hall, a Liberal Democrat MEP, has led the calls for the ban, which is expected to be endorsed by the parliament in Brussels.

"Patio heaters are scandalous because they are burning fossil fuels in the open sky, so producing vast quantities of CO2 with very little heat benefit," she said.

Whether there is a benefit or not isn\’t actually for Ms. Hall to determine. That\’s for the consumer to work out. As long as the damage done by CO2 emissions, the externality, has been included in the prices paid via taxation, it\’s entirely up to the individual as to whether they use such a heater or not.

I\’ve no idea what the tax on natural gas is but I\’d be amazed if it\’s less than the $80 per tonne CO2 that would cover that externality.

Can we leave yet?


Last night it emerged that a friend of Henry\’s, Michel Pratte, is also on his payroll. The 23-year-old Canadian, a regular companion of Henry\’s at London nightclubs, is said to be paid £11,500.08 as a research assistant, while studying at the London School of Economics.

And which nightclubs might those be?

Kidnapping Babies

A reminder of why we actually have a legal system, judges and all:

The High Court judge said that “on the face of it” social services acted unlawfully in taking the baby away from the 18-year-old mother without obtaining a court order.

Mr Justice Mumby said that the officials involved in the Nottinghamshire case “should have known better”.

The child, who cannot be identified, was born healthy at around 2am yesterday and taken from his mother without her consent at 4am.

Local social services had shown hospital staff a “birth plan” detailing how the mother, who suffers from mental health problems, was not to be allowed contact with the child without supervision.

However Mr Justice Mumby said that no baby can be removed “as the result of a decision taken by officials in some room”.

The judge ordered that the baby be immediately returned to his mother, who can only be referred to as "G".

Yes, even officials, doing it  "for the children", must obey the law.