The Problem with International Organisations

This is one of the problems we have with teaming up with Johnny Foreigner in all of these international organisations:

South Africa’s police chief faces a warrant for his arrest as a bitter struggle at the top of the country’s ruling African National Congress threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

The warrant against Jackie Selebi, who is also head of Interpol, was issued last week, according to SABC, the state broadcaster. Mr Selebi has been accused of links to figures from South Africa’s underworld. Last night he told a local radio station that he had no knowledge of the warrant.

The reported move comes amid a fierce political battle that this week propelled the country’s chief prosecutor into murky circumstances. “There is a full-scale war going on now between the prosecutors and the Justice Ministry,” one political commentator said. President Mbeki has pledged to root out corruption but has been accused of soft-pedalling on allegations made against his own supporters. Mr Selebi would not have got his job without being one of the early Mbeki backers. In 2004 he was elected to the rotating post of Interpol President.

Mr Selebi, who has been criticised harshly for failing to reduce crime, himself became a target for investigation by the country’s FBI-style Scorpions unit after a business associate was arrested on suspicion of the murder in September 2005 of Bret Kebble, a flamboyant mining magnate who had close links to the ANC. It emerged that Mr Selebi had frequently played golf with the suspect, Glenn Agliotti, a well-known drug lord.

The problem being that we\’ve teamed up in an international organisation with Johnny Foreigner, who might have a rather different understanding of the words probity and legality than we do. For example, aren\’t you glad that Interpol, the people who deal with international police matters, warrants and so on, has as its President someone who is a regular golfing partner of a drug dealer?

Or that the European transport system is run by a convicted fraudster?

Those Greek Fires

An interesting little detail in this story about the Greek fires this summer:

In the absence of a land registry and forest maps, Greeks invariably have been able to build with impunity in areas that would normally be protected.

So at least part of the cause of the fires was the absence of clearly delineated property rights. Tsk, it is something that people do try to point out a lot, that when they are not clearly marked out and registered, then you will get problems.

As with what used to happen in Portugal: if the forest burned down you would get planning permission for it. Now, as a result of a change in the law, you have to replant it. Amazingly, the number of fires has fallen.

So this summer\’s fires: not necessarily climate change, but a dereliction of duty by the Government….not necessarily the current one either. A systemic failure to allocate and then defend property rights.

Note To Telegraph Subs

This headline:

 

Tories must do or die in Blackpool

It\’s a party conference they\’re having, not a rerun of Zulu. They\’re going there to talk to fellow minded people, get drunk with them and if the past is any guide, screw a few of them (both physically and metaphorically).

A tad over the top, don\’t you think?

Hmmm, Could it be?

Interesting little note here (yes, I know the survey was sponsored by the manufacturer of an energy drink):

It says: "Thirtysomething women today are on their knees suffering debilitating tiredness because there are simply not enough hours in their days to build in any relaxation time."

Eighty-five per cent of thirtysomething women say they frequently feel tired and 59 per cent of these feel tired all the time.

Only a quarter regularly enjoy seven or eight hours sleep a night, 75 per cent are lucky if they get six hours, and 40 per cent usually get by on less than six.

They snack, eat on the hoof, and almost half regularly phone in sick.

One in 10 has heart palpitations, a quarter suffer from asthma or eczema, and one in 10 suffers from shortness of breath.

The gender pay gap is virtually non-existent amongst those in their 20s, widens dramatically in the 30s and then starts to shrink again in the 40s and 50s. I wonder whether this could be anything to do with it?

Crappy Schools System

So the OECD says that the UK school system isn\’t very good, that it doesn\’t educate people and that all the extra money that\’s been fire hosed in isn\’t actually getting to the places that need it. The response?

Jim Knight, the schools minister, said the education system was "performing strongly" but admitted more needed to be done.

He said: "In the decade ahead we must do more – the OECD confirms this. That is why we will make education a right for every young person until 18."

Err, a free, State, education for all up to the age of 18 is already a right. What Knight actually means is that he\’s going to turn it into a duty. When those who do not know the difference between rights and duties are running the asylum, what prospect a decent education system?

Banning Incandescent Light Bulbs

There\’s a few points to be made about this announcement from Hilary Benn:

The traditional lightbulb will disappear from shops under a two year timetable announced by Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary.

The first is that it\’s not really a big decision. As the article notes we\’re signed up to an EU regulation that bans them anyway. What\’s left for our domestic politician (the one we vote for) is announcing how it will be done: not whether. Defra is simply a branch office these days.

But there is a price for consumers because CFLs are more expensive and require more energy to make.

The second is that the expense is at least party to do with the EU itself. There\’s a 66% import duty on CFLs from China. As Tebaf Margot pointed out recently, they\’re discussing whether to lift this or not. Decision in a year or so.

The third is that Greenpeace really are a group of know nothing little shits:

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "This initiative, which will reduce the UK\’s CO2 emissions and finally begin to consign these hugely energy wasteful bulbs to the history books, is long overdue.

"However, almost all of the retailers involved have already committed to removing these bulbs ahead of 2011 after a campaign by Greenpeace.

"We think the Government needs to go further and introduce tough mandatory efficiency standards rather than relying on weak voluntary initiatives.

"For every year of delay in getting rid of these bulbs, five million tonnes of C02 are emitted into the atmosphere, unnecessarily."

Along wih your desires there is the necessity of looking at how the world really is. Current world capacity for CFL manufacture is 1 billion a year or so ( calculated from the capacity and order book of one of my customers, who manufacture a vital part). Given the time it takes to build a new manufacturing plant, or to convert an old one, if we banned incandescents in 2008, or 2009, it wouldn\’t mean people buying the lovely CFLs. It would mean their being able to buy no bulbs at all.

Sorry to have to break it to you but it does actually take time to redirect an entire manufacturing industry.

We Get to Fire Gordon Brown!

Yeeeehah!

El Gordo is toast. At least, that\’s the implication of this research by Daniel Finkelstein (pbuh).

How could I have missed this? The heavy influence of Bob Shrum on Gordon Brown\’s speech. How could I have missed it?

First of all there are plenty of phrases pretty directly lifted from speeches made by Shrum clients, many of which he admits he wrote.

Now my reaction might be thought a little extreme but you see there\’s a precedent here. El Gordo is copying the speeches of Democratic party hopefuls (Shrum\’s record at 0/7 means that all of his cleints remain hopefuls). OK, unh hunh.

But, we have the case of Senator Joe Biden to guide us. He made a speech in which he copied the words of Neil Kinnock. When this was revealed, Biden left the race to be the Democratic nominee.

Now, we also know that as a Son of the Manse El Gordo has rather more probity than a US Senator (there is pond slime with greater probity than a US Senator so that\’s not exactly a ringing endorsement but…) so, if plagiarism means withdrawing, El Gordo should indeed withdraw.

What an excellent result: he waits 10 years for the top job and then gets the shortest time in office for centuries. Couldn\’t happen to a nicer man.

 

Rudy Giuliani

Good God! Has this man no manners?

A decision by Rudy Giuliani to answer a mobile phone call from his wife while delivering a presidential campaign speech threatens to damage his bid for the White House.

Or is it that there\’s one rule for Rudy and another for the hoi polloi? You can, for example, imagine what he would say if someone in his audience answered such a call, can you not?

I know I have no vote (nor influence, thank the Lord) in the US election but that one incident would make me abandon any support I might have had for the man.

Controlling Prostitution

The dividing line between an escort agency and the control of prostitution is a pretty thin one, I think we\’re all aware of that. However, this line from the court report of a trial did raise a smile:

The barrister said that while there was no suggestion that any of the prostitutes were coerced, they were nevertheless “exploited”, with the various rules “strictly enforced” and the “ultimate sanction of dismissal” awaiting the disobedient.

What? You mean that if a worker didn\’t do what they were told then they might be fired?

Shocking, don\’t you think?

From a Lecturer in Philosophy

Giles Fraser\’s philosophy classes must be interesting, eh?

No: the struggle for the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the life of the church is a frontline battle in the war against global religious fascism.

Lessee, supporting the traditional teachings of the Christian churches, that sex may only unsinfully take place within marriage is fascism now, is it?

Political Logic

Err:

Gordon Brown\’s should capitalise on his popularity among women and put female cabinet ministers centre stage.

So because El Gordo is popular with women he should stand aside and make way for female ministers, who may or may not be popular with women? Fun logic, eh?

Insanity Abounds

Seriously:

Last week the city announced it was closing down a third of its infamous brothels, and in April, its "coffee shops" were forced to choose between serving alcohol or dealing in officially-tolerated marijuana. Most chose the weed, but from next summer the Dutch will ban smoking in all public outlets. How exactly this will affect the wacky baccy trade is unclear, but things will never be the same again in one of the world\’s most progressive and tolerant cities.

Banning the smoking of tobacco in a place that exists for the smoking of cannabis.

Insane.

Am I Missing Something Here?

Set aside, for a moment, the back story, and look only at these specific words:

They predicted that Mr Bush, who is to address the meeting tomorrow, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions.

Without any reading between the lines or anything that does in fact make perfect sense. It is indeed exactly what we want to do. We want to invent the technologies which will allow us to proceed without boiling the planet. We don\’t actually care about mandatory caps, voluntary ones, what we care about is either reducing emissions or increasing the sequestration of them.

So, what Bush is actually saying is exactly right: we want to make technological advances.

The interesting question of couse is how we do this: politicians picking winners is clearly not the way to go. Bush and corn ethanol, the EU and biofuels, the UK Government and wormeries rather than landfill: all actually create more emissions than business as usual. So on the one hand we have politicians increasing emissions. Can markets inventing technologies (sorry, companies operating in markets) do better? Difficult to see that they could do worse really.