Fairtrade Fortnight

Starts tomorrow I beleive. And there\’s a report out from the bosses at the ASI to celebrate.

Fairtrade\’s supporters blame the plight of coffee farmers on world prices and ruthless multinationals. But supporters ignore the real causes of poverty among growers. Farmers I interviewed in Kenya told me that the problems they faced were caused by their own government\’s interference. They have to use milling companies granted regional monopolies, which fleece them. They want to boost productivity by using fertiliser but cannot afford the prices demanded by the fertiliser monopoly. Imported tools would transform their output but are subject to punitive tariffs.

Brazil, conversely, pursued free-market reform and the farmers have mechanised. That has enabled five people and a machine to enjoy the same output as 500 unaided farmers.

Yet the Fairtrade Foundation, the lobby group behind the scheme in Britain, seems oblivious and admits it has no programmes to encourage the use of technology. Even worse, it is giving counterproductive advice to farmers, encouraging them to mix crops in the same field, thereby cutting productivity and making mechanisation more difficult.

Despite Fairtrade\’s moral halo, there are other, more ethical forms of coffee available. Most Fairtrade coffee is roasted and packaged in Europe, principally in Belgium and Germany. That is unnecessary and retards development. Farmers working for Costa Rica\’s Café Britt have climbed the economic ladder not just by growing beans but by doing the processing, roasting and packaging and branding themselves.

But Café Britt is not welcome on the Fairtrade scheme. Most Café Britt farmers are self-employed small business people who own the land they farm. That is unacceptable to the ideologues at FLO International, Fairtrade\’s international certifiers, who will accredit farmers only if they give up their small-business status and join together into a co-operative.

There is evidence that Fairtrade is damaging quality, too. Its farmers typically sell in both Fairtrade and open markets. Because the price in the open market is solely determined by quality, they sell their better beans in that market and then dump their poorer beans into the Fairtrade market, where they are guaranteed a good price. That\’s worth considering next time you pop out for an espresso.

(That\’s another boss, Alex Singleton of the GI, writing there).

I\’ve actually heard (rumour, not fact) that Fairtrade actively militates against mechanisation, insisting that only peasant farmers can benefit: a great way of perpetuating poverty down the generations.

Government Robbery

There isn\’t any other possible description of this: it\’s out and out robbery by the Government:

Police will be able to seize high-value assets from suspected drug dealers as soon as they are arrested under plans to be unveiled this week by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.

Law-enforcement agencies will be able to take cars, televisions, laptops and expensive jewellery belonging to big-time offenders. Such assets can currently only be seized at the end of a criminal process, by which time drug dealers have often disposed of them.

The reason that we have a criminal process is because we rather like to find out whether people are in fact guilty of being drug dealers, rather than just suspected. Taking their belongings purely upon suspicion is theft, pure and simple.

I\’m ghasted and flabbered that such a thing is even being considered: it\’s bad enough now that confiscation happens under the civil (and thus the less onerous burdens or proof) law rather than criminal, but to seize purely upon charging?

Not Bad, Not Bad at All

It started with a horse called Isn\’t That Lucky and ended with one called A Dream Come True – a run of eight winners that turned a 50p stake into Britain\’s first million pound betting-shop pay-out.

An unnamed small-time gambler, believed to be in his sixties, backed eight horses to win races in a multiple bet called an accumulator, at combined odds of nearly 2.8 million to one.

 

France Lost!

There\’s a very definite part of me that thinks that this is the important news.

"England wins" is good, admirable, enjoyable. Hard work, done well.

"France loses" is simply delightful.

Europe, eh?

Australian Bribery

The country really is upside down, you know?

A town planner has become embroiled in scandal after she allegedly demanded sex in exchange for approving millions of dollars of unlawful developments.

So, you\’re a developer, needing planning permission. 32 year old Aussie blonde female (not a bad looker, certainly not a munt) says, well, you can have the planning permission but only if you shag me.

Erm?

Newspaper Watch

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Veteran British television entertainer Bruce Forsyth celebrates his 80th birthday with Miss Puerto Rico and Miss England

No, really, that\’s the photo and caption above a story about Bruce Forsyth\’s 80 th birthday.

Anybody who gets the dead tree version might want to check and see whether that made it there as well.

I\’m pretty certain that\’s not the right Brucie, anyway: the rug looks far too good.

I Beg Your Pardon?

They want to do what?

Passengers travelling between EU countries or taking domestic flights would have to hand over a mass of personal information, including their mobile phone numbers and credit card details, as part of a new package of security measures being demanded by the British government. The data would be stored for 13 years and used to "profile" suspects.

Brussels officials are already considering controversial anti-terror plans that would collect up to 19 pieces of information on every air passenger entering or leaving the EU. Under a controversial agreement reached last summer with the US department of homeland security, the EU already supplies the same information [19 pieces] to Washington for all passengers flying between Europe and the US.

But Britain wants the system extended to sea and rail travel, to be applied to domestic flights and those between EU countries. According to a questionnaire circulated to all EU capitals by the European commission, the UK is the only country of 27 EU member states that wants the system used for "more general public policy purposes" besides fighting terrorism and organised crime.

You\’ve got to be tagged and recorded when you cross any intra-EU border? Good grief! Can we just cut to the quick here and shoot them all please?

Credit card details? Seriously?

Snark, Snark

Many British expatriate communities refuse to integrate with their host nations. They congregate in ugly ghettos in the French countryside and along the Spanish coast, eating their own food – egg and chips; imported Marmite – and speaking their own language. They offend the tolerant and peaceable people of their host nations with their imported and alien customs of "binge drinking", promiscuity and visible displays of pink flesh.

Though many of them claim to have been "forced" out of their own country by a "totalitarian" government and a punitive tax regime, let us be clear: these people are selfish economic migrants. The worst of them write seditious letters to newspapers back home in an attempt to destabilise the Government.

A large number sponge off their host states – taking advantage, for example, of the advantageous tax regime available in the Republic of Ireland, or earning money in the United Kingdom by "teleworking" and failing to declare it in their host nations. Some join the black economy – taking payments in cash or avoiding tax by domiciling their assets offshore. Still others turn to crime, using their expertise to join the banking sector.

But to stereotype all emigrants in that way is to ignore the vast contribution they can make to the countries in which they live. It is to fall victim to one of the ugliest and most canting paranoias of our age.

The vast majority of emigrants are people who only want the best for themselves and their families. Indeed, many of them form the backbone of their host nations\’ economies – bringing skills in short supply over there, and doing the jobs that natives of those countries consider beneath them: as lawyers, public relations executives and marketing men.

Is it so bad to take advantage of the lowest tax regime you can find, within the law? And is it so wrong to save up as much of your monthly pay-packet as you can, so as to send money – as very many do – home to your family back in England?

Tee Hee. Very good Sam.

Drugs and Prostitution

Not quite Vicki:

Something must be done. It\’s obvious to me, if not to others, that what must be done is not "reducing the demand" or tightening up the prostitution laws (thus making it harder for women to take responsibility for their own safety) or banging up punters or "ending the world\’s sex industry" or any other highfalutin soundbite – but dealing with the drugs.

We have a muddled and messy drugs policy in this country. (I\’m not surprised: we have a muddled and messy alcohol policy.) Ipswich police are doing their best to handle the acute situation in which they\’ve found themselves. They\’re lifting girls off the street, offering them methadone (that won\’t help, but let it lie), driving busily about to frighten off punters (that won\’t help long-term, either). They can\’t draw the obvious conclusion about £120 bags being worth four to six horrible encounters every night (either give them the damn bags, or lots and lots of very expensive rehab at the taxpayers\’ expense) because we\’d need a "Swedish model" of state funding to do so.

Not quite. The cost of that heroin is vastly inflated by its very illegality. A few months back I went and looked up the price of diamorphine in the NHS formulary (I think that\’s the right word). Enough to keep a determined addict happy costs about £20 a day.

At first glance simply giving addicts (depends upon who you believe, perhaps 40,000 registered ones, 400,000 in total seem likely numbers) their dose is wildly impractical: £900,000 to £9 million a day,  over £3 billion a year at the top end.

However, when offset against the reduction in costs of the crime caused by addicts, the abuses of our civil liberties, the prostitution mentioned, it all begins to sound rather cheap. Overall we\’d be spending less than we do already, that I\’m certain of.

Leningrad Cowboys

A great, great movie, very much worth watching.

And just for a Friday afternoon, part of one of their live concerts.

The entirely twisted imagination necessary to come up with this….one can only stand and stare in awe.

Hang Them, Hang Them All

Those responsible for burdening us all with this monstrous mountain of bumpf.

We are due a visit from it shortly. We had the early years person round to check all was in order. She looked through it all, nodded her approval, paused. “But you haven\’t,” she said, “got a Going Out For a Walk Policy.” No kidding.

Gibbets to the fore lads, hempen to hand.