Nick Sarkoszy

Two stories, one after the other, on the Telegraph web page:

The new first lady of France, the former model and singer Carla Bruni, said that her first meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy was love at first sight and she expects the marriage to last a lifetime.

And

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has called for the world to unite to explore Mars.

Not bad, eh? Conquer Venus and move on to the next planet immediately?

Not Justiciable

The planned new Bill of Rights.

The new Bill of Rights will not be legally enforceable, the Justice Secretary is set to admit.

Jack Straw is expected to indicate that it is likely to set out a framework of collective values aimed at fostering a sense of national pride.

Given that it will contain economic and social rights, this is probably wise. But it will mean that the whole exercise is simply posturing: and won\’t give any protection at all to civil liberties, which is what such things are supposed to be about.

Broonian motion again, eh? Random flappings leading nowhere.

Hollywood Accounting

It\’s famously, umm, how shall we put this, intricate.

The family of JRR Tolkien is suing the studio behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy for £75 million claiming they have not received "even one penny" from the films.

Bonnie Eskenazi, the lawyer for the Tolkien Trust, said: "I cannot imagine how on earth New Line will argue to a jury that these films could gross literally billions of dollars, and yet the creator\’s heirs, who are entitled to a share of gross receipts, don\’t get a penny."

JRR Tolkien negotiated a lucrative long-term deal when he finally sold the film rights to the works in 1969. He received about £100,000 and a percentage of the royalties.

The trust, which manages the estate, is seeking 7.5 per cent of gross revenues after deduction of certain costs.

I\’m sure the studios have now moved on from mere prestigitation into the realms of hyper-accounting, but the classic method was to state that "certain costs" included "overheads". But the allocation of overheads was something left to the studio accountants. Anything and everythng, the kitchen sink, the coke for starlets at producer parties, the development deals with this star and that….all would be loaded onto the accounts of a film in danger of showing a profit. Something truly successful might pay 50% of all running costs of the studio for the year. Thus, regrettably, it would turn a profit.

Lordy!

George and Polly being sensible on the same day? So when do the cats start lying down with the dogs? Where are the rains of blood?

Miliband\’s Oxford lecture will be a resounding refutation of this, and a restatement of universal values. But he avoids Blairite hubris and triumphalism. Although he is "unapologetic about a mission to help democracy spread", he also stresses the "need to be cautious about our capacity to change the world", emphasising the power of international institutions – the international criminal court, the World Trade Organisation, the EU, the UN – to build the culture of democracy. "Democracy can and will take root in all societies".

Worth a slight cavil that though: when are we going to get democracy in the EU? Like, umm, a vote on it? There\’s much Churchillian "democracy is the least bad" floating around and Polly\’s right here:

They were driven by the universal desire to chose their own rulers, however difficult and dangerous the road to democracy.

The true meaning of "choose" being the ability to throw the bastards out. And that isn\’t something we can do with the EU, so it ain\’t democratic, is it?

My Word, This is a Surprise

George Monbiot is actually spot on.

Apart from used chip fat, there is no such thing as a sustainable biofuel.

OK, so he blathers around about peak oil etc, but on the biofuels point he\’s entirely correct. As a number of people (ahem) have been saying for some time. We might be able to get somewhere with algae, we might not, but all of these other methods make the problem worse, not better.

The lesson being of course that we rather need to stop governments trying to pick winners, stop them mandating technologies that must be used. They\’re clearly incompetent at it.

A Film To Avoid

How art can help to save the planet……

Afterwards, I found myself reading voraciously, soaking up books not normally on my agenda in an attempt to understand how we had got to this point. I read books on American foreign policy, on "resource wars" and our obsessive drive for oil. I found myself reading Noam Chomsky. Cutting through the noisy fug and disinformation of Bush\’s America, Chomsky\’s voice emerged as a beacon of clarity.

Chomsky? Clarity? Not sure you\’re really onto a winner there:

What was the most important thing I learned from Chomsky? That capitalism compels us to work ourselves to death in order to stuff our houses with things we don\’t need.

Eh? The worst you can say about capitalism is that it provides those who wish to stuff their houses with the ability to do so. Quite where the compulsion comes from I\’m not sure: and those who want to say the compulsion is to keep up with the Jones\’ need to point to the causative effect of capitalism upon that, rather than the innate drive to compete in the social heirarchy.

There are other things art can do. It can imagine the unimaginable.

!?!

Artists can bear witness. We are free radicals in a way that scientists can never be. Humanity may be on the brink of disaster, but this could be an exciting, creative period, with everyone – philosophers, artists, politicians, bus drivers – doing everything they can to avert it.

Pseuds\’ Corner has a place reserved for this sort of nonsense.

Anyway, the film itself is her asking Chomsky questions and him answering them: with her questions taken out and a period of silence left in for viewers to interpose their own questions. Yes, this is art, Chomsky rambling to camera.

In fact, this is such great art that it should be put on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. But live you understand, not filmed. Live, 24/ for a few weeks. In February.

That should get rid of them both nicely, shouldn\’t it?

Good Grief!

Could one ofour resident tecchies comment upon this?

All those who are suspected of wrongly downloading pirated material will receive a warning email for the first offence, a temporary suspension from going online for the second and if they commit a third crime they will find their web contract will be terminated, under the new proposals.

Every broadband company will be expected to enforce these rules and firms who fail to adhere to the guidelines could be prosecuted.

Could you tell me whether this is in fact technically feasible? And by that I mean at anything approaching a reasonable cost?

I can\’t see how an ISP can be expected to tell the difference between somoone using BitTorrent legally and somone using it illegally. So it all seems a bit of a non-starter to me, but anyone actually know?

Global Warming Hysteria

This is ridiculous:

The UK is to be hit by regular malaria outbreaks, fatal heatwaves and contaminated drinking water within five years because of global warming, the Government has warned the NHS.

Five years? Someone\’s lost the plot here. Further:

While the authors say the UK has proved able to cope with major heatwaves in the past, with no serious increase in fatalities in years with hot summers, such as 1976, temperatures on the scale of those experienced in France in 2003, which resulted in 14,000 premature deaths, would have an impact.

In south-east England, the chance of a severe heatwave on this scale by 2012 is said to be one in 40, and the report says: "In conventional thinking about risks to health, a risk of one in 40 is high."

The NHS has warned that hospitals, nursing homes and other social care institutions need to brace themselves for coping with disasters by planning in advance.

However, fewer old people are expected to die each year from cold, as climate change leads to warmer winters.

Err, how many die from cold? As Lomborg has pointed out, deaths from cold snaps are very much higher than any of these predictions for deaths from heatwaves. We\’re getting another one of our cost reports, when we should be getting a cost benefit report. And malaria? That\’s really not a lot to do with temperature. It\’s to do with things like draining marshes and the like. Where I am in Southern Portugal is already a great deal warmer than anything that is predicted for the UK in coming centuries. Do we have malaria here? No….well then.

Ouch

Err, Anatole?

Thursday\’s quarter-point rate cut, to 5.25 per cent, left British interest rates more than a full percentage point above the level prevailing in every leading economy apart from Australia.

Come along now, that\’s an irrelevance. We don\’t care what nominal interest rates are, only real. What\’s the number after we adjust for inflation? From memory (and using RPI not CPI) UK rates are now something like 0.5%, maybe 0.75%.

Today\’s News Yesterday

The Times, Feb 11:

Sniffing someone\’s armpits does not sound the most promising start to a date. Research, however, suggests that it will probably turn up a better prospect than either a blind date or gabbling nervously to 20 consecutive strangers. Now a new dating website, ScientificMatch.com, promises a discreet way of letting you nose out potential partners.

Researchers found more than a decade ago – by asking female students to sniff T-shirts worn by men – that ovulating women rate certain male body odours as sexier than others. Crucially, the preferences depended on a certain part of the immune system called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Women, it turned out, were bewitched by the odours of men whose MHC genes were most different from their own, and repelled by the aroma of men with similar MHC genes.

The Blog, Jan 14:

No, really, the way to a happy love life is sniffing the t-shirt of your intended date.

The thing is that we are programmed to find attractive those who have an immune system complimentary to our own. And the evidence of such is contained in the pheromones that we throw out in our sweat, meaning that sniffing a t-shirt which has been worn for three days can give us some guidance (ie, whether we like the smell or not) as to whether we would find the person attractive. This is also a reason why those pheromone scents in a bottle don’t in fact work: the opposite sex is looking for subtle scents compatible with their own, rather than a generalised blast of general human hormones.

Slightly spoiled this trimphalism is by noting that we\’re both just lifting the story from The Economist.

No Jury Trials

Well, that\’s another ancient right down the plughole:

Prosecutors are planning to apply for permission to hold a major criminal trial without a jury in what would be a legal first for England.

The Crown is pressing for a judge-only trial because of concerns that jurors in the case could be subject to intimidation or bribery.

It is understood the request – which will be submitted to the judge on Tuesday – follows consultation with the Director of Public Prosecution.

The trial involves members of an organised criminal network and follows a long police investigation into a large drug trafficking ring.

Provisions for dispensing with a jury if there is "evidence of a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place" were introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, but have not previously been used.

Maybe it\’s even sensible in this one case: but who expects it to only be used for such cases?