We\’ll Have to Shoot These Monkeys I\’m Afraid.

Male macaque monkeys "pay" for sex with females by grooming them, scientists have revealed.

The availability of females even affects the "price". Where there are fewer females, males are forced to groom their partners for up to twice as long before they are able to have sex, the research found.

For of course, the purchase of sex from females is to be made illegal.

But the reason for shooting them is not that they are breaking the law, oh no, it\’s that they are making Harriet Harman look stupid, and we can\’t have that now, can we, she does it so well herself. Ably assisted by Dennis MacShane, of course.

And We Were Doing So Well…

Having managed to start off the New Year with myself and Antonia Bance actually agreeing on a point we then get this:

7. Hundreds of new houses built in Oxford, hundreds of thousands nationally, and increased regulation to target profiteering and unscrupulous landlords

That\’s part of her wish list for the coming year. The problem is that the two aims are mutually contradictory. We actually want landlords to make a profit: that\’s what gives them the incentive to invest in a house and then rent it to people. Making more housing available (a good idea at a time of both rising population and a further, on top of that, rise in household formation as we live in smaller groups) means an expansion of the privately owned rental market. Thus less regulation, not more.

One of the beneficial changes over the past few decades has been the way in which the regulations on that market have been lifted. Assured tenancies, the abolition of "fair rent", essentially a move back in time, or, if you prefer, towards a more European market, by the destruction of the insane rules which pretty much destroyed the rental market after WWII.

We\’ve already in fact tried this experiment, regulating landlords, and it leads to the absence of housing available to rent. If we actually want more housing available, better that we not make the same mistake again, eh?

Jennifer Siebel

Bit of a shocker here about Jennifer Siebel:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his girlfriend, actress Jennifer Siebel, became engaged in Hawaii over the weekend, knowledgeable sources said Monday.

San Francisco has a heterosexual mayor?

Who knew?

Oh Dear Jared, Oh Dear.

I\’m afraid that Jared Diamond has got things terribly, fatally, wrong here. Well, fatally for his argument, at least.

Per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below ours, but let’s suppose they rise to our level. Let’s also make things easy by imagining that nothing else happens … China’s catching up alone would roughly double world consumption rates. Oil consumption would increase by 106 percent, for instance, and world metal consumption by 94 percent.

If India as well as China were to catch up, world consumption rates would triple. If the whole developing world were suddenly to catch up, world rates would increase elevenfold. It would be as if the world population ballooned to 72 billion people (retaining present consumption rates).

Some optimists claim that we could support a world with nine billion people. But I haven’t met anyone crazy enough to claim that we could support 72 billion. Yet we often promise developing countries that if they will only adopt good policies — for example, institute honest government and a free-market economy — they, too, will be able to enjoy a first-world lifestyle. This promise is impossible, a cruel hoax: we are having difficulty supporting a first-world lifestyle even now for only one billion people.

The problem with this argument is that there really are people crazy enough to insist that we can support 72 billion people. But you may not think that they are total lunatics, for they are the IPCC. Yes, the International Panel on Climate Change does indeed think that we can support 7 billion (their prediction in the A1 family) all of whom have a living standard equal to (at least on average) that of a US citizen in 2000. Seriously, look it up here at the SRES. Using the same construction as Diamond, those 7 billion living high on the hog in 2100 are the same as the 72 billion he talks about.

So far from not having met anyone crazy enough to think this is possible, Diamond needs to realise that everyone worried about climate change believes that very thing. For the models being used to predict future CO2 emissions have, at their heart, this very assumption. That living standards will continue to improve, that there will be convergence in living standards and that that convergence will be upwards, not down.

Now I don\’t mind if Diamond wants to insist that this is not possible. That\’s up to him. But if he does want to then he\’s also got to revise his view of climate change, because that is based not on the idea that this increase in wealth is impossible, but that it is certain.

One or the other, not both.

How to Address Him

So, if our detail-obsessed Lord Chancellor had inherited a baronetcy, pursued a second career in the Anglican church and had won the Air Efficiency Award rather than the hot air medal, he would be the Right Honourable the Right Reverend Sir Jack Straw, Bart, PC, MP, LLB, AE. In that order.

Yes, Jack Straw has just published a guide to how to address people with titles. Multiple ones, as above. Like we needed that, eh?

Anyway, here\’s the Worstall guide to the system. It\’s actually the same as with multiple sets of cutlery at the table. Course by course you start with the outside ones and make your way inwards. So it is with titles. Once you\’ve worked out which is the fork equivalent and which the knife (ie, before the name or after, titles are before, medals and awards after) then the more important the award or title the closer to the name it gets.

Lords are higher than admirals, so it\’s Admiral Lord West. VC\’s are higher than MBEs so it\’s Bloggins VC, MBE. That\’s it!

 

Erm, Gentlemen?

The RSPCA has called on retailers to stop selling meat from chickens reared in poor conditions. The charity, based at Horsham, West Sussex, has urged supermarkets to sell only free-range, organic or Freedom Food varieties by 2010, and has set up an online petition. It says that shoppers should pay more to ensure that standards improve and that the low prices in supermarkets mean that some farmers cannot earn enough money to provide suitable conditions.

So, supermarkets should rig the market so that farmers receive more money? Umm, we are all aware that they\’ve just been fined hundreds of milions of pounds for doing that very thing with the milk and dairy market, are we? So, do we get to see the RSPCA fined this time for conspiracy to defraud the public?

Sensible Copper

I was sent this link by email with the comment "sensible copper". On this subject at least, Richard Brunstrom does appear to be so:

Richard Brunstrom, who has campaigned for drugs like heroin to be made legal, says he believes the move towards decriminalisation is "10 years away".

The chief constable said repealing the Misuse of Drugs Act would destroy a major source of organised crime.

He also said he thinks ecstasy is safer than aspirin.

More power to his elbow.

Worth noting that we have effective decriminalisation (not legalisation) down here in Portugee and there doesn\’t seem to have been a mass outbreak of anything very much at all. One thing they are known to do though is arrest foreigners hanging around known drug markets: they\’re not keen on drug tourism, you see?

Blindingly Obvious

Nice to welcome Migrationwatch to one of the better known ideas in economics:

The report says more effort should be expended on getting our own population into work rather than encouraging immigration.

But this becomes more difficult with generous benefits and means testing.

The report shows that:

* A family with two children is just £30 a week better off working on the minimum wage than not working.

* A single person under 25 on the minimum wage of £193 per week is only £10 a day better off than a non-working person.

* A family with two children and one working member receives £79.50 a week of Working Tax Credit. However, after means testing he keeps only £6.77.

* Working families with children and one working member on the minimum wage are slightly worse off than the same family receiving the maximum Incapacity Benefit.

* A single person on the minimum wage would be £3 a week better off than a single person on the highest level of Incapacity Benefit.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: \’\’We keep hearing that we need immigrants to do the jobs that the British won\’t do.

\’\’It has been suspected for some time that benefit levels are a real disincentive to take work that is on offer and our research spells out why this may be so."

He added: \’\’An important factor is that wages are now so close to benefits that there is very little financial incentive for unskilled British workers to find a job.

\’\’By contrast, Poles have very strong financial motivation.

\’\’On the minimum wage in Britain they are earning four to five times what they would earn at home.

You can have open immigration or you can have a welfare state. Having both will necessarily cause this sort of problem.

As to what we can do about it, well, while we\’re in the EU, we can\’t change the open immigration part. So we\’ll have to change the welfare state part. Which is, I think, an interesting idea. The EU is based upon the idea, at least as far as welfare is concerned, on cementing the social democratic ideal. But as we can see, other parts of the mission make this difficult.

As to quite what we should do about the welfare state part, that again has problems. For what we need to do is "make work pay" and we can do that in one of two ways. Either lower benefits or reduce the amount of means testing (or, the same thing but different language, raise the taper rate, ie withdraw benefits more slowly as people earn more). Neither of which will really fly politically.

Which leads us to a citizens\’ basic income, something which has no taper rate at all (although some versions have it being reclaimed at high tax rates, say around where the current upper tax rate starts), which rather neatly solves the problems of those working seeing such high marginal tax rates. And thus, as is complained of, not actually working, having been (rationally) persuaded that working at 90% marginal tax rates isn\’t worth the candle.

However, this solution also requires leaving the EU, as we cannot pay such a benefit only to citizens, we must pay it to all, including the immigrants.

So, first step is to leave the EU, then we can decide which of the two solutions we\’d like to employ. But leave the EU we must.

Who is Buying the Art?

Can someone explain this a little more to me?

In 2004/05, MoD civil servants bought a set of paintings by Zil Hoque called Nimbus I, II, III, IV at a cost of £160,000.

They also bought a set of four paintings by Louise Cattrell – Eyrie, Aerial, Tempest and Keep – that cost £72,000, all excluding VAT.

Now, I could understand there being a central art budget, one which is then apportioned out to the various departments. Justified perhaps by saying that something has to hang on the walls and why not support modern art while we\’re about it? That wouldn\’t be a justification in my eyes of course, but I can see how it would pass muster with those making the rules.

Is that actually what is the case?

Might I suggest something a little cheaper? I\’m told that all museums have vastly more art than they can actually show: they\’ve got basements full of stuff that never sees the light of day. Why not simply sprinkle some of that on the walls for the delectation of our servants: we\’ll keep the cash for ourselves, thanks very much.

Political Advice

All three of my American readers need to know who I endorse to be the next President of the United States.

I can\’t honestly says that I\’m greatly enamoured of any of the Democratic candidates. Dennis Kuchinich (if he\’s still running) has committed the unpardonable sin of marrying a good looking redheaded Englishwoman, thus leaving one fewer for me to pursue. Obama is, as has been pointed out, while of a dusky hue not actually "black" nor "African-American", despite being both black and authentically descended from an African and an American and Satan will be wearing winter woolies before I\’ll say anything nice about Hillary. There\’s a hairstyle running as well, or so I\’m told.

On the other side we\’ve got someone so dumb as to both insist that evolution is not true and that a single sales tax is the way to fund government. Plus a gold bug, someone who has passed laws to curtail political free speech and a not very good actor (although his wife would provide the finest pair of tits to grace the White House since the Carters themselves which is a plus). Also someone who claims that his beliefs are grounded in Moronism which while a refreshing burst of honesty for a politician isn\’t exactly comforting.

No doubt there are other assorted intellectual and moral pygmies looking forward to renting out the Lincoln bedroom as well but ennui has thankfully left me ignorant of who they are.

However, there is one shining beacon, a ray of sunlight illuminating the political scene. By day a mild mannered accountant from Ohio, by night the salvation of the Republic, one who has selflessly thrown his hat into the ring.

Yes, Dennis the Peasant has agreed to lead the western world. This blog endorses him wholeheartedly.

Gender Equality

In 1970, for instance, 0.6% of General Motors\’ students of engineering were female. Se.ven years later, they had risen to 32%

And GM\’s been going bust since the mid-70s. Correlation or causation?

A Written Constitution

Georgie Porgie:

If you doubt Britain needs a written constitution, listen to the strangely unbalanced discussion broadcast by the BBC last Friday. The Today programme asked Lord Guthrie, formerly chief of the defence staff, and Sir Kevin Tebbit, until recently the senior civil servant at the Ministry of Defence, if parliament should decide whether or not the country goes to war. The discussion was a terrifying exposure of the privileges of unaccountable power. It explained as well as anything I have heard how Britain became party to a crime that may have killed a million people.

Guthrie argued that parliamentary approval would mean intelligence had to be shared with MPs; that the other side could not be taken by surprise ("do you want to warn the enemy you are going to do it?"), and that commanders should have "a choice about when to attack and when not to attack". Tebbit maintained that "no prime minister would be able to deploy forces without being able to command a parliamentary majority. In that sense, the executive is already accountable to parliament". Once the prime minister has his majority, in other words, MPs become redundant.

That written constitution thing. Sure stopped the US, didn\’t it?

Larry Summers Was Right!

You\’ll recall of course that Larry Summers ended up losing his job for stating as an hypothesis that men have greater variance around the mean than women do.

Unfortunately for the Harvard faculty, he was correct:

Helena Cronin, philosopher at the London School of Economics and director of Darwin@LSE, a research group devoted to what Darwinism can tell us about human nature.

"I used to think that patterns of sex differences resulted mainly from average differences between men and women in innate talents, tastes and temperaments … Add to this some bias and barriers – a sexist attitude here, a lack of childcare there – and the sex differences are explained. Or so I thought … But they alone don\’t fully explain the differences … Females are much of a muchness, clustering round the mean. But, among males, the variance – the difference between the most and the least, the best and the worst – can be vast.

"So males are almost bound to be over-represented both at the bottom and at the top. I think of this as \’more dumbbells but more Nobels\’… Unfortunately, however, this is not the prevailing perspective in current debates, particularly where policy is concerned."

President Kibaki

What is shocking about the rigged poll is not the fact of electoral manipulation, but its blatancy. President Kibaki\’s partisans barely troubled to cover their tracks.

So another African politician stole an election.

And?

Deepak Lal\’s view of governments, that they are simply robber barons leeching off the populace, is seen as somewhat extreme. However, for a large part of the world, it is true. The only interesting question is how much of it?