Umm, Iain?

I\’ve written this week\’s diary for The Spectator, which you can read HERE. Due to the postal strike, I suspect the paper version won\’t land on your doormat until Saturday.

Err, doubt it. They\’re on strike on Saturday.

 

Quote of the Day II

Does someone who has spent his whole life waiting to be Prime Minister want to risk it so early on? I wouldn\’t. But then, I\’m not a one eyed, two faced morally perfect, economically retarded knob.

Anyway, I hope there isn\’t an election. Give us a referendum instead, you selfish fucker. Let us have a choice over something that matters, rather than the last 25% of how we\’re governed…

Trixy.

Quote of the Day

An oldie but a goodie:

Playing against Australia, [Zimbabwean Eddo] Brandes was being sledged by Glenn McGrath, who yelled, "why are you so fat?"

"Because," he replied calmly, "every time I shag your wife, she gives me a biscuit."

Although John has obviously been at the disco biscuits again:

But I\’d like whichever it is to go on and win the cup and, for some bizarre reason (totally against the form), I fancy England have the better chance of that.

Only 25th!

The UK that is:

Britain could manage only 25th place on the list of countries considered to be the most desirable to live, according to the survey.

There is something of a problem with the way that the rankings were drawn up though:

A country\’s green credentials were based on a variety of factors including education and income which gave an indication of how desirable they were to live in,

OK, fair enough.

Britain was 41st in terms of air quality; Moldova took first place.

While Norway topped the league table for water quality, Britain was in a respectable 15th position.

Fine.

Austria was first for environmental health – taking childhood mortality, disease and deaths from intestinal infections into account – with Britain 35th.

Yup.

The country fell down on its carbon footprint. In 2004 Britain\’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions were more than double the worldwide average and were still rising. Britain ranked around mid-table – 77th place – on greenhouse gas emissions.

Err, hello?

CO2 emissions do not indicate whether a country is desirable to live in or not: such emissions in and of themselves have zero effect in fact.  Given that such emissions are closely correlated with wealth you would actually find that the higher the emissions the more desirable a country was to live in, but that\’s an indirect effect.

So judging whether a country is a good place to live by stating that higher CO2 emissions equals bad is a very strange metric indeed.

Said emission migh be bad for all sorts of reasons, but not as a part of working out the standard of living.

Election Shock Horror!

Quite stunning.

Gordon Brown is facing a test of his political nerve as David Cameron pulled off a significant comeback in the opinion polls ahead of a possible election announcement next week.

Party sees opinion poll bounce after party conference. Such a rare thing to happen, isn\’t it?

A Blockhead\’s Essays

Fortunately, this one hasn\’t taken Dr. Johnson\’s advice to heart.

A Blockhead\’s Essays. Do go read.

This on education is a treat:

One of the best things that the splurging of money on education in recent years has done is that it has blown away any pretence that the system’s faults are due to a lack of money.

After a decade of increasing budgets, educating a child to the age of sixteen costs the state £45,000. More than a fifth of them leave school illiterate. No one would voluntarily spend that kind of money on an education so grotesquely useless that it could not even teach a child to read and write. No one, except the Department of Education.

Those who pretend that this is the best that can possibly be expected for this sort of outlay are a mixture of hardened ideologues and professional apologists. There are those who are too narrow-minded to accept any model other than the council-run comprehensive, and those whose fingers wouldn’t be able to pull so much out of any other kind of pie.

Something to add to RSS feeders I think.

Guess Who Won\’t Be Getting This Cash?

Tebaf:

Civil society is encouraged to create its own forums for debate. The Commission will help NGOs to establish a network of websites where European issues can be discussed. A named contact point will be set up in each Commission department to allow a more equal access to the Commission by NGOs.

Me, nor anyone else who is critical of the institutions, or indeed of the institution itself. Funny that, isn\’t it? Duscussion never seems to include criticism.

Why not an NGO headed by Martin Tillack? We could make him our point man to "discuss" with OLAF.

Title Competition

OK; so I need your help again.

This directory of sex blogs. 100 pages, blog a page, al blogs being about sex in some manner.

So, what should we call it? One Track Minds? Onanist\’s Corner?

If we use the title I\’ll send along a freebie copy.

Tom Stoppard on Darfuri Asylum Seekers

It really is quite remarkable. The Home Office. Insane, of course, but remarkable.

People flee Darfur because the government in Khartoum is oppressing them (code for trying to kill them). They get to hte UK and then the Home Office sends them back to Khartoum: straight into the hands of those trying to kill them.

The real issue is not about conditions in the camps, it’s about the beatings and torture. It’s about what happens on the ground in Khartoum when the British handcuffs are taken off the deportee, and when the British escorts hand their prisoner over to the Sudanese security officials.

At the Court of Appeal in April there was no ruling on that: the evidence available at the time was deemed insufficient.

Since then, the evidence that has become available is ample and compelling, most particularly from two named individuals who made the long journey from the horrors of Darfur to Britain, and from Britain, in handcuffs, to Khartoum; and from Khartoum, by escape, to a place of safety where they told their stories . . . “The beatings and questions went on for days . . . I was bleeding everywhere, I was completely soaked in blood. They never let me use a toilet. The room was covered with my faeces and urine.” The beatings began before the British escorts were clear of the airport.

But none of that will be allowed to be introduced into today’s proceedings, because it had not been put before the Court of Appeal (it arrived too late).

Two questions: (1) The Home Office knows that the line it takes (“A person will not be at real risk on return to Khartoum . . . Neither at the airport or subsequently will such a person face a real risk of being targeted for persecutory harm or ill treatment”) is codswallop – so, will it continue to press its case simply on the conditions in the camps?

(2) Gordon Brown earned a lot of points by taking up the Darfuris’ plight at the UN – so, will somebody tell him what his left hand is doing?

How did we get to this place, where we are ruled by the certifiably insane?

Abandoning the Dollar

Doom and gloom announced as two countries announce that they are diversifying their reserves out of the US dollar. It\’s not so much the two countries (Qatar and Vietnam) as what that might mean for other larger ones.

However, as Dean Baker points out, this isn\’t a bad thing at all: it\’s actually an excellent one.

The dollar is declining for a simple reason — it was over-valued. The United States had a trade deficit that exceeded 6 percent of GDP at its peak. This was not sustainable, as just about all economists recognized. There are two ways to reduce a trade deficit: a recession or a fall in the dollar.

Unfortunately a falling currency doesn\’t immediately cut a trade deficit: there\’s something called J-curves which can have the effect of increasing it in the short term (prices are sticky, see). But with a high trade deficit yes, a falling $ is what we would actually like to see, not something to be feared (unless you are, like me, someone who gets paid in $ and spends in € but then the world economy isn\’t there to please me).

No, Not Quite

Let\’s rearrange this so that it makes sense shall we?

Lenders have put up the cost of taking out a personal loan by up to four per cent as they start to pass on the cost of the credit crunch.

Lenders have started to charge properly for loans after years of underpricing them relative to the risks of default: the thing that started the credit crunch.