August 2009

Save the Dragons

Try here or here.

Great sounding author (similar to Pterry or Tom Holt) is selling his new book online, chapter by chapter.

He comes very strongly recommended.

Julie Bindel and Nick Cohen are both Powellites


Julie Bindel, a veteran of radical feminist campaigns, remembers when such circumlocutions were unthinkable. She told me about a vigorous movement to force the police to investigate child abuse allegations in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in London.  Her sisters said that it would be racist for the police to leave it to the community to administer its own justice, as they had done in the past. They had to show that the same rules applied to everyone.

\”Now they say it is racist to intervene. They\’re so frightened of being called an Islamophobe, they will defend the right of men to force women to be shackled. They smugly declare that ‘we haven\’t got the right to impose our values on another culture\’ and think themselves liberal when they do it.\”


“Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, ‘We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home’. We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What we can do in Africa, where we still govern and where we no longer govern, depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which this country acts and the way in which Englishmen act. We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility”

Of course, Powell was a racist so we can dismiss his opinions without having to think about them.


The Scottish government wants to end cut-price alcohol deals in supermarkets in an attempt to tackle the country’s booze culture.

The alcohol Bill is expected to set out a minimum price of 40p per unit — a controversial proposal that has drawn protests from the drinks industry.

The Scottish Conservatives are opposed to minimum pricing, but Labour has softened its position in recent months and is now expected to back the idea.

A spokesman for the SNP administration said: “The UK’s four Chief Medical Officers all back minimum pricing, and the BMA, Royal College of Nursing, the police, the British Liver Trust, and indeed the licensed trade association, all support the Scottish government’s proposals — which would stop high-strength beers and ciders being sold for pocket-money prices, while not affecting premium and quality products such as Scotch whisky.

Doesn\’t matter how many Scottish politicians and their paid bureaucrats think this is a good idea. It is illegal.

The European Union says so.

Having a minimum price per alcohol unit goes against the Single Market rules. For it could potentially discriminate against low cost alcohol from outside Scotland in favour of high priced from within.

We\’ll put this one down to a failure to understand where the power lies, shall we?

Or, as I wrote earlier.

Just a thought

Meantime, the new consensus that governments should be able to fully enforce their tax codes marks a major advance in fiscal fairness and democracy.

All governments, everywhere, all the time?

The Soviet Union, at the end of the 1920s, imposed profit taxes of over 100% of profits. The international community should agree to enforce such? Heck, Roy Jenkins inposed a tax of 130% (retrospectively) on investment income in the 1960s for one year. It is a matter of international justice that such rates be upheld?

I\’m told that the Nazis made it illegal to have wealth held abroad: this was in some way the wealth of the nation, not the individual. This is something which the UK, the US, should enforce?

The depredations of an Idi Amin type figure, the Burmese Junta, Pol Pot, North Korea, all de facto and de jure governments of their countries, must be supported in international law?

If we ever say that, no, there are limits to what a government can righteously demand from the citizens subject to it then we\’ve immediately agreed that there is a room for secrecy in the system.

So, for those celebrating the reduction of such, for those campaigning for the elimination of such secrecy, is there a limit? And if so, how much secrecy are you willing to put up with so that that limit is not exceeded?

Continuing on Sunny and Enoch

As far as I can work it out everything Enoch Powell thought, did or believed in is, according to Sunny, to be rejected because the man was a racist.

I\’m just wondering what his alleged racism has to do with any of the following:

he was a staunch deflationist, or in modern terms a monetarist, and a believer in market forces.

Should we reject monetarism because Powell was a racist*? Monetarism is, after all, pretty much orthodox economic theory these days. Everyone agrees that there is a link between the money supply, its growth, and inflation.

during the 1960s was an advocate of free market policies which at the time were seen as extreme and unworkable

I certainly advocate free market policies: should I reject these because Powell was a racist?

Powell advocated the privatisation of the Post Office and the telephone network as early as 1964,

Should we reverse the privatisation of BT becuse Powell was a racist? Should the EU be decried as a racist organisation because they are insisting upon competition in postal services?

wanted the Conservative Party to become a modern businesslike party, freed from its old aristocratic and \”old boy network\” associations.

Should the Tories fire every candidate that the Dukes do not approve of because Powell was a racist?

On 27 July 1959 Powell gave his speech on Hola Camp of Kenya, where eleven Mau Mau were killed after refusing work in the camp. Powell noted that some MPs had described the eleven as \”sub-human\” but Powell responded by saying: \”In general, I would say that it is a fearful doctrine, which must recoil upon the heads of those who pronounce it, to stand in judgment on a fellow human being and to say, \’Because he was such-and-such, therefore the consequences which would otherwise flow from his death shall not flow\’.\”[30] Powell also disagreed with the notion that because it was in Africa then different methods were acceptable:

\”Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, \’We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home\’. We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What we can do in Africa, where we still govern and where we no longer govern, depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which this country acts and the way in which Englishmen act. We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility\”

Should we abandon the universality of human rights because Powell was a racist?

In this job he was responsible for promoting an ambitious ten-year programme of general hospital building and for beginning the neglect of the huge psychiatric institutions.

Should we tear down the hospitals, end care in the community because Powell was a racist?

In 1993 however Powell claimed that his policy could have worked but had not.

Does care in the community work or not work because Powell was a racist?

Later, he oversaw the employment of a large number of Commonwealth immigrants by the understaffed National Health Service.

Should all the Jamaicans** be fired from the NHS because Powell was a racist?

To anyone with more than half a functioning brain cell there is no connection whatsoever between Powell\’s views on race and immigration and whether the above thoughts, proposals and actions are desirable or not.

It is entirely possible to advocate one, all, several or none of the above ideas and acknowledge that they come in part from Powell without needing to agree with him on race or immigration: without even agreeing with his real views, rather than the caricature often presented.

Before I went looking for what Powell had done over his career I would not have said that I was a Powellite. Now, just for the one point made above, his belief in the universality of human rights, (the quote is from a speech which Dennis Healey said was one of the great ones that he observed in his time in The Commons) I would now be entirely happy to describe myself as a Powellite, and to be so described by others.

Indeed, I would be amazed if Sunny did not also agree with that speech and that attitude, making Sunny a Powellite as well, whatever Powell\’s views on race and immigration were.

*Please note, it is Sunny alleging the racism.

** As an example.

Arguing the Sunny Hundal way

Allow me, if I may, to adpot Sunny Hundal\’s form of logic for a moment:

As a side-note, I love the way Mr Eugenides compares my earlier defence of Virendra Sharma over Subash Chandra Bose as the same as defending Enoch Powell. Erm yeah. One was a high-ranking British politician who warned that black and white people mixing would lead to race war. The other was a lowly freedom fighter trying to get rid of the British Raj from India who had ruled his country for centuries and killed millions of people in the process. Obviously both are roughly in the same situation. By the same measure Churchill is a dictator who should never be spoken off highly forever.

Yes, Enoch Powell was a man who spent years of his life fighting the fascists.

During October 1939 Powell enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, almost a month after returning home. Powell enlisted in the ranks as an Australian. During later years he recorded his appointment from private to lance-corporal in his Who\’s Who entry, on other occasions describing it as a greater promotion than entering the Cabinet. He was trained for a commission after, whilst working in a kitchen, answering the question of an inspecting officer with a Greek proverb. He was commissioned on the General List in 1940, but almost immediately transferred to the Intelligence Corps. During October 1941, as a Lieutenant, Powell was posted to Cairo and transferred back to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was soon promoted to the rank of Major. He helped plan the attack on Rommel\’s supply lines, as well as the Battle of El Alamein. Powell was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in August 1942.

Twelve months later, during August 1943 he was posted to Delhi. Though he served in Africa with the Desert Rats, Powell himself never actually experienced combat, serving for most of his military career as a staff officer. It was in Algiers that the beginning of Powell\’s dislike of the United States was planted. After talking with some senior American officials, he became convinced that one of America\’s main war aims was to destroy the British Empire. Writing home on 16 February 1943, Powell stated: \”I see growing on the horizon the greater peril than Germany or Japan ever were… our terrible enemy, America….\”[11]

In 1943 Powell was awarded the military MBE.

Powell\’s conviction of the anti-British attitude of the Americans continued during the war. Powell cut out and retained all his life an article from the New Statesman newspaper of 13 November 1943, in which the American Clare Boothe Luce said in a speech that Indian independence would mean that the \”USA will really have won the greatest war in the world for democracy\”.[12]

He desperately wanted to go to the Far East to help the fight against Japan because \”the war in Europe is won now, and I want to see the Union Flag back in Singapore\” before, Powell thought, the Americans beat Britain to it.[13]

Powell attempted to join the Chindits and jumped into a taxicab to bring the matter up with Orde Wingate[14] but his duties and rank precluded the assignment.

Powell began the war as the youngest professor in the Commonwealth; he ended it as the youngest Brigadier in the British army, one of the very few men of the entire war to rise from Private to Brigadier (another being Fitzroy Maclean). Powell felt guilty for having survived when many of those he had met during his journey through the ranks had not. When once asked how he would like to be remembered, he at first answered \”Others will remember me as they will remember me\”, but when pressed he replied \”I should like to have been killed in the war.\”[15]

Note that even the British Army does not promote someone from Private to Brigadier just because they have some Latin and Greek.

Bose on the other hand:

His stance did not change with the outbreak of the Second World War, which he saw as an opportunity to take advantage of British weakness. At the outset of the war, he went away from India and travelled to the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan, seeking an alliance with the aim of attacking the British in India. With Japanese assistance, he re-organised and later led the Indian National Army, formed from Indian prisoners-of-war and plantation workers from British Malaya, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia, against British forces. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military assistance, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile and regrouped and led the Indian National Army in battle against the allies at Imphal and in Burma.

Bose fought for an with the fascists. Indeed, if Powell had had his request granted to join the Chindits he would have fought directly against Bose and his fascist allies.

By continuing Sunny\’s logic we should all therefore be supporting the BNP for they are indeed fighting with, not against, fascism. Or something.

More seriously, I wonder what his opinion of Vlasov and the Russian Army of Liberation is?

Veronica Berlusconi

Sorry, I just find this very amusing. And amusingly done as well:

But it’s a bit rich for Veronica to be getting on her high horse. Whenever she emotes about her husband “consorting with minors” — insofar as you can register emotion with a face that has been as surgically enhanced as hers — you can’t help thinking that it serves her right.

She was not the first Signora Berlusconi. Silvio was happily married with two children to Carla Elvira Dall’Oglio when he encountered Veronica. She was acting in a play that required her to go topless for artistic purposes. By the time Berlusconi divorced Carla in 1985, he and Veronica had three children.

In short, it’s a little over the top for Veronica to complain now that Mr B is an adulterer. If he weren’t, she wouldn’t be in her present position.

Neal Lawson is a cretin, isn\’t he?

…the official closure earlier this month of Britain\’s only wind turbine blade manufacturing plant, Vestas, is a sharp reminder of the failure of blind reliance on free markets to solve the economic and climate change crises. The plant\’s closure, with the loss of 400 jobs, was blamed on the slow pace of growth in the UK\’s wind turbine market and the drawn out local planning process to agree projects.

The definitely, absolutely not, in no way whatsoever, not free market planning process leading to the failure of a company is evidence of a failure in reliance upon free markets?

The man really is a cretin.

Britain almost couldn\’t be better placed to profit from this emergent sector. We are one of the windiest countries anywhere in the world. We already have engineering expertise for offshore windfarms from exploiting our dwindling gas and oil reserves. The skill sets of our ailing car manufacturing industry, together with our aerospace industry, are easily transferable to wind turbine manufacturing.

More howling stupidity.

There\’s a very large difference between having a comparative advantage in exploiting wind power and in manufacturing wind power. We might have an advantage in both, we might have an advantage in neither. But to say that because we\’re a windy island we\’re therefore going to be better at manufacturing windmills is insane.

It is exactly like saying that because we eat more chocolate than anyone else (which I think we do actually) then we\’re going to be better at growing cocoa than anyone else. An idea so obviously insane that a functioning adult would reject it out of hand.

The plan, which rhetorically at least has cross-party support, could create up to half a million more jobs in the UK.

Neal bubba, jobs are a cost, not a benefit. Try, at least, to get that simple idea into your cranium.

Bold Keynesian bailouts by Alistair Darling and Lord Mandelson of other parts of the economy, notably the finance sector and car industries, have saved them from catastrophe.

Christ Almighty, you gibbering, spasming moron. By propping up the car industry in its present form you have just stopped the skill set you so admire from moving over into making windmills. Are you ignorant of opportunity costs as well? Jeebus, which window has he got his tongue stuck to?

OK, The Tobin Tax passes that test then.

Ritchie and Larry were in favour. And this point was made:

Ah yes, but is Will Hutton in favour? That would seal the deal

Yes, he is and the deal is sealed.

Turner thinks that Britain should call for the introduction of an international transactions tax – a bit like stamp duty – on the trading of all international financial securities, assets and derivatives. This so-called Tobin tax, after Nobel Prize winner James Tobin who first proposed it, would reduce the volatility, volumes and general craziness while striking at excess bank profitability and huge bonuses. The proceeds could be used, as Turner said in his Prospect interview, as a nice source of income to finance global public good ranging from poverty alleviation to health.

So yes, we\’ve our three leftie luminaries about taxation stating that the way to make markets more efficient is to make them more inefficient.

Well done lads, true genius.

The derivatives markets value is four times larger than the underlying assets they are allegedly hedging.

Oh my word Willy, only just spotted that? Derivatives markets are always hugely larger than the underlying assets. Wheat futures are vastly larger than the entire global wheat crop….secondary traading of shares is vastly larger than primary issuance. In fact, they have to be larger, for what the secondary, futures and derivatives markets are about is shifting, dispersing, risk and you can\’t do that effectively if risks are going from a larger pool of money to a smaller one. That\’s concentrating risks, precisely not what we\’re trying to do.

What is the City doing that is so important that the financial services sector has increased by a third while its share of corporate profits have doubled?

It\’s taking part in the international division and specialisation of labour, that\’s what it\’s doing. Just as Rolls Royce makes a third of all jet engines and turbines globally, Scotland makes 100% of Grand Theft Auto globally (at least I\’ve so been told) and China makes 150% of all cheap tatty tchotke, The City has a share of the international financial markets larger than Britain\’s share of the global economy.

It is, very simply, David Ricardo in action, stuff we\’ve known about since 1817: about time you caught up with modern thinking in economics, ain\’t it?

But just imagine how electrifying it would be if Gordon Brown made a speech along Turner\’s lines, proposed a royal commission to assess what kind of financial services industry Britain now needs and committed himself to trying to find international consensus on a Tobin tax. Intellectually, the case is unanswerable.

No, it\’s not that the case is intellectually unanswerable, there\’s a reasonable outline of an answer above. It\’s that your case for it is intellectually incoherent. Pointing out that said case comes from Will Hutton would simply be to repeat myself.

Uranium in coal

This Observer piece is a curious mish mash.

But an Observer investigation has now uncovered disturbing evidence to suggest a link between the contamination and the region\’s coal-fired power stations. It is already known that the fine fly ash produced when coal is burned contains concentrated levels of uranium and a new report published by Russia\’s leading nuclear research institution warns of an increased radiation hazard to people living near coal-fired thermal power stations.

Yup, indeed, we know that. The radio-nucleide (spelling?) emissions from coal burning are far larger than the emissions from the nuclear cycle itself.

Yes, large amounts of coal burning could indeed have effects both from heavy metal poisoning itself and also from genetic defects caused by the low level radiation. Yes, we know this.

However, the question is, given that we ourselves were subject as a nation to this for a generation or two, why would the relatively recent introduction of the technology into the Punjab have such a large effect? A question to which I really don\’t know the answer: maybe it did have that effect here and we just didn\’t notice?

Or perhaps there\’s something else:

It was staff at those clinics who first voiced concerns about the increasing numbers of admissions involving severely handicapped children. They were being born with hydrocephaly, microcephaly, cerebral palsy, Down\’s syndrome and other complications. Several have already died.

Hmm. Bit of a rag bag of symptoms there. Some genetic, some possibly heavy metal poisoning but cerebral palsy? Isn\’t that oxygen starvation during birth?

Dr Carin Smit, the South African clinical metal toxicologist who arranged for the tests to be carried out in Germany, said that the situation could no longer be ignored. \”There is evidence of harm for these children in my care and… it is an imperative that their bodies be cleaned up and their metabolisms be supported to deal with such a devastating presence of radioactive material,\” she said.

Ah, and there we have the first sight of a possible nutter. Chelation therapy anyone?

2. Defeat Autism Now! Practitioner – Attended and am accredited by the Autism Research Institute, USA, to
offer bio-medical recovery consultations for individuals with autism.

We also get this:

There have also been claims that the contamination may have been exacerbated by depleted uranium carried on the wind from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At a seminar in Amritsar in April, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, a former chief of the naval staff, suggested that areas within a 1,000-mile radius of Kabul – including Punjab – may be affected by depleted uranium.

No, sorry, just ain\’t gonna happen. The relative amounts make it simply not possible.

As I say, this Observer piece is a bit of a mish mash. Yes, it really is true that coal burning releases both uranium and thorium. Yes, both heavy metals and yes, both radioactive. No, not things you want the children or anyone else to be ingesting.

However, the presence of nutters and nutters\’ theories in the piece makes one wonder.

1) Are the diseases actually being caused by heavy/radioactive metals exposure?Or have we got every disease extant being blamed upon them?

2) Is the exposure coming from the coal fired plants or changes in the source of water?

3) What should be done about it all? And no, using someone who thinks that chelation will cure autism ain\’t gonna be part of the solution. Sorry Dr. Smit.

Is this true?

But herein lies Defra\’s amazing error. The legislation it depends on to make this claim, regulation 244/2009, refers quite specifically to \”household lamps\”. So the EU has not made it illegal to \”place on the market\” bulbs which are not intended for household use. Defra thus has no power to ban the import or sale of incandescent bulbs for use in shops, offices, factories, outhouses or anywhere which isn\’t a \”household\”. And how are shops to decide, when asked for such bulbs, where a customer wishes to use them?

EU legislation is so piecemeal and complex (deliberately so) that it can be extremely difficult to work out exactly what is the legal position at any one time.

But it wouldn\’t surprise me at all to find that the above is true.

And if it is, it just takes us back to a corollary of Hayek\’s old socialist computation problem: a modern economy is so complex that intervention in it is impossible to manage in the level of detail that the planners aim at.

Well, yes Polly

But in the last decade Labour has run hard up a down escalator to stop a natural pull towards inequality growing greater.

If it\’s so natural, why the fight against it?

Bubonic plague is natural and we fight against that, sure.

A mother\’s love for her newborn is natural and we applaud that.

Why is it that inequality of income (of the sort of level we have, .5 Gini pre tax and benefits, .34 or so after, as compared with Sweden\’s .48 pre and .25 post, the US\’ .48 and .38 or so) is assumed to be like bubonic plague and not a mother\’s love?

No, quoting The Spirit Level will not win you this argument. It is, to put it politely, junk (look, when someone moves from, in one paragraph, noting the declining marginal value of increased wealth to stating that therefore more growth does *no* good you know you are not reading science. When those same people note the link between income inequality and longer working hours but carefully avoid including Japan in their calculations then you know you\’re dealing with hokum.) and does not make the points which win prizes.


Not sure we\’re going to take you all that seriously on this farming business old boy.

If, as is possible, the price of oil surges during the next decade, then using nitrogen fertilisers, which are derived from oil, will become less feasible.

They\’re derived from natural gas actually, not oil.

Pensions are just deferred pay

PwC compared the financial fortunes of a public sector employee who remains in civil service employment from age twenty-one to retirement at age sixty with someone born in the same year, who spends his whole working life in the private sector. The public sector worker would receive a pension of £28,900 compared to just £11,600 for the private sector worker.

And given that pensions are simply deferred pay we can no longer maintain the fiction that the public sector is badly paid compared to the private.

Once more into the Ritchie dear friends

Yes, at it again is Mr. Murphy. Here\’s Ritchie and here\’s the piece he\’s riffing off.

In a nutshell, that tax competition between US States doesn\’t lead to all that many extant businesses moving means that tax competition is bad, M\’Kay?

Nowhere do either of them manage to grasp the important point, that the economy is not a zero sum game. There is not some pre-ordained number of businesses which State are in competition to host. Nor are we limited to competing to host only those businesses that are extant.

In fact, probably the most important number of all is net business creation. Competition for those might be had through tax competition (indeed, clearly is).

We can go even further. I think the median age at death of a business is something like 4 years (for we are endlessly told that 50% of businesses go bust, close down or fold in some manner by their fourth birthday): so the nett business formation numbers are important, yes, but the gross business formation number is going to be, in any one year, a reasonable percentage of the total business stock.

Anyone want to look up the gross (or nett) business formation numbers for Nevada and California (adjusted for population, of course)?

I think we might find at least a correlation between low corporate tax rates and business formation. I.e. that tax competition does have a beneficial effect.