September 2009

Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg

Mr Guttenberg does not need a job. He gets more than he needs from his family estate in Bavaria. If duty impels him, German politics will be all the richer.

I\’m just wondering how The Guardian would take my using a similar argument for a British politician that I\’ve worked with, Lord Willoughby de Broke.

Something like a 12th century title, family estate, financially independent, does it all out of a sense of duty, not necessity.

Just cannot see them buying it somehow.

They didn\’t buy it for Michael Ancram either.

Idiot question

How can we help the NHS to nurture social solidarity while retaining the essentials of our cherished free society?

Yes, I know, this is some sub-editor, not (Sir) Michael White.

But it\’s an idiot question all the same. The function of the NHS, as with any other health care system, is to aid in preventing those diseases which can be prevented, treat those that are treatable and palliate those that are neither.

We can still then have the arguments about efficiency (how well does the system do these things) and equity (does everyone get equal access) but there\’s no room for us to wibble about \”social solidarity\” at all.

We might come up with different structures depending upon our extant prejudices about the desirability of efficiency or equity, but that\’s very different from thinking that the health service is one of those things that either can or should make us love our neighbour.

What Polly?

Best plan was a National Care Service, free homecare for the elderly with no more means testing, paid for by cutting NHS research

Eh? This is a good idea?

In the middle of a technological revolution (for that is indeed what is happening in health care) we\’re going to cut the research budget? How friggin\’ much of mortgaging the future to pay for the present do you damn well want?

And you seem also to not understand the basic economics of health care (yes, I know, there\’s a surprise).

Because health care is largely a service it will always become more expensive relative to goods and manufactures as the country gets richer (The Baumol Effect, go look it up). The only way out of this bind is to have more investment in research so that we turn the service part of health care into something manufactured.

This is what we do with pills for example: they are the mechanisation of health care for a particular complaint. We want more of this, not less.


(A fuller explanation is here.)

Oh aye

The Prime Minister also pledged the creation of a £1bn \”national investment corporation\” to provide finance for businesses…

Seriously, does anyone at all think that some bunch of vote stealers (whatever coloured rosette they wear at election time) is going to be able to allocate capital either efficiently or equitably?

That the ability to kiss babies makes one a great investment banker?


Sexual satisfaction keeps women in good health

Having a shag makes you feel better.


according to a study that suggests improving the quality of sex could be key to wellbeing.

Having a good shag makes you feel better.

Absolutely amazing what scientists can find out these days, eh?

So, anyone need cheering up then?

The costs of smoking

One in 20 hospital admissions in England is due to smoking and treating illnesses related to the habit costs the NHS £5.2 billion a year, official statistics suggest.

Given that baccy taxes bring in around £8 billion a year the NHS is still in profit then.

Good, people are paying the external, societal, costs of their actions and enjoying themselves in the process.

No more need be done then.

Ah, no Libby

No, no, that\’s not the point at all:

Government and its regulations exist to defend us from incompetent or bad strangers, not from our mates.

Government is about the exercise of power over others. The expression of the desire to make sure that everyone does as you think they should, not as they would wish.

That\’s why this democracy shtick is only the least worst of all the options: because of the lust for power that those who are prepared to stand for election have.

Quote of the day

The first time I arrived in Hollywood for the Grammy Awards, I thought I’d bump in to people who mattered, such as Ry Cooder or Randy Newman.

Chris Rea.

(And no, it doesn\’t happen that way.)

I\’m sorry but this is intensely stupid

The population explosion in poor countries will contribute little to climate change and is a dangerous distraction from the main problem of over-consumption in rich nations, a study has found.

It challenges claims by leading environmentalists, including Sir David Attenborough and Jonathon Porritt, that strict birth control is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The study concludes that spending billions of pounds of aid on contraception in the developing world will not benefit the climate because poor countries have such low emissions. It says that Britain and other Western countries should instead focus on reducing consumption of goods, services and energy among their own populations.

Yes, it\’s true that the destitute have low carbon emissions (although not quite as low as the report would have it: much forest clearance is slash and burn agriculture).

Yes, it\’s true, that if the children of those currently on a $ a day remain on a $ a day than the number of them won\’t make that much difference to climate change.

However, this is entirely ignoring the assumptions we\’ve already made about climate change and the causes thereof.

Which is that those on $ a day will not remain so.

So, the report as a whole is intensely stupid: we have already, in making our calculations about what climate change there might be in the future, assumed that the poor will no longer be poor. We cannot therefore turn around and say we can beat the results of that assumption we\’ve already made by saying that the number of the poor doesn\’t matter. For, as above, we\’ve already assumed that the poor will no longer be poor, thus their number does indeed matter.

Well, yes Beatrix

I don\’t share any of Philip Blond\’s views, regarding them as much to close to Franco\’s sort of fascism to be honest, but this isn\’t one of the great critiques of our time:

Red Toryism can\’t hack it because it promotes civil society at the expense of the state.

Hmm, well, it\’s a view I suppose. That compulsion through the tyranny of the majority is better than voluntary communalism and cooperation. Not one I share, but a view, certainly.

Blond\’s Red Toryism also suffers – as does Blue Labourism – from fear and loathing of the very social movements that have reinvigorated civil society over the last five decades, not least feminism.

Eh? It fails because it doesn\’t take sufficient note of civil society, that voluntary communalism and cooperation?


On that sort of logic you\’d better get back in the kitchen and bake me a pie dear. You\’re obviously not fit to be having a conversation out here with us adults.

Well, yes Poll

His pro-manufacturing, pro-R&D, pro-skills and low-carbon investment began to look like a \”white heat of technology\” winning theme. One or two slight apologies – \”less financial engineering, more real engineering\” – were not quite the banker-bashing the public yearns for, but it\’s a start. After all these painful years of Gordon Brown\’s insistence that the \”knowledge economy\” was all that could be hoped for in the \”globalised\” world, here was a boastful reminder that Britain is still the world\’s sixth biggest manufacturer. Industrial strategy was coming home. Here was Labour economic talk of growth, investment, high- speed trains and optimism.

It\’s great politics, as you say. The thing is though, how did that \”white heat of technology\” play out last time?

Ah, yes, Wislon and Heath, wasn\’t it. An utter and entire disaster: we even had someone actually drunk with alcohol, not power, trying to direct British industry. Never really understood why anyone thought that was going to work. Nor why having British industry run by people who know absolutely sweet fuck all about it is such a good idea.

I have just the sneaking suspicion that it\’s not going to work out all that well now either.

On Andy Marr\’s question to Gordon Brown about drugs

There\’s been all sorts of spluttering about the question Andy Marr asked Gordon Brown about whether he was using drugs or whatever. Sunny H has got very hoity toity about it for example.

However, here\’s something I\’ve not seen mentioned as yet.

Marr asked, something along the lines of \”many people use prescription drugs or pills to get through….are you?\” (there might have been a \”to cope with pressure\” or something in there).

To which Brown answered no.

However, the actual rumour, the gossip, was not that Brown was using valium, percocet, or other mood altering drugs at all. It was that as a result of mental illness he was using heavy duty anti-psychotics.

That\’s not quite the same thing as was asked: you could, if you were a politician, find the question Marr asked to be about drugs to deal with stress and so on. You could, again if you were a politician, quite righteously answer \”No\” to the question about using drugs to get through, to cope, just as you would answer no if you were at the time taking penicillin to deal with that toenail fungus that wouldn\’t go away.

As it happens I don\’t think Brown is taking those heavy duty anti-psychotics: I\’ve still enough faith in the political system that he would have been turfed out, if for no other reason that he\’s got the button for the Trident missiles, if he were.

But he wasn\’t asked and didn\’t answer the actual rumour, yet everyone is acting as if he was and did.

Well, that\’s that then

Lord Kinnock, the former Labour leader, has backed Gordon Brown ahead of his final conference speech before the General Election, hailing him as a \’\’definite winner\’\’.

Might as well pack up and go home now then, eh, Gordo?

Mindboggling, quite mindboggling

The clubs say:

\”What we need in this is clarification,\” said the Premier Rugby chief executive, Mark McCafferty. \”It is about establishing ground rules, such the percentage of salary that can be paid into an image rights company.\”

The Professional Rugby Players’ Association are not perturbed by the investigation. \”The only issue we would have is if we felt unfair penalties were being imposed,\” said the chief executive, Damian Hopley. \”Rugby union is enjoying a high profile and young players emerging are finding themselves fêted in a way their predecessors were not. All we want from HMRC is clarity.\”

Let’s translate that: they’re saying “What can we get away with?”

So, err, someone says \”excuse me Boss, but what actually is the law?\” and the only reason they do so is so that they can get away with something?



John Bercow yesterday pledged to halt the £5,000-a-day hunt for the mole who leaked details of MPs\’ expenses.

The Speaker said the investigation was a waste of time and money.

Well, yes, given that The Telegraph has just published a book revealing all……


Although no formal offer has been made by Kraft, the US giant best known for cheese slices and Oreo cookies, its chief executive Irene Rosenfeld has applied a classic hostile bear squeeze on the company she covets.


In what way is launching a takeover offer a bear squeeze?

That phrase usually refers to driving the price up against short sellers. What is this wibble?