February 2013

Time to clean up Execution Dock I feel

Sea Shepherd conservation group declared \’pirates\’ in US court ruling

Piracy on the High Seas with violence. And given that it is the High Seas then it is the duty of every nation to punish it.

The ruling was issued on Wednesday by chief judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th US circuit court of appeals.

In his 18-page opinion, he wrote: \”You don\’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.\”

Further, we\’ve still got this quaint idea that those who conspire to commit a crime, even those who finance one, are guilty as are those who commit the actual crime.

So, all those who have been sending Sea Shepherd money over the years, please report to Execution Dock to await your turn for the three tides thing.

I think this is quite wondrous really. I\’m sure that we\’ll find all of the usual names on the list of supporters. Everyone from Lean and Lucas through Porritt and Monbiot to every member of Greenpeace ever and the entirety of Friends of the Earth.

Some will cavil that since St. Tony\’s time we don\’t actually have the death penalty for piracy. Nor, indeed, do we still have Execution Dock. But that\’s fine: we\’ll just stick with the three tides of the Thames bit. Not as messy, rather more prolonged, but effective all the same.

Why aren\’t female Lib Dem MPs commenting on the Rennard story?

Not that I normally look to Huffington Post for seriouos news stories but this one is nicely done:

If anyone sees a female Lib Dem MP can they let us know? Given that there are only seven women out of the 56 Lib Dems in the Commons, it is rather conspicuous that only one of them has spoken publicly about the allegations against Lord Rennard.

The reasons may be varied – one MP\’s voicemail inbox was full, presumably stuffed with messages from other journalists jostling for her attention – but when contacted none of them wanted to, or was able to, talk.

For of course, what everyone wants to talk about is…..well, if prospective candidates were encouraged to bunga bunga the peer (currently an allegation, which is vehemently denied), then how much bunga bungaing did the successful candidates do?

Of course, our expectation is none, none at all. Thus the actual case being made in the allegations rather falls apart. No bunga bunga required to become a female Lib Dem MP, thus no bunga bunga demanded from those who wished to do so. Even if the allegations of the asking for it are true (vehemently denied etc) it becomes just a series of crass passes rather than an exploitation of the power system.

Ireland\’s painful adjustment

So here\’s the success that is being claimed:

\”We don\’t see a problem for sterling at present levels. We have cut costs right through the economy with an internal devaluation of 15pc or 16pc and we are now highly competitive. We can take it,\” he said.

That\’s what they\’ve had to do. Internal devaluation. Here\’s some of the costs of that:

The outburst comes a day after Irish unions reached a provisional deal with the government for a further round of public sector pay cuts averaging 5.5pc, rising to 10pc for higher earners such as doctors. This follows 14pc pay cuts already in force.


The trade unions say internal consumption has collapsed by 26pc, and investment has fallen to the lowest level in recorded Irish history. Under-employment has reached 23pc despite emigration to Canada, Australia, the US and Britain.


Irish home prices have crashed by roughly 50pc. Lenders have been disguising the damage, stretching out mortgage repayments rather the foreclosing on bad loans and crystallising losses.

That hurts: 25% pay cuts, mass unemployment, halved house prices: but of course, nominal mortgages haven\’t been reduced.

This internal devaluation stuff is pretty brutal. Rather shows up the merits of having your own currency so you can just have an external devaluation instead really, doesn\’t it?

You know, like all the economics textbooks insist?

No, there wasn\’t a double dip recession

If you change the calculation slightly that is.

Earlier today, the Office for National Statistics confirmed the economy had contracted by 0.3pc in the final quarter of last year, mainly as a result of a collapse in North Sea activity.

However, it revised up its estimates of previous quarters, and said there was 0.2pc growth in 2012, up from the zero growth it had estimated previously.

The ONS said growth in the third quarter was 1pc rather than 0.9pc and that the economy shrank in the first quarter of 2012 not by 0.2pc but by just 0.1pc.

The chief economist at the investment house said the “phantom” recessions reflected continuing weak North Sea oil and gas extraction and when that was stripped out, it revealed that there had never been a ‘double-dip’ in the UK onshore economy.

Mr Ward said North Sea oil production is supply-driven, and while it has been weak because of reserves depletion and unusual maintenance shutdowns, \”these are of no relevance to the wider economy so it is reasonable to strip out the North Sea when assessing underlying trends\”

It\’s a fair enough point.

As long as everyone knows that this adjustment is being made, it\’s a fair enough point that is. What would not be fair would be to announce that we really didn\’t have a double dip recession at all: that would be changing the scoring method for political gain, something of a no no.

Accepting that correction though, we can move on to something much more interesting. Which is who is to blame for that declining North Sea?

No, it isn\’t just that it\’s a declining resource. It\’s actually, at least partially, to do with the idiot Gordon Brown. He raised production taxes on North Sea production up over the Laffer Curve peak. There really was a fall in investment in the area when his taxes started to bite. And given Osborne\’s cut in those taxes there has now been a surge in investment.

And yes, given that we are talking about investment taxes on long term projects there is indeed a several year lag between the imposition of the tax and the effects on the level of activity. Which leaves us with an even more delightful point that we can make.

Even if we include the North Sea, Britain still wouldn\’t have had a double dip recession if it hadn\’t been for Gordon Brown and his over-taxation of the oil and gas business.

On M\’Lord Rennard

Of course:

Come the revolution, only attractive men will try to hit on women, and then only when they\’ve already said yes.

And as is pointed out, there\’s a further lovely point to be made.

So, the general accusation is that prospective female MPs were at least left with the impression that sweating the blubber would aid them in becoming actual female MPs.

At which point obviously someone has to go ask the current Lib Dem female MPs whether any of them did sweat the blubber as an aid to their moving from being prospective to actual female MPs.

Which would be a very interesting set of conversations, wouldn\’t it?

If the answer is no, none, then there\’s not really much more to be said about it all. He may have been making clumsy passes but he wasn\’t in fact using what power he had to get his knob away. The alternative would be very fun though: but I\’ll leave you to picture the implications of that.

\”I shagged my way to the top!\” is something we more usually associate with WAGs rather than MPs. Leaving aside the case of Mr. H. Harriman of course.

It works the other way around you blithering idiots!

OK, so people do, umm, \”misremember\” how much they drink. And if we look at the total amount that is sold we find out that some people, somewhere, are drinking more than the surveys say people drink.

Nationwide surveys that purport to show the ‘average’ man and women drink much less than the recommended weekly limit are seriously flawed, according to public health experts at University College London.

In these surveys, people only admit to drinking about 60 per cent of the amount that actually gets bought, said the researchers.

Unless vast amounts are getting spilled or poured down plugholes, the discrepancy suggests people are being economical with the truth when it comes to their drinking habits.

The implication is that far more people are binge drinking than current estimates predict – particularly affluent women.

In addition, the research suggests the ‘average’ drinker is actually knocking back at least the weekly limit, week-in week-out, and probably more.

OK, take out the emotional language there and we\’re all agreed. Total alcohol consumption by one measure is higher than alcohol consumption by another. It\’s the implications of this that are important:

Sir Richard Thompson, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the study estimated 44 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women were exceeding weekly alcohol consumption guidelines.

“This contradicts the claims of the alcohol industry that only a small minority drink too much, and is yet more evidence of the need for strong government action, including a minimum unit price for alcohol,” he said.

\”The UK’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is putting more and more strain on our hospitals as we struggle to cope with the rising tide of harm caused to health by alcohol misuse.\”

No you blithering idiot, it works the other way around. For we also have the actual figures for how much damage is done by alcohol consumption, we have the NHS records. If we compare that total damage done to what people say they drink then we get one level of sensitivity, of consumption to damage. However, if we compare that higher total amount sold to that same amount of damage done then we get a different sensitivity. And that sensitivity is lower. We are getting the same amount of damage from a greater amount of alcohol consumption. Therefore alcohol is less dangerous than we thought it was before.

The policy implications of that being that we need to worry less about how much people drink. The case for minimum pricing is weakened.

Just in case there are any public health fools who read this blog (unlikely, I know) try this.

We know the numbers of exploding livers, that\’s from the NHS stats. We have two estimations of how much booze is drunk. What people say and the higher, what is actually sold (and if we\’re honest, there\’s a thid, even higher number, adding in that which is bought and shipped in from the EU, either legally or illegally).

So, just to give some pretend numbers. Under the first reported drinking volumes, 0.6 of consumption leads to 1.0 exploded liver (or fractions of, units, whatever). Under the second, looking at legal sales, 1.0 of consumption leads to 1.0 of exploding livers. (And presumably, adding in EU sales, 1.3 or something of consumption leads to 1.0 of liver kablooie).

That is what has been found from the above revelations.

And the implication of this is that alcohol consumption is less dangerous in terms of liver fricassee than was previously thought. Thus the case for limiting alcohol consumption is weaker than it was.

Blimey, don\’t they teach logic in medical schools?

Getting Iran\’s nuclear stuff wrong again

The latest report is that Irtan is now running a heavy water plant.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, a US think tank, if the heavy-water plant reaches full capacity, it would produce about 20lb of plutonium a year.

No, just no.

A heavy water plant produces heavy water. This can then be used in a particular type of reactor. One that uses natural uranium rather than enriched. And the wastes from that particular type of reactor then contain rather more plutonium and tritium than is usual from other types of reactor. And then you\’ve got to extract the plutonium from those wastes.

The country still lacks the technology to reprocess plutonium and use it for a weapon.

That heavy water plant does not produce plutonium at all.

It is one of the steps along they way to being able to produce it, yes. But it\’s also one of the steps along the way to a possible civilian nuclear programme too.

My personal view is that yes, of course they\’re trying to make a bomb or three. But I do wish the technical details of the reporting about it were better.

This doesn\’t bloody work about gay priests

If this is the level of thought among \”professional Catholics\” thn the Church is in more trouble than I thought.

But the Catholic Church is not the same as society at large. It defiantly stands out against the tolerant tide of a secular and sceptical society and claims to represent a more enduring set of values. And in many ways that is a positive thing, when it comes to challenging prevailing economic arguments, or rampant individualism, consumerism and the celebrity culture.

It is why I keep going to Mass every Sunday and send my children to a Catholic school.

You\’re going to the wrong church for that matey. That\’s the CoE. One Nation Labour at prayer. But it\’s this about gay priests that is worse:

It is impossible to sit in the pews and not be concerned by the present unhealthy state of affairs where a Church that in essence preaches that homosexuality is wrong attracts and admits so many gay men into its priesthood.

No, the teaching is not that homosexuality is wrong. It is that sexual acts that do not lead to the possibility of conception is wrong. Homosexual acts cannot lead to conception therefore they are wrong. There is no stricture at all that \”being\” is wrong or sinful. It is acts here which are, not desires.

If we are to have the sort of root-and-branch examination Benedict wants of why the child abuse scandal happened, then the question of what prompts a vocation needs to be examined. I am not being so crass as to suggest that allowing a married priesthood would solve this problem at a stroke. Some of the most notorious child abusers are “happily married men”. And neither am I falling into the same mistake so often made by Church leaders who, knowingly or not, equate homosexuality with paedophilia.

I agree that a married priesthood would be a useful idea. But this doesn\’t then solve that gay priest problem, does it? For the act would still be incapable of concenption and thus is sinful.

Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that all this hypocrisy around sexuality has to be renounced, if only so we can get on with the real business of the gospels.

But this isn\’t hypocrisy about sexuality. This is one of the core teachings of the Church. You\’re entirely free to reject it (I do for example, which is why I don\’t call myself a Catholic). Sex is just great, one of God\’s gifts to us all. But it must be open to hte possibility of conception: thus no to contraception, no to gay sex and, yes, no to certain practices even within a Catholic marriage.

There are plenty of churches out there that don\’t teach this and if you want one that doesn\’t you should go join one.

Numbers and journalists don\’t really mix, do they?

One a Telegraph slide show at the top we get:

Value of money slides 30pc in 30 years as cost of goods rockets

And in the caption, on the same page, we get:

The value of money has plummeted by 67pc over the last 30 years as the cost of everyday goods has rocketed, research has found. According to a study by Lloyds TSB Private Banking, a three-fold increase in retail prices means that someone would need £299 today to have the equivalent purchasing power of £100 back in 1982. Its analysis of official and commercial figures found that a loaf of bread has increased more than three-fold in the last three decades, from 37p in 1982 to £1.24 by 2012, while the price of a pint of milk has increased at a slower rate, doubling from 20p 30 years ago to 46p.

A decline of 30% is different from a decline of 67%. A decline to 30% is very similar to a decline of 67% though.

And the really important point?

If you want to compare the value of a £100.00 Commodity in 1982 there are three choices. In 2011 the relative:
real price of that commodity is £288.60
labour value of that commodity is £429.10
income value of that commodity is £478.30

If you want to compare the value of a £100.00 Income or Wealth , in 1982 there are three choices. In 2011 the relative:
historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £288.60
economic status value of that income or wealth is £478.30
economic power value of that income or wealth is £536.50

Real wages are substantially up over the time period.

This isn\’t sexism, this is sex

Slightly more intimidating was the time, ironically at a political party conference, when a man who was then the editor of a national newspaper started propositioning me in the bar, despite knowing I was in a long-term relationship, and despite my making it patently clear that I wasn’t interested. I quickly made my excuses and left, as did the women allegedly targeted by Lord Rennard, but the minute I got up to my room, my phone rang. It was the very same editor asking if he could share my room because he had omitted to book himself into a hotel. I gave him short shrift, but the experience was intimidating and unpleasant.

The worlds I inhabit are politics and the media, but women in all walks of life know that this kind of routine sexism exists in any workplace.

This isn\’t sexism. This is sex. This is how male mammals behave.

This isn\’t discrimination against (or among) women on the basis that they are women and not men. This part of the dance around the perpetuation of the species.

And yes, the reason that men of high status do it more often than those of low is because in that very dance high status means you\’ll get your leg over more often. That\’s, at least in part, what drives men into seeking high status. Expensive watches, sports cars, lavishing cash on expensive champagne, being a boss, these are all (however some will laugh at them) signifiers of high status. And thus more legovers. This is why they are done.

No, really, there is good academic research to show that splashing the cash in front of the laydeez does indeed gain more sex from them. As does pretty much any other form of status. Guitarists and singers in rock bands are higher status than the drummers in them (drum stools are often higher status than drummers) and yes, they do get more groupies.

Seriously: I\’m all in favour of the birds getting a fair go at doing all these lovely jobs. Would be a pity to leave half the talents of the species at the stove really. But a little more attention paid to reality would be welcome.

All of these male behaviours might indeed be boorish: possibly even caddish. But if they didn\’t work they wouldn\’t be done. And the simple truth is that they do work often enough that men will carry on doing them. High status gets more gonad massaging. Thus men pursue high status as a way of getting more gonad massaging. And at the end of it all there\’s this: if there weren\’t women who rewarded high male status with gonad massaging then men wouldn\’t pursue it and the behaviour would simply stop.

Italian election results: I\’m Lovin\’ It

Rather than just a little giggle or a snort of laughter, I find myself wracked by guffaws at this:

The eurozone’s debt crisis strategy was in chaos on Monday night after anti-austerity parties appeared on track to win a majority of seats in the Italian parliament, vastly complicating efforts to forge a government able to carry through EU-imposed reforms.

I always did think that Italy would be where the wheels came off the project.

In an earthquake result, the Five Star protest movement of comedian Beppe Grillo looked likely to emerge as the biggest single party in the lower house. The scourge of bankers and corrupt elites, Mr Grillo has campaigned for a return to the lira and a restructuring of Italy’s €1.9 trillion (£1.64 trillion) public debt.

The conservative bloc of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi looked poised to win the senate, coming back from the political grave with vows to rip up the EU’s austerity plans and push through tax cuts to pull Italy out of deep slump.

“The majority of Italians have clearly voted against the Brussels consensus. That is a damning indictment,” said Mats Persson from Open Europe.

The important point being that the Italian budget is, pretty much, in primary balance. Their continuing borrowing is solely to cover interest and maturing bonds. There is therefore, without too much chaos, the possibility of their simply saying bugger it. Declare a default and carry on. Or return to the Lira. For they don\’t have to keep borrowing in order to keep the governmental show on the road.

And don\’t we have an interesting political result here? If a majority of the demos doesn\’t want to follow the EU line, well, why should that demos be forced to do so?

I blame Harriet Harman myself

Report finds shocking absence of women from UK public life

The number of women in senior levels of the judiciary, education, the arts, finance, the civil service and government is plummeting, according to a new report, Sex and Power 2013. Women\’s representation has gone into reverse

The reason being that we\’ve tried this and we ended up with the likes of Harriet Harman running things.

More women in politics? Sure, why the hell not? Then we realise the reality of such an ambition. The type of women who rise to the top are those like Harman. Those that would best be described as my (thankfully) ex- mother in law.

We\’ve tried sharing rule with ghastly harridans and found that we don\’t like being ruled by ghastly harridans. Tant pis.

On Catholic priestly celibacy

As Mr. Thompson points out, in many parts of the world it\’s more honoured in the breach than anything else.

In some parts of the world it\’s heterosexual marriage, in others the discreet \”housekeeper\” approach (a favourite in rural Ireland for a long, long, time) and today in urban areas homosexuality of a more or less discreet kind.

But the real argument against said requirement for celibacy is the way it came about in the first place. It was power politics, not anything to do with doctrine.

As the Church became a large and powerful landowner then there was concern that the inheritance of church property would lead to the fragmentation of that power. The answer thus being to not allow marriage among the officers of the Church. Any children that were begot (and it was indeed common) would be by definition illegitimate and thus not able to inherit.

This is not, to put it mildly, a concern of the current Church.

In essence, a sensible and reasonable thing to do would be to go back to the division pre-11 th and or 12 th centuries (it was around then, can\’t quite recall). The monastic orders are celibate, the priesthood in general is not.

Lionel Blair\’s wife?


Before I was married I was a spender and then when I married I became a saver. My wife is more sensible than me but we have spent sometimes too.

I was always under the impression that he danced on the other side of the aisle.

That\’ll teach me to conflate camp with gay won\’t it?

So what actually is the Rennard accusation?

Some of the alleged unwanted advances go back many years, prompting questions about why the party had failed to act earlier.

On Sunday a spokesman for Lord Rennard repeated his denials that he had pestered female staff or offered funding to candidates in return for sexual favours.

Is it:

1) Over the years he said \”Hey Babe, fancy a shag?\” to some of the people he met through his political work?

2) Over the years he said \”Babe, to get on in this party you have to shag me\”?

The point being that 1) is how you get an extra-marital legover. You ask people if they are interested.

2) Is pretty sleazy but no more than that. The trade of a position of power for sex.

I think I\’d agree that if it was 2) then it was \”wrong\” in hte sense that Something Must Be Done. But I am equally sure that if it was 1) then this is just normal life folks.

President Obama is going to cut corporate taxes by 50% and fire 97% of the Federal Bureaucracy. Hurrah!

Hi, everybody. Our top priority as a country right now should be doing everything we can to grow our economy and create good, middle class jobs.

Agreed, agreed.

Because the American people have worked too hard for too long to see everything they’ve built undone by partisan recklessness in Washington. …

Making America a magnet for good jobs. Equipping our people with the skills required to fill those jobs. Making sure your hard work leads to a decent living. That’s what this city should be focused on like a laser. And I’m going to keep pushing folks here to remember that.

That is what he means, yes? That to create all these great middle class jobs he\’s going to fire all the upper middle clase suckwits who live off the Federal Dime?

Blimey, I\’m all in favour I have to say. Nice to see that they\’ve got a sensible Republican back in the White House.

On this compensation for slaves story

Yes, indeed, the British Government did compensate slave owners when they abolished colonial slavery. Damn good thing they did too.

For it was the thing which got slavery abolished. Without the compensation it\’s extremely doubtful that it would have passed: and it certainly wouldn\’t have passed when it did.

The true scale of Britain\’s involvement in the slave trade has been laid bare in documents revealing how the country\’s wealthiest families received the modern equivalent of billions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished.

The previously unseen records show exactly who received what in payouts from the Government when slave ownership was abolished by Britain

Think through the flow of money for a moment. At the time the British State was largely supported by two sets of taxes. Those on the rich and those on commodities like, erm, tea, sugar and tobacco. The products, largely so, of that slave economy. The Government borrows money which it pays to free the slaves. It then collects the money again in taxes either from the rich or from those who use the products of that now ex-slave economy. And the original borrowing was largely from the sort of rich people who owned slaves anyway.

In the meantime, the slaves are free. Sounds like a reasonable enough plan to me.

And there\’s one truly terrible statistical fault here:

The British government paid out £20m to compensate some 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of their \”property\” when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain\’s colonies in 1833. This figure represented a staggering 40 per cent of the Treasury\’s annual spending budget and, in today\’s terms, calculated as wage values, equates to around £16.5bn.

\”Wage values\”, eh? So we\’ll take the highest possible measure of inflation over that period to use as our comparator, eh? Using a more standard CPI stylee measurement it would amount to some £1.4 billion in today\’s money. And all of the various amounts received by the various families should be reduced by the same proportion.

And finally, what is perhaps really important here.

Britain spent more in the years 1807 to the 1930s in the suppression of slavery than it earned in the profits from the slavery before that.

Finally finally: did slavery exist? Yup. Was it a bad thing? Yup. Did our forefathers abolish it? Yup. Good, eh?

Willy Hutton really is quite amazing

Today it\’s all about the property market. About how houses are too expensive and Something Must Be Done!

At which point he entirely fails to mention, even to dismiss it, the simple fact that cheaper housing will only come about through a relaxtion of the planning system. If, as is indeed true, 50% or more of the value of a house in the south of England is in the piece of paper that allows a house to be built, then the obvious answer to the question of how we get cheaper houses is to issue more pieces of paper.

To propose absolutely any reform of the housing system without remarking upon this truth is simply to be ignorant of the subject under discussion.

But then this is Hutton, isn\’t it?

Questions in The Observer we can answer

Watkins draws comparisons with energy. \”We need to ask ourselves: where will our food come from in the future? We\’ve got to have food security.\”

Quite true. We don\’t want to go to the larder and find that it\’s empty, that\’s for sure.

So, how about expanding English farming then?

It is only now becoming apparent just how terrible sodden 2012 has been for farmers, particularly those in the north-west and south-west. Wheat yields were at their lowest level since the 1980s, the potato crop at its lowest since 1976. The oilseed rape harvest and barley yields also suffered. Livestock farmers suffered too. The wet weather conditions sent the price of animal feed soaring as farmers were forced to keep their animals indoors.

England\’s a fairly small place. So when one are gets shitty weather it\’s not unlikely that all areas will get shitty weather. So if we were to rely upon English farming for all English food we\’d find ourselves locked into something pro-cyclical. When food\’s in short supply it\’s in short supply everywhere in the country.

Which isn\’t a great contribution to \”food security\”.

What we actually want is some counter-cyclical plan. One that doesn\’t depend upon linked events. One, for example, that allows us to source food from outside the area that will all be affected by weather at the same time and in the same manner.

Concern is shifting to sheep farmers, who are losing as much as £29 for each lamb they sell, owing to the rising costs of feed, wet weather and increased competition from New Zealand farmers who can undercut them.

Ah, yes, that\’s it. Buy food from farmers subject to different weather systems. That reduces reliance upon those who will, in a correlated manner, suffer from whatever plague, flood or hailstones affect any specific geographic area.

So, yes, let\’s have food security. In the obvious and simple manner: through trade.

Well, yes, I would describe politicians in this manner

At fiery rallies, shedelivers similar nationalist rhetoric in front of images of Evita. But according to a former Kirchner insider, she now also suffers the same delusions of grandeur and power.

“She is a paranoid, arrogant person which in turn hides a deep insecurity,” he said. “She’s also a very mistrustful person who surrounds herself with a small cadre of yes men and yes women.” “The Casa Rosada operates like a court. She’s the queen surrounded by courtesans who only want to deliver good news.”

I have a
feeling that the correct translation there is courtiers, not courtesans. But expensive whores describes politicians well enough.