December 2014

Well, yes

The ‘hero’ pilot who safely landed a stricken Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet after its landing gear dramatically failed while carrying more than 400 passengers has spoken out about the terrifying ordeal, saying: ‘I was just doing my job’.

Best of British, stiff upper lip and all that.

But do recall that he was also on that plane trying to get down without a bump……..

That’s lucky

A Chinese man has been jailed for 13 years for buying and eating endangered tigers and making wine made out of their blood, state media reported.

Eating tigers produces a long life, doesn’t it? Wonder if it adds as much as 13 years to lifespan?


A proposed ban on wood burning in Paris has been overturned just days before it was due to come into effect following a campaign by Segolene Royal, the ecology minister and former partner of president François Hollande.

Parisians wishing to settle down in front of a warm log fire over the cold winter nights breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as the ban on open log fires in the Paris region, set to begin on January 1, was overturned.

The ban was initially proposed after a study by Airparif, the body in charge of measuring air quality, claimed that fireplaces were responsible for 25 per cent of fine-particle emissions, and produced as much pollution as cars and trucks.

But the study was hotly contested, with even Green politicians arguing that these numbers were grossly overestimated.

It’s obviously possible to argue over the different effects of the invention of central heating and the Clean Air Acts etc. But there’s no doubt at all that the burning of coal and wood in domestic fireplaces had a significant effect on air quality in towns. I well recall (because I had to pay for it once) the effort that went into scrubbing the buildings of my native Bath of the couple of centuries of accumulated soot that stuck to the buildings.

And I also recall getting off at the airport in San Luis Obispo for the first time. A small coastal town in California. And my first reaction was to ask a local friend whether there was some awful conflagration happening. No, just the wood fires in the houses that you can smell.

Here in rural Portugal I’ve a fire going in the office. And I can see the smoke coming out of the chimney. Here population density is so low it doesn’t matter, the fields are getting a light dusting of carbon, oh dear never mind.

But seriously, controls over open fires in urban areas are an obvious thing to have. Even if wood is “renewable” there’s still a real and serious pollution issue here.

A fine example of the Peter Principle in action


Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)
The Right Honourable Catherine Margaret Ashton, Baroness ASHTON of UPHOLLAND. Formerly EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission. For services to the European External Action Service.

We do have some idiots around here

The Government’s honours committee has been accused of “inappropriate” and “disappointing” choices after recognising controversial public servants in the New Year Honours list while ignoring more worthy contenders.

Fiona Woolf, who stepped down as chair of the independent child abuse inquiry because of her links to Leon Brittan, is made a dame, which led one prominent campaigner for victims of abuse to suggest the award had been offered as a “sweetener” to persuade her to leave her post.


She was Lord Mayor of London. Of course she becomes a Dame.

(Catherine) Fiona, Mrs WOOLF, CBE Lately Lord Mayor of London. For
services to the Legal Profession,
Diversity and the City of London.

Julian Legrand is going to become unbearable though.

So did Maggie Thatcher try to ban sex toys?

Well, we’re not going to believe anyone who says anything this damn silly, are we?

Thatcher’s home secretary, Lord Leon Brittan,

Someone who doesn’t know the difference between a politician who will be granted a Life Peerage in the future and the junior son of a Duke is unlikely to entirely grasp all the nuances of the British system really, are they?

A trove of new documents released by the National Archives in the U.K. have unveiled that the Iron Lady once considered a law banning sex toys (i.e. dildos, butt plugs, nipple clamps, metal chastity devices and just about every adult toy you can imagine) in an effort to promote “public decency” and prevent “physical injury.”

The documents reveal the former prime minister was persuaded to consider the law by notorious antifeminist, antigay, anti-television, anti-obscenity, anti-everything campaigner Mary Whitehouse.

Thatcher’s home secretary, Lord Leon Brittan, wrote to his boss in September 1986 about Whitehouse’s “strong case” for banning sex toys under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, the same law used to prosecute the publisher of DH Lawrence’s classic romance novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

So, arguably, sex toys, or certain sex toys, were in fact illegal under the law as it was.

In response, Thatcher requested Brittan prepare a test which would allow lawmakers to set a new bar for measuring what was indecent. After mulling it over for a bit, Brittan replied that trying to measure that sort of thing would be too complex a concept for the courts to litigate over and the plan was swiftly abandoned.

The news of Mrs. Thatcher’s war on sex toys…

That’s not the news of Maggie’s war on sex toys. That’s the news of Maggie, umm, “sending the idea back for consultation”. Which, translated out of British governmentspeak is “Do stop being a fool Leon and by the way, bugger Mary Whitehouse”.

War on sex toys my arse.

Err, no Polly, no

There is no crystal ball, no pollster or bookie reckless enough to call the result of this most unpredictable election. Even money is the best you’ll get on Ed Miliband or David Cameron to be next prime minister. Labour stays ahead, but who creeps over the line first depends on too many variables – who votes where for the SNP, Ukip, Plaid or Green, how many votes will be wasted or not cast, leaving the country’s future in the hands of some 200,000 or so waverers in key marginals.

Just no. Those minor parties mean that it won’t all be left in the hands of those 200 k in the marginals. If half a million in the Labour Scottish ghettos move over to the SNP then what happens in the English marginals doesn’t matter all that much. The UKIP vote is running at what, 3.5 million people on 15% (15% of those likely to vote, not of the electorate)?

the entire lesson here is that this is shaping up to be an election which isn’t decided on those 200k in the marginals……

You remember Ritchie’s pension plan?

The one that looked at Footsie and didn’t include dividends? Thus concluding that bonds were a better place for pensions cash?

Investors have endured a bumpy ride from the UK stock market in the 15 years since the blue chip index hits it’s all-time peak, new analysis shows, and have only dividends to thank for total returns that have just beaten safer assets such as cash and Government bonds.

A truly great financial analysis by Ritchie and Colin Hines there, eh?


While the recipe book apparently found a home at the Ministry for Agriculture, officials seemed unclear what they should do with it.

One wrote to the Foreign Office: “It is, naturally, in Russian. If you have anyone who reads Russian and has a fondness for potatoes, we would be happy to lend it.”


Lynx should be reintroduced in the Scottish countryside, according to one of the country’s leading conservation bodies.

Not, I admit, based on any great logic. Just, yes.

One of the centres of the Iberian lynx breeding programs is right around the corner from me. Thoroughly support it.

Don’t think I’d support bringing back tigers or lions, if these had been part of the indigenous fauna of our isles (well, they were at one time, lions at least, but rather different climate then) but the lynx? Not a direct threat to human life so yes.

An emotional reaction rather than a logical one but there we go.

Ritchie still doesn’t understand Keynes, does he?

The logic of austerity is based on the theory of the firm, which is that if it is in trouble a firm can get rid of costs (like employees) without worrying about them after they leave as they are no longer on its payroll. But this is not of course true of the state: if someone is made unemployed in the state and there is no alternative work for them they still exist: they still have to be fed, and they still need public services. All that happen is that as a result of their sacking there is now no productive activity from them to help meet that demand, or pay the tax that makes it possible. So, in the economy as a whole sacking people simply means that there is less income and if there is less income than it inevitably follows there is less tax, more benefits are paid, and the pressure on public services is therefore greater, and the capacity to supply such services is reduced.

Thus the government borrows more money and this is fiscal stimulus. “Automatic stabilisers” in the jargon.



Senior MPs and Foreign Office officials have raised concerns about the UK’s ability to conduct its next six-month presidency of the EU – scheduled for the second half of 2017 – because it is likely to coincide with an in/out referendum if the Tories win the next general election.

We mustn’t decide our own future because it will embarrass the mandarins.

Fuck ’em.

Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

Rent is a story (loosely a story, a collection of songs loosely nailed to a story might be a better description) detailing the travails of various people of interesting sexuality, their struggles with being HIV positive, the threats of becoming so, and how they cannot find secure and decent housing.

To take this to an island that, until recently, would lock up in isolation camps those who were HIV positive, distinctly demonise those of interesting sexuality and where there hasn’t been decent or secure housing since the socialist revolution is, well, it is humorous, isn’t it?

Hmm, I sorta recognise this column

And, in the longer term, urban dwellers will come to regard ownership of a car as a foolish extravagance – realising that the savings in fuel, tax, insurance, depreciation and maintenance would pay for a lot of Uber rides.

Which perhaps explains what the venture capitalists see in the company: one taxi service to rule them all. An Überservice in Nietzschean terms, in which – incidentally – Google happens to have a very large stake .

After all, Uber may one day be able to dispense with those pesky human drivers. And guess who makes driverless cars?

Well, yes. Ahem.

So, imagine what could happen if Google’s project really does bear fruit and also that Uber continues to gain market share around the world. Uber’s largest cost will be that $50k a year that they say drivers are now making part time. Scale that up to the 24/7 that Google’s cars would be able to work and that’s $200k a year and more in costs. Costs that could be stripped out by dumping the meatsacks and using the Google technology. And of course Google’s going to be standing there with a workable technology and looking for someone with the network of customers and the infrastructure to ally demand for rides with supply.

Does that make Uber worth $40 billion? All a bit speculative really but it is at least conceivable that it does.

Not the first time I’ve seen Naughton having similar ideas to those I’ve floated in an El Reg column. But then obviously this is only because we’re both judicious observers of the tech scene. No other connection at all.

That first woman president idea

This coming election produces something of a problem for me.

I’ve no objection at all to there being a female President of the US. Seems like it might even be an idea whose time has come.

But if there is going to be one this time around it’s going to be either Hillary (oh, dear god, no, her only true political belief is that Hillary ought to be able to tell people what to do and they had dman well better do it) or Elizabeth Warren. There’s no female Republican out there that’s even likely to run let along get anywhere.

How Elizabeth Warren got to such questions, and how she has the capacity to deliver them with such authority, is the substance of her political memoir A Fighting Chance, published earlier this year. Its opening could be the voiceover for a title sequence of a Hollywood movie, one pitched somewhere between Erin Brockovich and The Waltons. “I’m Elizabeth Warren,” she writes [cue sequence of our heroine at home and at work, sweating over the Thanksgiving dinner and at her president’s side]. “I’m a wife, a mother and a grandmother. For nearly all my life, I would have said I was a teacher, but I guess I can’t really say that any more. Now I’d have to introduce myself as a United States senator, though I still feel a jolt of surprise whenever I say that. This is my story and it’s a story born of gratitude. My daddy was a maintenance man and my mother worked the phones at Sears. More than anything, my parents wanted to give my three older brothers and me a future…”

Has anyone actually read the whole thing? Does she discuss her adoption of Cherokee ancestry to get diversity in hiring points?

The thing is, sure, maybe it is time for a female President. But seriously, one of these two? Wouldn’t everyone prefer Joe Biden? Even Joe Biden?