April 2015

Trade offs, eh? Such a bastard…

The move prompted a profound shift towards diesel cars, which produce lower levels of carbon dioxide because they are about 20 per cent more efficient than petrol engines.

Over the past decade, the number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has risen from 1.6 million to more than 11 million and accounts for a third of vehicles.

However Labour’s plan failed to take into account that diesel vehicles emit 10 times the fine particles and up to twice the nitrogen dioxide, which has been linked to 7,000 deaths each year.

All hail powerful government planning and the Courageous State!

I wouldn’t describe it as sophisticated

But it’s certainly anthemic.

Jack Ely:

His tortured, incoherent slurring of the lyrics — almost drowned out by the over-loud backing — made Louie, Louie virtually impossible to understand. It certainly baffled the FBI, which conducted an investigation into whether the song contained secret obscene messages. Their 455-page report concluded that it would be “unintelligible at any speed”.

Ely blamed his indistinct vocals on the microphone suspended from the ceiling, forcing him to crane on tiptoe, tilt his head back and shout up at it. Matters were not helped by the fact that he had just been fitted with dental braces.

Even if there’s just that one moment of such glory in a life, well, that’ll do, eh?


All entirely legal, of course:

A senior Labour politician was accused of hypocrisy last night after it was reported that she had received more than £1.5million in shares from a tax haven.

Margaret Hodge has been a fierce critic of tax avoidance and ‘secretive’ offshore funds as the chairman of the Commons public accounts committee.

But The Times reported she had benefited from a controversial scheme that lets wealthy Britons move undeclared assets back to the UK without facing criminal action.

But Mrs Hodge said she had ensured that ‘any shares I held were above board and that I paid all relevant taxes in full. Every time I received any benefit from the company this happened.’

Yes, but paying all relevant taxes in full. So have amazon, Google, Starbucks, Vodafone and the rest.

Yet you still shout at them, don’t you?

This is an interesting problem

A picturesque Normandy village with a declining population is selling land for 1 euro (71 pence) per square metre in the hope of attracting new residents.

Champ-du-Boult, a community of only 388 people, a quarter of whom are British, has put four municipally owned plots of 900 to 1,000 square metres up for sale.

OK, that’s nice Lovely part of the world at least. And the Normans are very much better to live amongst than the French.

The cost of building a modest house would be about 1,300 euros per square metre of living space.

Hmm, maybe, a little high I would have thought. But right order of magnitude at least. But the problem is, why would you want to go and lose money in this manner?

The municipality has also put a stone house of 150 square metres on the market for only 55,000 euros (less than £40,000). It is the former residence of the headmaster of the village school, which closed three years ago.

You can get the house and the land for a quarter of the price of a new build. And this is a basic point about areas that are depopulating. I see it here in Northern Bohemia (and in the Algarve as well recently). It’s not just that a new build isn’t worth it but it can be entirely possible for a renovation not even to be worth it. There’s whole blocks of this town you can have for €1 a unit. Not worth it as the renovation costs would be more expensive than buying an already refurbed unit elsewhere in town.

This is just what happens with depopulation. Some part of the extant property base will have a negative value.

A Normandy cottage at €55k sounds great. Buying land and building one for €195k doesn’t sound so good when extant ones are going for that quarter of the price.

Aid for Nepal

An interesting suggestion from a reader here:

Dear Ambassador,

Forgive me. I am just a random UK citizen and I realise this is a difficult and busy time for you and Nepal. So I will brief. I have just read Carole Cadwalladr’s piece in the Guardian. I think she’s dead right but she left out one point. Increased trade is the key to the long term development of Nepal. Thus I propose that you ask, hint, suggest (as well as welcoming well meaning offers of relief) that you sieze the opportunity of the current sentiment to ask the British government/ political parties to abolish all tariff barriers and quotas between our countries.
I will be suggesting this in other quarters, if any of your staff have figures for the current restrictions on trade the EU provide please ask them to email me.

With great repect.


I expect that there’s not really much in the way of EU tariff barriers on products from Nepal. As a very poor place it will have exemptions from pretty much everything. And the horrible textiles controls have pretty much gone these days. except, of course, for food, which is one place where a poor rural country might be able to do well. But trade is, in the medium term at least, the way that poverty is beaten so it’s a good idea to remove whatever restrictions do exist.

Ritchie on GDP


So, services are continuing to keep growth afloat, just. But we’re not making things, we’re not exporting, and we’re not building. Indeed, as the graph shows, whilst Labour boosted production, construction and even agriculture after the 2008 crash this is simply not true under the Coalition. From when the Labour growth plans ran out in 2011 until 2015 all three of these sectors have declined. That’s no economic miracle, and if it’s a plan it’s a bad one. This is an economy that’s still not working.

Since services are the vast majority of the economy they’re the important thing though, aren’t they?

You what?

Organic milk is less healthy than regular milk and could cause unborn babies to have lower IQs, a study suggests.

Compared with conventionally-produced milk, organic milk contains around one third less iodine which is essential for maintaining a strong metabolism.

Pregnant women who switch to organic thinking it will be healthier may also be putting the brain development of their unborn child at risk, experts have warned.

Iodine is known to be important for the healthy brain development of babies, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.

Previous research has shown that mothers-to-be who are iodine deficient during this critical time can give birth to children with reduced IQs.

Milk is the primary source of iodine in the UK diet and researchers from the University of Reading said the finding could have potentially serious health implications.

The danger of iodine lack, sure. Goitre in the woman and cretinism in the child. But where’s this milk thing come from? I thought we all got our iodine through our salt?

Or can’t they say that because salt is the very devil and we’re supposed to cut our intake?

Clintons and the Kazakh uranium business

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.

Hmm, well, yes, but…

The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.

The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.

Within days of the visit, Mr. Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.

The Kazakh uranium business is such a hotbed of bribery and corruption that it astonishes even me. Won’t go into details about who we did this for but we once organised a $50k bribe concerning that country and that business. That was the fee to get an interview with the Prime Minister to make a case for whatever if was. note that I don’t say the fee went to the PM, but that is what the fee was for just the one meeting.

The point here being not that the Clintons, or anyone else, have done anything specifically wrong here. It’s just that this industry in this place and time: wouldn’t trust anyone at all who had anything to do with it.

Might just be a connection here

Michigan drivers pay 136% above, or more than double, the national average of $815 a year, according to a report by insuranceQuotes.com.

And Wayne County is the most expensive county within the most expensive state. Car insurance costs $2,789, or 45% more in Wayne County than the statewide average of $1,923, according to a report by insuranceQuotes.com.


The legislation would create a new version of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association but keep Michigan’s unique system of unlimited benefits for those who suffer serious crash injuries costing more than $545,000.

Well, if that’s the system they want then why not?

Another source of high premiums: Michigan has an unusually high number of uninsured drivers, which drives up rates for people who do have car insurance, she said.

Sure I’ve heard of something called demand curves or summat that might explain that.

Sounds very Courageous really, doesn’t it?

The foundation of Fascism is the conception of the State, its character, its duty, and its aim. Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived of in their relation to the State. The conception of the Liberal State is not that of a directing force, guiding the play and development, both material and spiritual, of a collective body, but merely a force limited to the function of recording results: on the other hand, the Fascist State is itself conscious and has itself a will and a personality — thus it may be called the ‘ethic’ State….

…The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual; the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential; the deciding power in this question cannot be the individual, but the State alone….

And what the hell does this mean?

First, as Lindsay Judge, who conducted research on the pilot for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) to be released on Monday, points out: “If you focus on hours, you individualise the problem of low pay. It allows employers to take their eye off pay, and it allows the state to take their eye off benefits.”

Sure, I understand each of the words individually but taken together it seems to be nothing but a sorta humming along the lines of “bastard Tories, vote Labour” or summat.

Individualise the problem of low pay?

Well, yes, but….

The first legally approved HIV self testing kit has gone sale in the UK.

The BioSURE HIV Self Test will enable people to test themselves when and where they like, with a 99.7 per cent accuracy rate.

Don’t we want to know both the false positive and false negative rates?

These people are mad, quite mad

British organic farmers are being forced to treat their livestock with homeopathic remedies under new European Commission rules branded ‘scientifically illiterate’ by vets.

The directive states that: “it is a general requirement…for production of all organic livestock that (herbal) and homeopathic products… shall be used in preference to chemically-synthesised allopathic veterinary treatment or antibiotics.”

Seriously, when do we get to kill them all?